Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Read

If you have some time off during the holidays, I recommend reading Insatiable: A Young Mother's Struggle with Anorexia, a memoir by first-time author, Erica Rivera. As the subtitle notes, the young Rivera (in her early 20s) traces her eating disorder from dieting to restriction and over-exercise to binge eating, and then to recovery.

Rivera recalls a childhood memory:
I don't just have my mother's face; I have her body, too. We share the same padded hips, the rounded thighs, the kangaroo pouch of a belly. When I see the abrasive way she turns away from herself in the mirror, how can I think of my body as anything but flawed?
It's not long before Rivera develops eating-disordered behavior. After a consultation with a diet doctor ("Being this requires sacrifice"), Rivera takes the diet to an extreme, which morphs into anorexia. Not surprisingly, Rivera suffers the physiological and psychological consequences of countless days of restriction and eventually ends up overeating (developing a persona whom she refers to as "Binge Bitch").

Rivera relies on her family, treatment team, and her writing to guide her to health. One of her journal entries reveals: "In The Writer's Life, author Julia Cameron says going sane looks a lot like going insane." What a perfect description of recovery. . .

Note: I've added Insatiable to the EWHAED book list. While this book may be helpful to many, it may be triggering to some. As always, I recommend you be mindful of this as you read.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hillstone-Houston's-Hillstone Restaurant

California-based Hillstone Restaurant Group recently demonstrated new and improved loopholes around New York City menu labeling laws. Again, NYC passed legislation in May, 2008, requiring all chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus.

Hillstone, which owns the popular chain Houston's, has now changed the name of its two NYC spots from Houston's to Hillstone. Sound confusing? It is.

Apparently, the two Houston's restaurants in NY were charged with noncompliance regarding menu labeling laws and instead of caving and revealing their calorie counts, they simply chose to rename the restaurant, add a menu item here or there, and voila, they've now circumvented the entire problem. That spinach-artichoke dip you know and love? Don't have to know the calories on that one. Pretty sneaky, sis. . .

As I've written before, I'm not in support of posting calorie counts (see previous posts for my reasoning). To me, this switcheroo provides yet another example of why the law won't work.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Guess What?

Can you guess the product/company advertised in the image above? A reader from Miami, Florida snapped the photo (I airbrushed out some hints). I'll post the answer after 20 guesses, or at the end of the week, whichever comes first. The winner(s) will receive from me NEDA's "Thank you for not talking about your diet" bumper sticker. Guess hard!

Oops--din't realize the file name would appear!

Here's another one:

Here's the answer:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Eating Disorder/Body Image Myths

Margarita Tartakovsky, over at Psychcentral--Weightless, recently asked me for some eating disorder myths and body image boosters to share with her blog audience. Below are links to the posts where she compiles these myths. Hope they're helpful to you. . . .

Eating Disorder Myths

Body Image Boosters

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey Makeover: Another Look at Food

I came across this press release for more humane and Earth-friendly consumption this Thanksgiving:
Tips from World Society for the Protection of Animals for A for a Healthy and Humane Thanksgiving Table

November 16, 2009 — On Thanksgiving Day when Americans give thanks for the abundance of food on their table, they should also appreciate the global impact of what they are eating. Making humane choices when shopping for a turkey and other holiday groceries is a simple yet powerful way to make a difference, reports the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

According to Sharanya Krishna Prasad, WSPA U.S. programs officer, “Understanding food labels, and in turn, making humane choices for your turkey, eggs and milk can have a substantial impact on animal welfare, the environment and your health. We want people to know that choosing certain foods can help save our planet. What better day to start than on Thanksgiving?”

Humane Turkey Talk from WSPA:

* When shopping for a turkey, look for these labels: “Pasture Raised,” “USDA Organic,” “American Humane Certified,” “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane.” These labels indicate that animals were generally raised under more humane standards and were given access to sunlight, fresh air, and freedom of movement. They were also spared non-therapeutic antibiotics and growth-promoting hormones.
* Avoid misleading labels like “Natural” or “Naturally Raised.” While “Naturally Raised” ensures animals were not given antibiotics or hormones, this claim does not require that the animals have freedom, fresh air or sunlight. The term “Natural” has no relevance to animal welfare and merely indicates that the product was minimally processed and contains no dyes or preservatives.
* Avoid serving multiple meat entrées during Thanksgiving. Instead add a meatless entrée choice such as ratatouille, lasagna, vegetable chili or meatless shepherd's pie.
* Do not add meat (like sausage) to your stuffing. Instead use veggies, fruits or nuts.
* Use vegetable broth in place of turkey or chicken broth for gravies and sauces.
* Substitute soy milk, vegetable broth or water, for cow's milk in squash and corn soups.
* Use soy milk instead of cow's milk in mashed potatoes and in corn and green bean casseroles.
* Substitute “Egg Replacer” for chicken eggs in cornbread and other breads, cakes and desserts.
* Substitute soy milk for cow's milk in pie crusts and fillings.
* Try frozen non-dairy dessert on top of pies or cakes.

Prasad explains, “If every person in the U.S. cut meat out of their diet for just one day it would save over 200,000 tons of food and nearly two million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions. That amount could feed an estimated two million people in need. By choosing humane labels, reducing meat in your diet and minimizing meat products in your side dishes, you can curb your carbon footprint and have something to truly be thankful for.”

For more information on food labels and humane eating visit WSPA has built the world’s largest alliance – over 1,000 animal welfare groups in 150 countries –dedicated to alleviating animal suffering. Through its pioneering programs and unique partnerships, WSPA addresses animal welfare concerns on a truly unprecedented global scale.
Enjoy your holiday. Enjoy your food.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Louboutin Legs

Newsflash: Barbie isn't perfect.

I know you thought she was, what with those improbable dimensions, the long, golden locks, her plastic-smooth skin, that Malibu Dream House.

But, she's not. That's what I learned last week, when I was invited to sit on a television panel to talk about Barbie's ankles. It seems French shoe designer Christian Louboutin told Women’s Wear Daily magazine that Barbie's ankles were too "fat" to wear his shoes.

Louboutin, who is designing three special edition Barbies, is reshaping her gams (slimming her ankles) in order to wear his shoes. Mattel, Barbie's maker, reports that the Louboutin controversy (known in the media as "Barbie Has Cankles!") is simply a misunderstanding: "My dear friend, Christian loves my ankles. It was my arch that he wanted to give a little lift to, so I can rock those high heels."

But, you see, one of the wonderful perks about being a shoe designer is that you actually design shoes! So, instead of molding her (fake) foot to fit the (fake) shoe, why not do it the other way around? You'd send the message that we don't have to contort our bodies to find fashion, and you'd keep this Louboutin lover around.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holiday Weight-Loss

Drstaceyny would like to believe that she lives in a diet-free world. . . but she does not. A reporter recently contacted me and asked for trends in weight-loss that might be influenced by the economy, the holiday season, etc.

Are people changing the way they lose weight? Are they foregoing formal diet programs (e.g., Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, WW) and tossing their diet books, trying to go at it alone?


Monday, November 09, 2009

More on TBL

I may have said it before, but I'll say it again, I hate The Biggest Loser. While I'm all for encouraging healthy eating and exercise, this is not the goal of the show. Instead, contestants are put on low calorie diets and required to engage in extreme exercise, a combination that is simply unsustainable. A recent issue of Us magazine profiles three former contestants:

1) Hollie Self: Self is reported to eat 1,200 calories a day, run four times a week (up to 20 miles per run) and engage in strength training three times a week. Self completed the NYC marathon (5:08) and is training for a Half Ironman next year. For the uninitiated, that's a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run (yes, all in one day). But, on a 1,200 calorie/day diet?

