November 30, 2009

What's it like to have a computer crash?

It's like you left the office for a moment and you came back and that part of the house has been burned to the ground.

Luckily, someone managed to grab your file cabinet and saved it from the flames. Luckily, you can afford to rebuild. Someone lends you an office for a while, and it is only a matter of time before you get back into your new office. You're lucky.

But the files in your cabinet have all had their dates erased, and they've been taken out of their folders and shuffled at random. Some of the most important files are missing, or are a version from weeks or months ago. The borrowed office is arranged differently and doesn't have the same appliances - and those that are there aren't integrated with one another. Your new office will need new cabinets, and you will need months to put all the papers away.

Meanwhile, you had other plans for the coming weeks of transition and reorganization. But you know you are lucky. And the new office will certainly be a fresh start.

How does it feel? Well, this morning I had to go get a tooth drilled at the dentist and I found it a welcome break from the slow-moving disaster on my borrowed desktop. I'm just saying.

November 26, 2009

November 24, 2009

I can't hear you....

My computer crashed today. Data gone, settings missing. I am the victim of some frightening "malware."

Almost all the data can be retrieved from offsite backup, thank goodness, though tediously and at no small expense.

Irretrievable: all my settings and bookmarks, and two incredibly important documents, and the time it will take to reconstruct my "office."

Funny how my laptop is now my workspace, my communications, my entertainment, my organizer, my calendar, my calculator, my news source, my contact with friends, my eyes my ears my dashboard of life.

I am email-less, Skype-less, calendar-less, lacking an address book and until I get my computer resurrected or replaced I am an itinerant computer user and all the "to-do" lists of the days to come are now the "can't do" list of the week. If you've emailed, I can't see you. If you've Skyped, I didn't hear it.

This may be a holiday week for me in more ways than one! Feeling grateful: that I backed things up, that I have another computer to borrow, for my printed cheat cheat of passwords, that my friends and family will understand and even cheer, that computers don't have feelings, and that it is just a computer.

November 23, 2009

Dan the Man!

Talk about extreme eating:

For their Thanksgiving feast, they buried the birds

(I have known the boy in the crazy hat since he was learning to walk, and he makes a mean cranberry relish that was the hit of brunch in our neighborhood this weekend!)

November 21, 2009

A more informed way

This cheers me up. I am imagining a time in not too distant future where mental health care is more focused, less haphazard, and more effective:

Imaging, Genetics, and the science of psychotherapy

“There is a science to psychotherapy. To think that biological psychiatry would do away with psychosocial treatment is na├»ve. We'll do it in a more informed way.”

November 20, 2009

A cycle of anxiety, craving, and overconsumption

I have blogger's remorse for my earlier rant, so I'm pairing it with some hopeful information in understanding why dieting is not a good idea, AND an alternative:

"Food might not be addictive on its own, but prohibiting it can set off a cycle of anxiety, craving, and overconsumption that for all purposes looks like addiction."

Where outrage lives

Why don't I join the fray of outrage over Kate Moss saying "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?"

Because I don't care. I find the opinions and actions and health of models irrelevant to eating disorder activism. What DOES concern me is a tragic over-valuing of the role of the media and a conflation of what that world does to healthy people (not good) and the symptoms we see in the mentally ill.

Modelling surely does attract and exploit very tall thin pretty people, and does cause slightly less naturally tall thin pretty people to do unnatural things to compete with the former, and without a doubt attracts lots of people whose mental illnesses make those unnatural behaviors a resume-plus.

But the attraction to modelling, and to staring at and comparing oneself to models, is a symptom. That fascination is a symptom of a silly and self-destructive part of modern life for otherwise mentally healthy people. The compulsion, however, is a symptom, for some people of mental illness. Symptom, and not cause.

Home improvement magazines and household cleaner advertisements do not cause OCDs. They attract those WITH these brain patterns. For the rest of us, we just struggle to keep up appearances or suffer fits of dismay at how we fall short. People whose brains are healthy are usually able to distinguish a sales pitch from realistic house management.

When Martha Stewart shares her tips for homemade lemon cleanser we all know she has a staff to think this stuff up and do it for her. OCD advocates don't call for her head because of her unreasonably tidy TV studio. When a model professes a devotion to thinness we should know that that is what she is paid to do and be and that this set of values are the only reason she blights our news feeds and screens. The fashion industry doesn't cause eating disorders, it exploits them and the mentally healthy who try to live on green salads and cleansing fasts in pursuit of thinness.

We should refuse to care what purveyors of self-mockery say or do and expend our outrage on the maddeningly unhelpful comments of those who really should know better: those speaking of eating disorders as if they are just incorrect thinking and mistaken priorities. This approach strikes me as terribly cruel to patients and undervalues THEIR heroism and hard work to recover.

November 19, 2009

There is no replacement for food

New study establishes that fructose and sorbital cause more gastric distress in ED patients than other people. Diet foods, of course, are a great source of both fructose and sorbital.

Eating disorder patients often become manic gum chewers, and you may also remember that chewing gum with sorbital has been associated with gastro problems and severe weight loss.

So many things parents need to know as they try to help loved ones recover!

November 18, 2009

Passport? Check! Car keys? Nein!

I recently received invitations to speak at conferences in London and Salzburg next year. I used to be a travel agent and still enjoy travel, but I never drive overseas. And who can blame me? In London they drive on the left and in Austria they drive indoors!

