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:
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.