2) Alexandra White: It's reported that White eats 1,300 calories a day and works out for four hours a day, six times a week. This type of overtraining is likely to lead her to burnout and injuries and again, isn't sustainable on 1,300 calories a day.

3) Nicole Brewer: Brewer reportedly eats 1,600 calories a day, as she trains for the Philadelphia Marathon and teaches spinning and strength training classes.

My concern about these lifestyles is that they're unrealistic--the general public is led to believe that it's possible a) to function long-term on low calorie diets b) and to do that while engaging in frequent, rigorous endurance exercise. For most people, it's a set-up, at best, for failure and low self-esteem (If they can do it, why can't I?), and at worst, for illness and malnutrition.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Model Eating

So, yes, it's come to this. At a Parisian runway show, Givenchy posted this sign backstage. A step in the right direction?

But what about Filippa? By now, you've heard of Filippa Hamilton, the former Ralph Lauren model, who was fired for being too big. Hamilton stands 5-foot-10-inches, weighs 120 pounds, and wears a Size 4 (and likely would be a smaller size if not for her height). According to the story, Filippa was axed because she wasn't able to fit into the designer's (industry's) standard sample sizes.

So, models, like the rest of us are hearing the message loud and clear: Eat some, but not too much; be skinny, but don't pass out.

What's a model to do?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Poetry Slam

Who Says?

Who says my hair must be straight
To land the best mate
My shape go in here
And still dart out there
Who says my hands should be small
And my feet even smaller
That I should be tall
But not that much taller
Who says my arms must be toned
My body small-boned
My lips full and red
My stomach unfed
Who says my legs should be lean
My fat never seen
My skin should be tan
My frame like a man
Who says my eyes should be wide
With not much inside
My mouth the same way
With not much to say
Who says my face should be sweet
I watch how I eat
My nose small and cute
My point of view moot
Who says I must be pristine
Avoid being mean
I always look right
By no means should fight
Who says?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fat Talk Free Week

Fat Talk Free Week is a campaign designed "to challenge and begin to reverse the prevalent and damaging pursuit of the 'thin ideal” by women of all ages,' as described by the National Eating Disorder Association. The five-day campaign, scheduled to kick off October 19th, attempts to illuminate how "fat talk" negatively impacts our thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

Will you take the challenge? Can you remove "fat talk" from your lexicon that week? What would be the biggest challenges in doing so? How about starting this now?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meet Precious

This week's issue of New York magazine introduces us to Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the actress who plays Claireece "Precious" Jones in the new movie, Precious. Now, Sidibe, a NYC-born and raised, 26-year-old, African-American actress, happens to be fat. 350 pounds fat.

The film's director, Lee Daniels, speaks of Sidibe: "'She is unequivocally comfortable in her body, in a very bizarre way. Either she's in a state of denial or she's so elevated that she's on another level.'"

The magazine notes that when Sidibe was 11, her aunt offered to pay for a cruise if her niece lost 50 pounds. Similar pressures followed, but somewhere along the way, something clicked with Sidibe:
"I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don't like myself there's no reason to even live the life. I love the way I look. I'm fine with it. And if my body changes, I'll be fine with that."
Precious words for us all. . .

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kelly Clarkson, You're Not Alone

A friend of mine recently revealed to me a (new?) trend that took me by surprise. Her daughter, who just began preschool, will sit for school pictures this week. Here's the thing: Parents were offered the opportunity to have their children's photos airbrushed! The idea is that that stray hair, a facial blemish, or any other unsightly addition can be wiped away for eternity.

I'd like to know from parents (and prospective parents alike) if you'd elect to have your child's pictures airbrushed. What factors would you weigh in your decision? Would it make a difference if you could approve the "after" shot, in comparison to the original?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lizzie Miller

Welcome back, EWHAEDers! I hope you all had a wonderful summer, filled with good food and positive thoughts about your bodies.

By now, you've probably heard of Lizzie Miller, the "plus-size" model who created quite the stir in the September issue of Glamour magazine for bearing almost all, but mostly a little tummy.

Lizzie, who was interviewed along with Glamour editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive, on The Today Show, spoke honestly about her body image, anxious at some times, confident at others. Is Glamour's decision to feature a model like Miller revolutionary, as some readers suggested? In a time when Kelly Clarkson is photoshopped for Self magazine (message: have a big voice, but not a big body), and when Miller's size is newsworthy, I think not. As I said on Today, if you happened to catch it, it's not a revolution, but it's baby steps in the right direction. My hope is that one day, a photo like Miller's won't even elicit a second glance.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Calling All Tri-Staters!

Time sensitive query for those in the NY area:

There is a reporter doing research for a New York City based publication about menu labeling and calorie counting. She will be interviewing me for the story and asked that I connect her with a few people who were impacted negatively by menu labeling. They must be NYC/tri-state area based, willing to first email me your thoughts about how it affected you and also your email address and name with an understanding that you may be interviewed for a story. Please contact me at drstaceyny at gmail dot com if you'd like to be a part of this story.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Break, Research Trends

Similar to last year, I will be taking a blogging vacation this summer. I'll return in the fall, but will still be reading and responding to emails from you. Plus, you never know--if I see something particularly juicy, I might be compelled to post. Happy summer, everyone!

For now, I'll leave you with some updates regarding e.d. research, as reported by the American Psychological Association:

1) A DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) eating disorders work group has been meeting to determine if new eating disorder diagnoses should be created (for the manual's next revision) and/or if those categories that exist already should have more flexibility (e.g., allowing a woman who hasn't lost her period to still be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa). The group is also exploring the diagnosis EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified), with the idea that since 60-65% of e.d. diagnoses land in this category, other, more structured, diagnoses may need to be included.

2) Researchers at The University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill are hard at work studying the genetic components of e.d.'s, looking at over 4,000 females in 13 different countries with anorexia. This study is set to be the largest genomewide study for anorexia to date. The more we understand about the biology of the illness, the more we can offer regarding biological interventions.

3) A recent study at Columbia University suggests that women with bulimia, as measured by fMRIs, show less activity in brain areas associated with self-regulation and impulse control. These results indicate that controlling a binge is not a simple act of exercising will-power; neurological deficits may be to blame.

4) Research is attending more to men with e.d.'s, particularly those who struggle with muscle dysmorphia, a condition in which males become preoccupied with muscle size. The disorder is associated with strict dieting, poor body image, and higher rates of other psychological conditions.

5) In a 2005 study, University of California Davis researchers studied the effects of a standard diet/exercise protocol versus a "Health at Any Size" condition (think intuitive eating, participating in enjoyable physical activity) in 78 obese chronic dieters. Results showed that after six months, both groups demonstrated health and psychological improvements, but only the diet group had dropped pounds.

At a two-year follow-up, however, the "Health at Any Size" participants remained at their pre-study weight and showed increased self-esteem, decreased depression and e.d. behaviors, and improved physical functioning (lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels). The diet group, however, had regained most of the weight they lost, but more important, had lost the health improvements they had previously achieved. They also experienced reduced self-esteem. The study reiterates what most of the literature suggests--diets typically result in weight restoration (if not more) and are often accompanied by pronounced feelings of failure.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cosmetic Choices

At the beginning of each episode of Nip/Tuck, one of the show's two plastic surgeons asks the prospective patient: "Tell me what you don't like about yourself." Most of us can identify a part of our body that we dislike; for some, it's a laundry list.

I've been thinking a lot lately about cosmetic enhancement and where we draw the line. I can't think of anyone I know who doesn't alter her natural appearance in some way--whether it's wearing make-up or self-tanner, tweezing her eyebrows or shaving her legs. But, when do you stop, and if so, what causes you to stop?

