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?