Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Tyra Banks Show

Jessica Weiner, the author of the 4th book on the EWHAED book club (scroll down and check the right side of your screen. . . I'll hold on) will be a guest on today's Tyra show, helping the talk show host confront the scandal the media has created about her body. I've seen Jessica speak and really enjoy her approach--check it out, if you get the chance.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Palmtreechick, over at Just Babbling, recently forwarded me a Google search that landed a reader on her site. The search? "How to be anorexic." I got to thinking about what I would say to this (likely young, female) reader if I had the opportunity to chat with her, how I, armed with all my information and training, would probably still feel powerless, as I tried to address what feels like preliminary step down a long and winding road. Or, is it preliminary? Is the die cast, the story just unfolding?

I find myself humbled by the disempowerment of language, when up against a daunting, persuasive disease. Yet, if there's a question, then there's uncertainty and hopefully some room to move.

What would you say?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


People magazine's latest issue features a story on Tyra Banks, who, if you haven't noticed, has gained some weight as of late. It seems, however, that public opinion is mixed--while some may feel Tyra to be more "relatable" at a heavier weight, others have quite a different reaction--according to the article, Tyra's been labeled "ugly" and "disgusting" and headlines abound: "Tyra Porkchop" and "America's Next Top Waddle."

Tyra says: "I've made millions of dollars with the body I have, so where's the pain in that? If I was in pain, I would have dieted. The pain is not there – the pain is someone printing a picture of me and saying those (horrible) things."

Why must we pick apart her body, flaunt her cellulite in print, and focus on her weight, rather than her accomplishments?

Let's keep in mind that at 5'10" and a reported 161 pounds, Tyra's hardly obese. And, with two hit shows, she's become an American media sensation, rumored to follow Oprah's lead.

But, let's not let her get. . . too big.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Feed Science

Recently, a psychologist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University Medical Center contacted me, seeking participants for a study. I told her I'd post the study information on my site, since I support the scientific exploration of e.d.'s and since it's an opportunity for those who struggle with e.d.'s to learn about themselves and earn a little cash on the side. So, if you're in the NYC area and are 12-21 years old (or know anyone who is), check it out:

I am conducting an NIMH-funded, IRB-approved study of adolescents with Bulimia Nervosa (BN). I am recruiting adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 21. If they decide to participate, they will be asked to fill out surveys and answer questions about their medical history, moods and behavior. At this point, they will also receive a psychiatric interview from an experienced psychiatrist in our Eating Disorders Clinic. A one hour MRI scan of the brain will follow in which we will acquire both anatomical and functional images. The functional images will be acquired while they perform a simple task/game in the scanner. MRI does not involve any radiation exposure; it is an extremely safe and painless imaging modality. The scans, surveys and any other information provided will be kept strictly confidential. In addition, the patients will be compensated for participation with a payment of $100. Participation in this study is entirely voluntary.

Prospective participants can call the research assistant herself at (212)543-5151 and schedule an appointment to come in.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sure Beats The Swan

Lifetime Television is currently hosting casing calls for a new show, Make My Body Over. The series will focus not on bodies, but on body image--making over the way we look at ourselves. If you're interested in addressing problems with body image or self-esteem (and would like to do so in a public venue), click here for more information.

Finally, television for women.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Expansion or Constriction?

According to The New York Times article, “In the Land of Bold Beauty, a Trusted Mirror Cracks,” six Brazilian women have died of anorexia as of late. The article, penned by Larry Rohter, traces the transformation of the Brazilian beauty ideal from the guitar-shaped frame (heavy on the waist, hips, and butt) epitomized by the original “Girl from Ipanema” to the Euro-American shrunken hourglass. Gisele Bundchen, the busty-yet-lanky Brazilian model and ex-Leonardo DiCaprio squeeze, seems to epitomize the shift.

Now, Brazilian girls, instead of wishing for larger bottoms (what Brazilian men have traditionally deemed attractive) are pining for the stick-thin figures popular in the (industrialized) rest of the world. Late model Ana Carolinia Reston went too far, as did a handful of other Brazilian twenty-somethings. As the article suggests, the shift from guitar to twig, aside from begging the question of why we must compare women’s bodies to inanimate objects, signals a “rebellion against machismo,” with Brazilian women eschewing Brazilian men’s standards of beauty. But does it? Is this really cultural growth, or the shift from one standard of beauty (promoted by the men of one culture) to another?

Mary del Priore, a historian quoted in the article suggests:
“'Men are still resisting and clearly prefer the rounder, fleshier type. But women want to be free and powerful, and one way to reject submission is to adopt these international standards that have nothing to do with Brazilian society.'”
True, these women may be bucking cultural tradition, but it seems that now they’re simply playing by a different set of rules, characterized by an alternative submission that proves lethal at times.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Last week, the Federal Trade Commission targeted the marketing of four weight-loss pills, fining them $25 million for false advertising claims. Xenadrine EFX, One A Day Weight Smart, CortiSlim and TrimSpa were assessed fines for advertising unproven product efficacy, from claims about swift weight loss to the prevention of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The products will remain on shelves but must adjust their marketing campaigns to remove false claims.

FTC chairperson Deborah Platt Majoras suggested that in a study investigating the weight-loss efficacy Xenadrine, for example, those who took the pill actually lost less weight than those taking a placebo. Still, diet pills represent a 1.6 billion dollar industry, fueled largely, as we see, by celebrity endorsements and emotional pipe dreams.

Monday, January 08, 2007

No Joke

(Eating disorder cartoons from

I visited an ophthalmologist recently, whose suite is across the hall from the office where I work part-time at a university medical center. As he tinkered with bright lights and dilating drops, he asked me if I had any areas of specialty. “I do a lot with addictions and eating disorders,” I said.

“An eating disorder—now that’s something I’d like to have.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” I replied.

“Actually, it would be kind of nice to have an eating disorder for a little while, lose 30 pounds, and then get rid of it,” he parried.

And, here, I found myself in familiar territory, defending why one shouldn’t aspire to an eating disorder, challenging the conversational levity associated with a specific diagnosis. He didn’t, for example, suggest he’d like to dabble in opiate addiction. When I talk about working with anxiety and depression, no one jokes about how appealing a stint as a depressive would be, or how nice it would be to have a panic attack now and then. Eating disorders, however, seem to have attained “class clown” status in the arena of psychiatric diagnosis. Even amongst a medical professional. . .

Why is this? Why not consider the gravity of such conditions? How did one of the most fatal psychiatric diagnoses become convenient fodder for jokes? Is it because the pain and suffering of eating disorders is largely internal and therefore unknown? Is it because eating disorders have become so popular in our current zeitgeist (especially among models and celebrities) that they’re almost considered trendy? Is it because the manifest goal of an eating disorder (to lose weight/be thin) is so noble that we’re willing to overlook the process as means to a coveted end?