Methods for improving our appearance seem to exist on a continuum--from hair cut to hair color, Botox to breast augmentation. The majority of women, Jane Goodall types aside, are comfortable changing some aspects about themselves. For many, though, when in comes to body enhancement, there's no clear finish line, thus the stories we hear of women who endure multiple cosmetic surgeries.

Health risks aside, are you selling out if you choose liposuction over Restylane, a face lift over Retin-A? Or, are they just ways to help you feel better about yourself?

Should we find better ways to feel better? A character on the show once said: "Don't make the mistake of healing the internal problem with an external fix." How many of us agree with that?

Assuming money is no object, where do you draw the line?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Stories: Part VII

Published with permission. . .
My Story – Why do You Still Want to Dance?

By all accounts, I have what it traditionally takes to become a talented, if not great dancer. I have what is considered the “Perfect Ballet Body” (the perpetrated Balanchine “look” with long limbs, short torso, small head, relatively long neck and generally a pre-pubescent ideal). I have great feet (strong with high arch). I am musically talented. I have a love for performing and an excellent stage presence. I have good height. I have had less than ideal training, but I made up for that by devouring volumes of literature about Classical Ballet and teaching Classical Ballet.

From the age of nine, dance was my boyfriend (let’s call him ‘D’). D was my savior, my White Knight. He rode along in shining amour, on a stunning stallion, and whisked me off to “Dancingland”. I was rescued from an abusive, traumatic, violent, and at times, neglected childhood.

D was whom I turned to in times of stress. I perfected my relationship with D, practicing at it six days a week, for up to four hours at a time. I went through the leaps and bounds, the twirls and turns.

Then, someone by the name of Ed almost stole D away from me. He had me shackled; bound, prevented me from connecting with D. Ed started flirting with me when I was fourteen. It was a period when I was doing extremely well in an all-girls school; the best I had ever done in my academic life, was on the class committee, and was one of the outstanding members in the school dance troupe. My teachers liked me, my friends adored me, and best of all, I was having a wonderful relationship with D.

Let me introduce you to Ed. Ed is in the life of countless women, and statistics vary. Ed kills. Ed ruins your life. Ed makes you doubt yourself. Ed makes you act in strange ways. Ed isolates you from your loved ones. Ed is very common in the form of anorexia nervosa (especially among dancers) and bulimia nervosa. But further than that, Ed appears in the form of other eating disorders such as Anorexia Athletica, Bigorexia and Orthorexia Nervosa. In children (and also sometimes adults), Ed manifests itself as Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder, Food Refusal, Restrictive Eating and Selective Eating Disorder.

The Ed in my life was initially mistaken as anorexia nervosa (AN) and diagnosed by a (rather clueless) nutritionist as such. I showed all the classic symptoms of AN. Yes, I am a dancer. Yes, I weigh less than I should. Yes, I am extremely sensitive. Yes, I had childhood trauma. Yes, I have eating issues. Yes, I cut up my food into tiny pieces. Yes, I am conscious of what I eat. Yes, I have control issues. Yes, I can be rather obsessive. Yes, I am not eating enough. Yes, I am not getting my periods regularly. Yes, I am quite a perfectionist. However, I was not convinced. I did not have what I consider the key issues of anorexia nervosa: I did not have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. I did not starve myself (and I am extremely against voluntarily choosing to starve). I did not have a distorted body image, and I had never, at any point in my life, thought that I was fat.

Today, I have what is recognized as Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder (FAED) with elements of Selective Eating Disorder (SED). FEAD is in no way less serious or life threatening than AN. I believe that people do, and have died, from FAED, although there is little research about and awareness of this disorder, especially among adults and adolescents. Health complications, just like in AN, arise from FAED due of the lack of calories and nutrients consumed. SED is usually common in people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and I do show signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, but have never been diagnosed.

Personally, I stop eating when I feel unsafe. (Unsafe is an emotion I believe is commonly experienced by people suffering from EDs.) [Unsafe: Upset/ anxious/ nervous/ misunderstood/ threatened/ unloved/ lost/ left behind/ angry/ stressed/ any combination of the above] As I feel unsafe rather often, I avoid food habitually, or survive exclusively on yogurt, apples, coconuts, cashews, chocolate, coffee and honey. Other than avoiding food, I have a history of avoiding school and refusing to talk.

With the diagnosis and treatment attempts at AN, I began feeling increasingly misunderstood and mistrusted. I even picked up certain other disordered eating behavior from my new friends (from group therapy) who all had an eating disorder. Also, there was a family upheaval and my parents started working till late in the night. It was a period of neglect and I felt that I had nobody to turn to. My sister was constantly staying late in school and started exercising obsessively.

When I was fifteen, I was the appointed the chairperson of my class, the best class of the level. I became engaged to D and spent half my time at his house – the dance studio. My schedule consisted of school, dance, sleep, and that was it. I did not have the time nor the interest to study and my grades plummeted. I was losing weight because I never did feel like eating and there was nobody around to make sure that I ate. As is common within the dance community, my weight loss was praised. I was looking good, they said. I was pleased. I am noticed! I have their attention!, I thought to myself. At that time, I was not yet aware of the health complications resulting from maintaining a low weight (weight that is low even for a dancer) over an extended period of time and was not concerned about the weight lost.

Things however, began to change. I started tuning out in class a lot (due to the lack of calories consumed, I suppose) – at first in school, then even in ballet class. I was not able to fulfill my responsibilities as class chairperson and was stripped of my post. Rumors, many untrue and some with elements of truth, began spreading all over school. Ana/ mia/ mental retardation/ psychotic/ raped/ abused/ developmentally challenged/ whatever. Classmates and friends started avoiding me. Juniors and seniors saw me in a different light. Ex-classmates and close friends did not know what to believe and how to behave in front of me.

I could not deal with the stress of facing rumors flying about over my head constantly and reverted to refusing to attend school (which I had a history of back in elementary school). I would cry silent tears at night into my stuffed toy and wake up with puffy eyes and encrusted eyelids. I started bed-wetting again (how embarrassing).

D became my sole companion throughout this, and my dancing improved. I decided to apply to Summer Intensives in several well-known schools in America and Europe. Four applications were sent, and I was accepted at three. In preparation, I worked all the harder and placed further emphasis on dance – I took free classes outside of my studio, worked alone in my studio before class, immersed myself in classical music, perused any reading material about dance I could get my hands on, and attended the classes of the levels below me. The importance of D in my life dramatically amplified. It was all I had going in my life; it became my life.

During the Summer Intensives, I was invited to attend all three schools year-round, and I accepted at a school in London based on its prestige and reputation. The fact that it was attached to my Dream Company did it for me – that would be the school I would attend, I thought. Looking back now, I should have chosen the school that had a teaching style more suited to my personality, a more nurturing, accepting school.

Things went along swimmingly for the first few months; I was getting cast in many performances, getting praise and attention from my teachers, and was well liked by my peers. Soon, though, I began to feel the stress again, with four dance classes a day in addition to rehearsals which would go on late into the night. I started feeling homesick and depressed. I was constantly anxious and was diagnosed as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I turned to my very selected foods and subsisted on them alone, refusing all other foods. The foods I was eating were not giving me enough calories or nutrients, and the nutritionist raised concerns about my weight. The school director even had a talk to me about it. Basically, I could not lose any more weight or I would have to go home. My friends took it upon themselves to monitor my food intake and were constantly leaving food outside my dorm (which ended up in the trash bin). Some practically forced food down my throat (I threw up).

The response of my friends, school director and nutritionist only served to increase my anxiety, and I began eating less and less. I lied about what I had eaten. I started avoiding the cafeteria (I hid in the studio to dance some more). During the times when I ate with my friends, I would eat what was considered a “normal” amount to allay their concerns. However, due to the modest amount of food I was used to consuming, I would feel sick, just like how a binge eater might feel after a binge. Reflexively, I would throw up. I never did stick my finger down my throat, or purposely threw up, but I would not say that my throwing up was completely involuntary (as in someone with food poisoning) either. I wanted to and felt like throwing up, but I never did force myself to throw up.

Anyone who exercises more than 2 hours a day would know that when one is not consuming (or digesting) sufficient calories, one cannot perform at her peak. I started having difficulties concentrating in classes and rehearsals, and had problems remembering even the most basic of combinations. Gradually, my dancing ability dropped. I had absolutely no energy to complete the longer variations of 3-4 minutes. My allegro and ballon were severely affected; adage was not so bad. (I would cover this up by standing at the back of the class, at the edge, for allegro combinations and be front and center during adage.) However, it soon became apparent to all observing that I was not dancing at the level expected of a student in a top ballet school. Numerous warnings and countless trips to the nutritionist later, I finally got kicked out.

(The nutritionist did not work because it brought out the rebel in me. Stick to this meal plan – Eat this, eat that. Eat at this time, and then eat again at this time. I had always been stubborn. The more I am made to do something, the more I do not want to do it. When and if I decide to do something, it will be of my own free will, on my own time. Nobody is going to tell me what to eat, and when to eat, the rebel in me thought. Suppose I did not love dance enough at that point. Suppose my stubbornness pulled dance away from me.)

When I arrived back home, I became acutely depressed. It felt as though nothing mattered anymore, I felt like a failure. I decided that I hated D and did everything to avoid it. I stripped my life of my one coping strategy. Thoughts of suicide were not far from my mind.

My parents blame dance. To this day, my mother thinks that it was a mistake sending me to ballet class in the first place, despite all the accomplishments I had made in dance. Despite the lessons I have learnt from it. Despite the discipline, diligence and patience I had developed because of dance. My father never did say a word, but in his eyes, I can feel a deep sense of loss, regret and disappointment. Disappointment for me, or in me, I could not tell.

Gradually, I became better and regained my health (both mental and physical), weight and sanity with the assistance of an extremely understanding and insightful psychiatrist (I still see him regularly – I find it perfectly normal). I began menstruating regularly again. I got on with my life, and did my high school exams. I applied for college, a communications course.

During my communications course, I started missing D acutely. I ached for it; pined for it like a lovesick teen. I decided that I no longer hated D so much. I was born to be with D!, I thought. After a year in the communications course (which I did not enjoy much), I made a transfer to performing arts, with a concentration in dance.

However, three months into my dance course, I had several epileptic attacks. This was not attributed to an electrolyte imbalance or low blood sugar, but to the neurological condition epilepsy itself. However, there have been reports that constant throwing up may lead to seizures. Certain music phrases, loud noises, bright lights, and extremes of emotions often set off my epileptic attacks, and I am currently taking benzodiazepines.

Sometimes, my mother yells at me to stop when I start seizing up, which serves to worsen the condition. But I know that it is only a manifestation of her frustration at seeing her beloved child in this state. I have put my mother through a lot – the school avoidance, the weight lost, the malnutrition, now the epilepsy. It is not because she does not love me, but because she loves me so, so much. All mothers love their children, and so do fathers. Parents, to me, are incapable of not loving their children, no matter what they may say, or do, or not do. Most of the time, they do not mean to hurt their children. They are just “acting out” to deal with stress and displeasure, like how I avoid food when I feel unsafe. Or they do not know what to say or how in behave in a certain situation, and avoid the issue altogether.

Right now, I am taking a break from school and am a teaching aide at a school for children with special needs (especially autism). I also baby-sit about twice a week, and am spending a lot of time with my mother. In my free time, I read the encyclopedia, books about children with special needs, and storybooks for pre-schoolers. I like looking at the pictures in them, and find the stories endearing. I am trying to learn French by reading the dictionary. I also listen to music, dance, stretch everyday, do yoga, draw, paint, write poems and short stories (inevitably, angels – with three pairs of wings – pop up in my creative pursuits), play with my cat at the park (I love the swing), watch movies and sometimes just chill. Next I would like to learn to ride a horse, take pottery classes and definitely have six kids!

In six months, I am going back to college, to give dance another shot. My godmother is against me going back to dance. She says that there is only so far I can go in dance because of my uncommon reaction to musical phrases, but I think it might turn into an advantage if I manage to keep my epilepsy under control. Even if there is only so far I can go in dance, I do not mind – I just want dance to be part of my life, as big a part as it can be.

If dance does not work out, and my epileptic attacks become severe again, my Plan B is to go into Child Psychology and Early Education. Ultimately, I would like to be an owner of my own business, but I am not sure which sector I would go into yet. I would also definitely want to get married and have children of my own. I would unquestionably send them to ballet class if they express an interest or show the aptitude. I think dance is an excellent outlet for children (and also for adults). I would also like to take a degree in law. And an MBA as well… There are still so many things I want to accomplish in life!

I cannot say that I never avoid food anymore. I am still learning to cope with Ed in my life. I do not think that Ed will be completely out of my life forever. Sometimes, I still do avoid food, especially as a way of acting out my displeasure. Sometimes, I avoid food to irk my parents. Sometimes, it is my way of maintaining some control in life. Other times, I simply do not feel like eating. Anything. At all.

Nonetheless, there is a minimum weight that I will not allow myself to fall below. I try to eat as wide a variety of food as possible (which is hard). Sometimes, when I simply do not feel like eating, I make myself at least drink something (small in portion, but calorie dense). About a third of the calories I consume come in liquid form, such as coffee with lots of full cream milk and two sugars, Greek-style yogurt with honey and coconut oil, soups, congee and diluted juice. There are repercussions to my Ed. I imagine all forms of Eds have their repercussions. I cannot stomach a “normal” portion of food (I will feel sick and throw up after eating that). I have horrid teeth. At nineteen, I have a pre-pubescent body and petite bone structure. People often think I am fourteen/fifteen. I always get carded and constantly laugh about it. I have not exactly lead a “normal” life since the age of fifteen, and I find myself wondering why I cannot be like other kids, other girls my age. I find myself wishing I had a bigger bone structure so I do not look so tiny all the time. I wish I had a boyfriend like girls my age.

However, Ed has taught me many things. We, as a society, place an overemphasis on appearance and size. It is no wonder that many women develop different forms of Eds. Ed has taught me to be accepting and embracing not only of my body, but also of my whole being – my emotions, my intelligence, my interaction with others, my coping skills, my thighs, my bones, my teeth, my hair, my acne, my beautiful eyes, my long fingers, my big and strong feet, my hypersensitivity, my ability to connect with animals and kids with severe speech problems, my stubbornness, my perfectionism, my anxiety issues, my moods, my childhood trauma, my lack of a boyfriend, my non-“normal” life, my epilepsy, my everything! It has taught me not to be too quick to judge others and tolerance and embracement of all shapes, sizes, states of being, races, cultures, disabilities and behaviors. Our imperfections are what make each of us special, our quirks are what make us unique, and the challenges we put behind us are what make us stronger.

I can honestly say that I am a stronger and better person because of Ed. I have done many things I am ashamed of doing, and Ed made me do all those things. Ed contributed to my depression. Ed made me lie. Ed made me hide. (Or maybe Ed did not make me do all those things; I chose to do those things of my own free will. I do not know.) I do not hate Ed. Ed made me look at life in a different way, made me treasure the straightforward moments in life that bit more. Ed made me embrace life, and best of all, Ed is like a brief flirtation with a lover who makes you realize just how much you should treasure your relationship with your husband. I love D all the more because of Ed. Ed is also like a special needs child who comes into your life when you were expecting a typical kid. He teaches you about yourself, about your limitations and stretches your patience. He puts you through intense highs and tremendous lows you thought you would never experience. He turns a caterpillar into a butterfly.

Ed has taught me a series of things to be ok, and not ok with, and you may or may not agree with it. Here it goes:
It is ok to gain a few pounds.
It is ok to lose a few pounds.
It is ok to feel anger, or fear, or resentment, or sadness, or remorse, or regret, or any other emotion we will all encounter at some point in life. What matters is that we deal with it in healthful and effective ways.
It is ok to relapse.
It is ok to cry.
It is ok to be weak at times.
It is most definitely ok to seek help. It is important that help is sought.

It is not ok to allow Ed to spiral out of control.
It is not ok when Ed starts controlling your life.
It is not ok to hurt yourself by cutting.
It is not ok to starve yourself.
It is not ok to go for two days without food.
It is not ok to commit a long, slow, suicide by entertaining Ed and not seek help.
It is not ok to put your loved ones through the torture of witnessing your suicide and not letting them help.

Falling out with your loved ones over Ed is a sign that things are not ok.
Internalizing and suppressing our thoughts and emotions are sometimes not ok.

ED has also taught me that sometimes, there is no cause. There is no reason. No one is at fault; no one is to blame. Things just are – just like how the clouds roll by, just like how life goes on. Everything that I had experienced in life, including my childhood abuse, trauma, violence, neglect, teasing, being punished without a sufficient reason, Ed, epilepsy… They all contribute to who I am today and I love who I am today. I am funny, compassionate, sensitive, smart, beautiful, flexible, sexy, caring, nurturing, kind, gentle, and I love life! Life is good – it should be embraced, every single minute, every single second.

So why do I still want to dance? Because I have come to realize that dancing is what I am happiest doing. I excel in it. Dance is something that I have profound love for. I am not going to allow Ed to steal dancing away from me. Ed is not going to rob dance from my life. My story is not over yet, and I still have a chance to be a dancer, or to work within the dance scene. (Secretly, I would like to be the artistic director of either a dance company or a dance school.) When I decide that dance will play less of a role in my life, it will be because I decide so, not because Ed, or epilepsy, or anyone else says so. Above all, I need to dance – just like we all need to breathe, and eat.

When you think that no one cares
I do.

When you feel unloved
Look up at the stars
Twinkling and smiling
at you.

When all hope is lost
There is always tomorrow
To regain hope again.

God is there
The six-winged angels are there
All showing concern
for you.

Do not let Ed ruin your life. The road to recovery is long, fraught and slow, you may never recover completely, but certainly, to be in recovery would be better than to have Ed rule and control your life. You do not want your life to revolve around Ed. You do not want Ed to give you lifelong repercussions. You do not want to die from Ed. You have so many great accomplishments ahead of you, so many more hearts to touch. Make the decision to want to get better, seek help. Ed cannot control your life, nor can anyone else. Only you can. And I believe in you. And so do God, and the six-winged angels.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

In NYC, a high-end gym advertises at a bus stop near me: "Memorial Day Countdown: Are You Ready?"

Ready for what? Memorializing those we've lost? Hot summer days? Barbecues and lollygagging, swimming and holidays? The implication is clear. We don't even call it summer anymore; it's "bathing suit" season and everyone knows what this means.

Alas, it could be worse. A reader sent me this photo, a bus stop in the Netherlands, where the bus goer's weight is displayed as (s)he awaits transport, part of an ad campaign for a local health club.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Bits and Pieces

For all you mommy (or future) mommy bloggers, here is a piece I wrote on helping your children develop a healthy relationship with food.

Also, I continue to get interesting emails from readers. See below:

Hi Dr. Stacey,

I've been reading your blog for a few months, and I really enjoy the way that you present things. One thing that I was wondering was if you might be able to address the issue of fluid restriction, which is something that I personally struggle with in my eating disorder, and it is just not talked about enough at all. Restriction of food/calories is understood well enough by the mainstream world, but I am often in situations (basically whenever I explain my eating disorder to someone who is not a well-educated professional) where people think I'm crazy for being afraid to drink water/gatorade etc. I know other people who feel the same way about fluids and was hoping that you might be willing to address it.

Thanks very much. . .
And. . .


I was looking through your blog and I have a special request. I'm working on my master's degree in Public Health (at Brown University in Rhode Island) with an emphasis in behavioral nutrition. Long story short, I created an online survey about how work environment affects women's eating habits (including value judgments they place on food), and I was wondering if you might be willing to post my survey on your blog?

This is a project for one of my classes, and it's completely, absolutely anonymous. The kinds of questions I'm asking are things like:

- During a normal social conversation with people at work, how often do you talk about what, when, or how much to eat?

- How often do you think that the kinds of food you eat at work are different than the kinds you eat at home?

- On a normal day, is there food available in a common area at work?

It's not a test-- no judgement attached to any of the questions. I just want to feel out the blogging community since blogs tend to create a great community for motivation.
Any feedback (on my story, the fluid restriction question, or the survey cited) would be greatly appreciated. . . .

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ugly = ?

Last week, I had my first live television appearance. As I arrived at the studio, I was stripped down and doused in make-up and hairspray before I even had a chance to settle in.

In order to secure this spot, I had to send in a DVD of myself in a previous television interview. I hesitated to send in the clip I had because of how I appeared. The more media I do, and the more I learn about the industry, the more I understand how everything comes down to looks. Anyone who's interested in booking me for a television gig (or any gig, really) wants to see my picture. My initial reaction was anger--why do they need to see how I look? Why aren't my credentials enough? I've made a conscious decision not to include my picture on this site, nor on the one for my private practice. In my mind, it's not about how I look. . . though, sometimes, it is.

So, I send in this DVD, a news segment in which I did my own hair and make-up (lesson learned, more is better on camera). I emailed the two women who do my p.r. that, given the industry's focus on looks, I was concerned about submitting the segment because I thought I looked (gasp!) "ugly."

Now, here's the kicker: Both women, independently, after viewing the clip, responded to me, "No, you don't look fat." And so it goes. . .

Monday, April 06, 2009

Celestial Bodies

Newsflash: Kim Kardashian has cellulite. Now Kim, who has one of the most beautiful bodies in Hollywood (according to moi), recently spoke up about the Complex Magazine photos that surfaced, alerting us to the truth about her pre-photoshopped bod.

On her official website, Kim responded:
Complex later replaced the pic with the photoshopped version, causing all of this drama. But you know what, who cares!

So what: I have a little cellulite. What curvy girl doesn't!?

How many people do you think are photoshopped? It happens all the time!

At the same time as this Complex shoot, I was gearing up for my fitness DVD and you should see my thighs now!!! Haha!

This all motivates me to stay in the gym because my goal this year has been to get in better shape and tone up! Hard work pays off!

I'm proud of my body and my curves and this picture coming out is probably helpful for everyone to see that just because I am on the cover of a magazine doesn't mean I'm perfect.
What do you think about her response?

And now, the time has come where we must talk about Michelle Obama's body, mostly because we might miss the bandwagon if we don't. With a woman as well-credentialed as she, it's a shame our focus must land on her shape, but her body and clothing have gotten her more attention than anything else. And, how we love to talk about her arms. . .

AP Photo

A couple of people have mentioned that perhaps Michelle Obama's presence will usher in a new, larger, body ideal (with the idea that she isn't as tiny as former first ladies. . . Nancy Reagan and Jackie O come to mind). I've heard her described as "normal-sized" (whatever that means), and many suggest that she's because she's not a thin woman, she represents the masses.

Terry McMillan, in a piece in New York Magazine, praises Michelle's body, noting her to be a new role model for Black women, where "large lips" and "big behinds" may now find some acceptance. McMillan writes:

In recent weeks, so much focus has been placed on Michelle Obama's biceps, but I'm much more excited about the rest of her body. Especially her hips. Those beautiful curves are hopefully sending a message to women of all ethnicities. . . that having some meat on your bones is and always has been a blessing you don't have to be ashamed of. I think she should make a video: The First Lady's Guide to Fitness and Self-Love or something. Every time I see her on television or in a magazine, I get goose bumps and my cheeks hurt from smiling because she represents us. . . .
Do you agree with McMillan? Does Michelle really represent us? To me, she's a thin, toned woman whose media presence won't necessarily pave the way for a more inclusive body ideal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Stories: Part VI

I heart mail (reprinted with permission):

Dear Dr. Stacey,

I am new to your blog, and for the past few days I've been reading it as voraciously as I would a paperback, mystery beach-read. You really hammer home issues that I've both consciously pondered and avoided. Although I would like us to be a community of body-happy women, I selfishly can take some comfort in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles.

Up until a couple of years ago, I always thought I had a healthy body image. One of my best friends in high school struggled with anorexia, then bulimia, then a vicious cycle of both. I was the closest to her at the time, and my own worry for her well-being, coupled with teenage angst, caused me to lose a bit of weight as well. I never really considered it at the time, with all the eating issues that circulated high school, I was healthy in comparison. Only now can I look back and see that I seemed to have a little of what was going around. Throughout college, my weight was never an issue, I noticed when I got stressed that pounds would actually, subconsciously, drop away. I'm an outdoorsy, sporty person, but never made a task of going to the gym. Only when I graduated, moved to NY (land of delicious take out) and started a more desk/sedentary lifestyle did I begin to notice my clothes were a little tighter...

About two years ago, I made a conscious decision to start eating healthier and got a gym membership. The token '5 lbs' that I had wanted to lose came off, and I continued on my new routine. My weight dropped lower. I've always been athletic, and at 5'3 am probably healthiest at my average weight of 120. A few pounds may not mean much, but working out daily and restricting calories caused a loss that dropped me into a less practical range. I thought this weight loss was akin to health, but my constant hunger, and increasing unwillingness to take a day off from the gym lest I feel guilty, told me otherwise.

I didn't listen to these signals, and one day found myself devouring whatever I could find in the apartment. Food was always on my mind; I wasn't even finished chewing my first meal of the day, while already plotting & yearning for my second. My 'splurge' takeout meal on Sunday nights would get me through the week, and once I got there I'd eat so much, preparing for the hibernation of the week to come, causing the most uncomfortable feeling. Overall, I was confused by these binges- I was eating so healthily, why did I have to do this? I started eating bigger meals at night and eased up on the restriction, but the binging continued sporadically. I still remember the day that I decided I hated being so uncomfortably full, and decided to purge. I was angry and baffled at myself, and all I could think of was my friend from high school. I was in my mid-twenties- why was this happening to me now? I saw girls go through it, and I know the havoc it can wreak on your body and emotions, but here I was, voluntarily putting myself in the same position. My frustration continued, the binges continued, and so did the occasional purging, for about a year. It still frustrates me that I put myself through this situation, after all, I never wanted to be stick thin, and I believe when I look in the mirror I do see the real me, but I still chose to lose a few pounds because I felt tired and uncomfortable a lot of the time.

I gained a few pounds back- a struggle- but with that, I think I've gained some really healthy perspective. You asked a question a while ago in your blog if sites like yours are truly helpful, or detrimental, in the long run. I have to say, without sites like yours, it wouldn't have clicked that there was an actual explanation (D.I.E.T.) to what jump started such a rough period. I still struggle to get to the point where my body and food aren't daily worries, but I've learned to really listen to what I need to sustain myself. It sounds so elementary, but such an important reminder.

Unfortunately, I also truly believe in your title. Because of my own body insecurities, it's easier to recognize them in others. People who seem so comfortable in their own skin, as I'm sure I do to many, have their own quirks that betray an inner discomfort. My own roommate, curvy and beautiful, has always been uncomfortable in her own skin for as long as I've known her (6th grade) and will be the first to admit she doesn't like to be touched. She's recently dropped a few pounds and started dressing for her actual size, but said to me just yesterday how uncomfortable it makes her feel when someone compliments her. Even with our differing body-comfort zones, compliments pushed me to further my workout routine, and I feel they're doing the same subconsciously for her. I try to tell her how great she looks (she hasn't always gotten that) without harping on the subject. I've picked up a new tactic- with your help- 'refrain from comment.' For example, when out with friends or family, I try not to dwell on the 'indulgence' of the food, or reply if someone makes the token comment about how bad it is for them. I keep telling myself to just enjoy, it's OK. I'm trying to take the same course when comments are made about someone's figure, negative or positive- just refrain and let it play out as it may. It sure is tough to not shout at the TV when yet another spot on Jessica Simpson's (beautiful) body comes on!

I started this email simply to thank you for an informative and supportive blog; although I occasionally peruse sites like this, I'm never a commenter, so apologies for just letting loose in an email to you. I'd be surprised if you don't come across emails like this all the time! I could go on and on with my own thoughts and feelings, there are just endless things to say on the subject of body image in today's world.

Keep up the good work. . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rock, Paper, Denim

Now, I know we have bikini season to talk about. But, during our antebellum spring, let's reflect on the past couple of months. . . .

Right before the holidays, I saw a commercial (can't remember the product--not such great advertising!) that proclaimed: "Now's the time to find out who wins--you or your jeans?"

So, I pose the question to you: Who won? Personally, I'm taking the win because:

a) I have friends who are smaller than I, to whom I often gift clothing I've outgrown (in more ways than one).
b) I have a growing Goodwill stash.
c) My jeans, after all, are inanimate and I have a sharp pair of scissors and a compliant garbage can.

I'll add here, for lack of another venue in which to discuss this sentiment, that I'm deeply saddened by the passing of Natasha Richardson. What a wonderful actress, mother, and woman. . . News like this, for me, puts concerns like above in such startling perspective. I hope it does for you as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Liz Funk, author of, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls, and I recently had a chance to chat. I interviewed her about her recently published book, which describes the proliferation of overly-booked, overly-pressured, overly-perfect young women. . . you know, the kind of teenager who plays three sports, aces her classes, dates successfully, and has the perfect body?

Were/are you a "Supergirl?" Can you identify negative consequences associated with this phenomenon? See below for our Q & A:

Were you a Supergirl, and as a 20-year-old writer who just had her first book published, speaker, and college student—are you still a Supergirl?
Yes, I was a total Supergirl and my earlier years in college and now I’m a recovering Supergirl. I still have a lot of Supergirl behaviors (e.g., trying to work too hard, trying to please everyone, being obsessed with my appearance), but I think in becoming cognizant of why I act this way, I can make an effort to enjoy being myself and be less of a Supergirl.

I’m curious where you grew up and if you see regional/cultural differences in this phenomenon?
I grew up in upstate NY in a little town about 20 minutes west of Albany and it was suburban/rural, but it was still very much a pressure cooker for teenagers. In researching my book, I talked to young women from all over the country (women of various ages, races, socio-economic statuses) and it seems that being a Supergirl is a nationwide issue. As I was researching, I tried to draw some conclusions, like, “Is this more of a suburban thing, or an urban thing?” which helped me come to my eventual conclusion that the media definitely spurs Supergirl behavior, just because it’s the one thing that touches the lives of all young women no mater where they grew up or how much money they grew up with.

Is being a Supergirl actually incompatible w/happiness?
On some level it is, because so many of the Supergirls who strive to do 100% in every aspect of their lives are really trying to compensate for some sort of internal unhappiness. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a young woman who is disappointed when she gets an A- or comes in 2nd place who is also comfortable in her own skin. I think so often being Supergirl is actually a defense.

How do you see the idea of Supergirl playing into eating disorders?
There are so many intersections between Supergirls and eating disorders. I think the first thing is that being a Supergirl and suffering from an eating disorder are both about control. I think of all the girls in this country, Supergirls are the ones who feel most pushed toward attempting physical perfection, but because there’s no such thing as physical perfection, I don’t think they know when to stop (stopping to lose weight or developing moderation in their exercise regimen). They become so desperate in their striving for perfection, they lose this understanding of a healthy body type and a healthy lifestyle.

If we discourage women from accomplishing or excelling (if we accept sub-par jobs and relationships, isn’t this taking a step back with regard to feminism?)
I don’t think the goal is to achieve less, I think the goal is to achieve in a healthier way. We want women to be able to be high achieving and successful, and do it in a way that makes them happy. Tina Fey’s character is a great example on 30 Rock—if Liz Lemon could approach her work day a little more leisurely, I think it would be the perfect example of remedying the Supergirl lifestyle without feminism taking a hit.

What’s are some of your ideas about how to break this cycle? Do Supermoms raise Supergirls?
I think that the first step in breaking this cycle comes from inside. Girls need to realize that they have value for reasons outside of how they look and what they do. I think Supergirls need to take some time for themselves and get some hobbies, learn to be alone with their thoughts, and start learning to enjoy spending time alone! In fact, I think that’s a great step one: Supergirls should all take themselves out to lunch and see how much fun they can have doing something for themselves and spending time with themselves, and take it from there!

I think in terms of the moms, overachieving moms today do set an example for their daughters, so I think that today’s moms need to set some boundaries in terms of how much time they spend doing stuff for other people. But moms are also a huge ally for their daughters, and I think that there are some really crucial conversations that Supergirls and their Supermoms can have about confronting the pressures that society and women put on them.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Philosophy 101 (And a Little Bit of Country)

I've been taking a philosophy class and recently, we addressed the topic: "What are you?" I'll spare you the introspection (read: Googling) and let you know that, philosophically, there are three aspects to the self:


In class, the professor asked us to comment on these variables and an interesting discussion ensued. We spoke about which elements we know for sure exist, which tend to dominate our lives. I commented that women seem to be more identified with their bodies than men; in other words, a greater part of our self-definition arises from our bodies than it does for men.

I would have loved to have recorded the debate that followed--most women (one offered the prevalence of wealthy men with "arm candy/trophy wives" as proof) and some men agreed, as I provided socio-biological explanations for why a woman's appearance matters more, but a couple of men (including the instructor) seemed to be taken aback. I offered everything from evolutionary choices (as did an orthopod in the room--we scientists are so transparent) to the differential incidence of eating disorders by gender to prove my point.

As I'm writing this post, I'm thinking of country music (you made the same leap, too, huh?) A number of country music performers have recently crossed over into pop. If you haven't been following pop hits (or itunes favorites), some country artists have high-ranking singles on the charts. But, why is it that certain artists are able to cross over to a larger audience and others aren't? Is it strictly a function of talent?

My hypothesis is that it has to do with their marketability and, specifically, that female country artists are marketable if they happen to be young and pretty (think Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kellie Pickler). How many unattractive female country artists have made the transition so seamlessly? How many men have made the switch? Top ranking Keith Urban's popularity seems largely derived from his marriage to an attractive female star.

Are women, in fact, more identified with their bodies (by others and themselves), or was I arguing an antiquated point?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stacey's Secret

Have you seen Victoria Secret's new swimsuit collection? Or, rather, I should ask, have you seen their new swimsuit campaign? Here's a taste:

Apologies for the sub-par photography--yes, that's her foot next to her bikini bottom. This spread appears street side at their new flagship store. I have to confess, sometimes I lie on the beach like this myself. I find that not only does it attract more attention, but it also happens to be a great quadriceps stretch.

Monday, February 23, 2009

All the Right Places

So, Kate Moss gained some weight. "I just put on a couple pounds and they went in the right place," she says in New York Magazine. I read that at first and wondered, "What is the right place?" But, we all know the "right" places, assuming that there are any, true? And, clearly, there are "wrong" places, no need to mention those, right?

Well, maybe there is, because some of you may assume that a "wrong" place to gain weight is one's backside. Not so, New York Magazine insists, as evidenced by their focus on Kate's:

As you can see from the photo, Moss has put on a bit of weight, not a difficult accomplishment from her days of heroin-chic. Many women would fret about gaining weight "back there," but not Kate, nor the editors of New York, as now, Kate simply has a backside. I'm left thinking that there aren't necessarily culturally acceptable "right" and "wrong" places to gain weight, but rather culturally acceptable "right" amounts of weight to gain. If you're underweight, it's okay to add a few pounds. If you're not, you better watch your placement.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Working it Out (with Kids)

For how to apply the post below to conversations with your children, see here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Working it Out

I've been taking a new (to me) class at the gym that focuses on interval training. I love the way it makes me stretch, offering a challenging alternative to my solo workouts. The instructor's great: energetic, positive, and pushes students only as far as they'd like to be pushed. But, the other day, she began to talk in class about her dessert consumption. "I ate some cake the other night, and it went right here!" (pointing to outer thighs) Later on in the class, she again mentioned consuming cake and cookies and said, "Who else was eating cookies? I know I'm not the only one!" (As in, let's all work that much harder--we must work off our sweets!)

Just a bit of background in case you're confused as to why I found this troubling: Cookies and cake are not bad. We do not need to atone for eating them through exercise. Exercise (with or without cookies/cake) is beneficial to our physical and psychological health.

Ok, so what does an eating disorder psychologist (who also has a fitness background)do in a situation like this? I like the class, but dislike those kinds of messages. And, I have a bit of a political agenda, truth be told. So, I approached the instructor after class and told her I had enjoyed it, but had a small concern. I mentioned the work I do and the prevalence of eating disorders. I even spectulated on the incidence of eating disorders among class participants (yes, I know not EWHAED, but if I had to gamble, I'd say rates might be higher in this class than in the general population). I explained to the instructor that comments that linked exercise to food might be triggering for some, unhelpful to many, and that I always appreciate a dialogue that focuses on the health and wellness benefits of exercise, rather than its role in calorie management. I tried to convey this in a casual way, as I can imagine feeling a bit on the defensive if approached with similar feedback. So, here's the kicker--she says, "You're right, you're totally right. Actually, I'm a social worker."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Weight Bias

Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently published a couple of online videos regarding weight bias. The first involves weight bias against children, both at school and in the home. The other focuses on weight bias amongst healthcare professionals. What can you do to help reduce the incidence of weight bias?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Too Fat, Too Thin, What's a Girl to Do?

Did you happen to catch this?

Is it a step in the right direction (that we're more accepting of a healthier size and newly critical of "too-thin") or do the results just represent more of the same judgment and criticism of women's bodies, when we should be focusing on something else? (e.g., Holmes reportedly was a Broadway success) What do you think?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Student Health

Karen, over at Some of My Other Random Thoughts, emailed me an excerpt from one of her recent posts. Check it out:
Last week, I went to the student health center to get an allergy prescription. I'm a grad student and student health is free! I still have to pay for the prescription because I don't have health insurance for the moment, but the appointment is free! Maybe you get what you pay for, because it was a weird little experience that I've probably retold to five or six different people in the last seven days.

The nurse had me step on the scale in the hallway. I did, and watched the number appear, all digital style, the same number I've been frowning at when standing on the YMCA scale, jiggling the non-digital balance thingy, hoping it'll bounce up, er, down, a little.

The nurse, on the other hand, was shocked at the number. Not because she knows me (never seen her before) or saw that I'd gained a significant amount since my last visit (I haven't) or was even looking at my chart. She was shocked because, as she put it, "Wow. You do not look like you weigh that much!"

I chuckled or snorted or something, perhaps slightly uncomfortable, but not hearing the alarm bells that later reflection told me I should have heard. My people-pleasing kicked in, and I said, with a little slap to my, ahem, outer thigh, "It's all in my hips!"

"Seriously," the nurse continued, unable to impress this upon me with only one inappropriate comment, "You do NOT look like you weigh that much."

Heh, heh, I might have said. I went into the room, briefly chatted with the doctor, got my script, and I was gone. It wasn't until after class, on my hour-long drive home, that I thought, Huh. Something was not right about that.

I probably should write a letter to the medical director, as more than one of my post-event confidantes told me. I should probably include in that letter that no staff member should ever comment on a woman's (or any patient's) weight while weighing them and writing the number in the chart. If a comment needs to be made, as it might, about significant gain or loss, or concerns about medical complications, it should be made by the primary provider, in a sensitive, confidential way.

Here's the thing. I think she thought she was complimenting me. "Wow, you look skinnier than that number!" or "Wow, you look like you weigh ten pounds less!" But isn't there also a subtext:
"Wow, that's a high number!" or "Wow, you don't look that fat!" And what about this? What if I were recovering from or still dealing with an eating disorder? This is university student health. I know I'm 36 and don't flatter myself that I look 18, but eating disorders have been around since my college days. If it bothered me, who has never been particularly obsessed or concerned about my weight, what would it have done to someone who was finally at a "normal" weight after years of anorexia or bulimia. What if I'd heard negative things about my weight through my whole life from my mother or other important role models? (And isn't that A LOT of women?)
Reactions to Karen's experience?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What If?

From the talented Gavin DeGraw:
I don't want to be
Anything other than what I've been trying to be lately
All I have to do
Is think of me and I have peace of mind
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms
Wondering what I've got to do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't want to be anything other than me
I wonder what would happen to the incidence of eating disorders if we could all grab hold of this. . . .

Monday, January 26, 2009

Seriously, Kristen?

You may recall seeing actress Kristen Johnston drop an alarming amount of weight this past summer. Reports vary, but it seems Ms. Johnston lost something in the neighborhood of 40 (or 60?) pounds, which she attributes, in various media reports, to experiencing a burst ulcer. Skeptics suggested that, instead, she struggled with an eating disorder, but it's important to keep in mind that we have no clear confirmation either way (unless some reader of this blog is either her therapist or her gastroenterologist and is willing to breach patient confidentiality in order to clear up any misunderstandings).

But here's my concern. . . . Recently, on TMZ (I know, not the best news source, nowhere near the caliber of responsible journalism typical of People or Page Six), Johnston reported she had no idea she had lost the weight. Hold on a sec--she had no idea she lost 40 pounds? Even if she never set foot on a scale, wouldn't she maybe have had a moment where she tried on a pair of jeans and had said pair fall directly to the floor? How can you not know you've lost 40 pounds? What was the thought process as her clothing fell off her then emaciated frame? "My personal assistant must have secretly taken my wardrobe to the tailor and had everything taken out, why I don't know, but, yes, that's clearly what must have happened"?

*Please vote on the title if you haven't already. Your input is tremendously important to me--I'm even curious what you think about the results so far. . . .

Monday, January 19, 2009

Back to the Beginning

I'm starting to think about seriously shopping around my book and wanted your opinion. A while back, I asked about my working title and wondered about other possibilities. I thank you all for your suggestions--I just offered some in a poll (scroll down and look to your right). I'd appreciate your feedback, and if it's "other," please feel free to comment here with your idea.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bridal Wars

Dropping weight for your upcoming wedding? Planning on it? In the current issue of Modern Bride, Abby Ellin tackles the phenomenon of the newly betrothed (many who are already quite thin) taking extreme measures to lose weight before their big day. The proliferation of bridal boot camps and Bulging Brides reinforce the idea that no matter how thin you are, you must be thinner to walk down the aisle. Check out the article if you get a chance--Ellin effectively covers an alarming trend that has become the norm and, to my excitement, quotes me!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The New Yorker Article

Did anyone happen to catch this? If not, give it a read. I know it's supposed to be funny, I really do, but I still felt compelled to comment on a few points. See my letter to the editor below:

Dear Editor:

As a clinical psychologist specializing in eating disorders in private practice here in NY and at Columbia University Medical Center, I took great interest in Amy Ozol's "Looking Your Best" (in the January 5th issue). To be clear, I understand that most of what Ms. Ozol writes she writes in humor, and psychologists of all people understand the importance of maintaining a sense of humor. Still, there are some statements that cross even that line--if I had a dollar for every time I tell a layperson I specialize in eating disorders, that someone says, "Oh, I wish I had anorexia," I'd be looking toward early retirement.

Ozol's piece is funny and offers a number of truths related to healthy weight-loss or -maintenance. However, there are a couple of objections I have that I believe fall beyond even the clearly humorous spirit of the piece. Ozol mentions visualizing eating food and spitting it out as a possible weight-loss technique. Frequent chewing and spitting is actually an eating-disordered behavior and would be clinically diagnosed as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Ozol also recommends using psychotropic medications in order to allay distress associated with emotional eating. This is, in fact, helpful for a number of patients. But, what Ozol fails to mention is how closely linked disordered eating and substance abuse are. Commonly, patients replace one set of behaviors with another, so there is concern for abuse potential of psychiatric medications, particularly when the classes of medication prescribed are addictive (such as benzodiazepines, including popular drugs like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium).

As another recommendation, Ozol suggests surrounding yourself "with thin people." Unfortunately, there happens to be a lot of competition (particularly between women) around weight. Again, Ozol is using humor, recommending gastric bypass surgery in order to correct a discrepancy between friends. But beyond this, it's important to realize that competition between women can have deleterious effects on mood and self-esteem (and on relationships between women and even our standing in the world), consequently even causing, in some cases, the emotional eating to which Ozol refers earlier on.

Finally, Ozol reflects on the relationship between weight and socio-economic status when she writes about donating "fat clothes" to charity: "Refrain from donating anything to charity, as this could cause underprivileged people to become obese, which would be unsavory and possibly even illegal." Funny, yes, but also inaccurate--the percentage of low-income individual who are fat is quite high--related possibly to genetics, insufficient access to unprocessed foods and balanced meals (a meal from McDonald's is cheaper than one from Whole Foods, right?), and a lack of time and access to participate in physical activity. This truth, too, is lost in Ozol's comic recommendations.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Oh, O

I know, I know, y'all want to hear more about Oprah's weight gain. In the latest issue of her magazine, Oprah asks: "How Did I Let This Happen Again?"

I don't want to point any fingers, but maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with this. When are we all going to figure out that if diets are imprisoning, cleanses are the solitary confinement of food restriction? Is there anyone out there who's cleansed without, when all's said and done, gaining any compensatory weight? A cleanse is too restrictive to live by, and the body and mind inevitably rebel from a period of deprivation.

Still, I hate to talk about her weight. I hate that she's talking about her weight. She's one of the world's most powerful, influential women, and the most newsworthy item about her is what happens when she steps on the scale?