Salzburg Congress Conference Room

Seriously, if you live near London or Salzburg, I'd love to meet you. Come to EDIC or ICED! Or both. But drive carefully.

November 17, 2009

This is going to pinch a bit

Without getting into the very personal and emotional merits of arguments on all sides, what interests me about the news federal panel recommends reducing number of mammograms is that lots of consumers have been talking about this for years. Fifteen years ago, I remember reading the impassioned arguments of some in the breast cancer world that routine mammograms for younger women were causing more harm than good and that medicine still didn't have reliable ways to tell a dangerous cancer from one that would never cause harm.

I got pretty sharp rebukes from two gynocologists during my 40s when I questioned my yearly mammogram prescriptions.

I can think of another women's health issue, HPV testing and cervical cancer, where I was bringing information to gynecologists about it for years and being looked at like a nut before the recommendations changed and all of a sudden I was a forward-thinking nut. This, of course, bought me no extra credibility when I brought up other issues. Like eating disorders. But I digress.

This is not to say that every innovative or contrary idea - especially the defeatist conspiracy-theory anti-establishment doctors-are-trying-to-kill-us stuff - has merit. But it is a reminder that consumers need to combine clinical consultation with a good personal grounding in science and wide reading in healthcare. Being a good consumer sometimes means deciding to say "no," seeking second opinions, and speaking up. Until all doctors give the same stellar and universally correct advice, we still have to be smart consumers.

November 16, 2009

Bloggers who blog for bloggers

Here is a blog post about a blog post about a blogger:

Marcella: Vote for Carrie!

Brilliant idea, Marcella! I voted for Carrie, and happily. She is my favorite blogger by far, and for many reasons.

VOTE FOR CARRIE! It's free, non-toxic, kind, and a good cause. Will make you smarter, happier, lower your cholesterol, and probably make you rich quick!

Really, where else do you get stoats AND hypoxia in one place?

November 15, 2009

Is it cruel to be kind?

I come from optimistic stock. My mother is preternaturally positive, and it works very well for her and those around her. She expects great things, she has high standards, she shoots high, works hard, and the rewards of this sunny outlook are evident in her personal and professional success and happiness - not to mention that of the many people she has nurtured and the social changes she has been a part of (Mr. Obama, she knew you when.)

I also come from pessimistic stock, but because I am my mother's daughter I tend to put that outside the frame. The price of optimism is a willful refusal to see the negative.

In the past week, I have been thinking of two dissimilar situations and finding them alike. A friend of mine is dealing with, and blogging in real time, her husband's cancer diagnosis and treatment. The community around her - the woman has a fiercely loyal band of supporters in several states and levels of virtual space - is mostly only able to help by encouraging her. The word "brave" comes up a lot. We all cheer. We all admire her humor and "bring no tissues" attitude.

At the same time a mom who is part of my online daily life and that of an online community around the world is struggling with two very ill children, either of whose needs could easily submerge an entire team of mothers, receives nothing but praise and admiration from people all over the world who all recognize the heroism and fragility of the situation.

And yet the comment that keeps coming to mind for me as I chime in with both communities of friends around these two women is the comment of a third mother: "Maybe all this talk of heroism is keeping her from seeking more help."

When we call someone a hero and "a role model" and say "when I see what S is enduring I know I shouldn't complain" do we risk making things worse?

Are we cruel to say "keep going" when we could be saying "enough?" Is it enough to tell S to have a glass of wine, that she puts us to shame, that we would "never be so brave." Are we enabling a "superwoman" attitude when we should be dolphin-nudging to "put your oxygen mask on now and call in more troops."

I wonder also at the effect on others with situations that on paper may not seem so dire as cancer or repeatedly hospitalized children but are nonetheless at the end of their own rope. Is optimism and a refusal to think negatively also a way of waving off our fears, of minimizing our own distress? Yet it strikes me that action-less optimism may simply be the only appropriate tool for those watching from the shore.

I confess that I did - still do - at times rebel against my mom's optimism. When I despair I can feel criticized by her sunny outlook and add resentment at letting her down to my troubles. I wonder how frightened I might have been had my pessimisms succeeded in bringing her into my dark point of view. Perhaps I would have, contrary creature that I am, turned on her pessimism in perversely positive rebuke.

That is not a theory I plan on trying with my friends, however. Unless I can be there to take responsibility for the fallout, I shall stick with optimism. And oxygen mask analogies. And yes: admiration. Instead of turning negative, I will remind myself that my little positivities may be all I can do but they aren't much.

November 14, 2009

Prescription to kill ED

From "Never Lose Hope" at the Around the Dinner Table online forum:
"Recipe to kill ED (it's a difficult but I think a pretty fool proof
  • Get weight up to healthy target range.
  • Keep weight in that range.
  • Do not lose weight again.
  • Do not allow purging or bingeing.
  • Keep sufferer safe.
  • Get treatment for other psychiatric conditions.
  • Teach new coping skills. Don't just tell her to use other coping skills! She
    may not have any-if not, she needs to learn them. (My d only had gum chewing
    when we started-now we have lots!)
  • Be supportive and encouraging!
  • Let your d know you are optimistic she is GOING TO have a normal life, and
    it won't be in 20 years from now!"

November 13, 2009

Moon bounce

A year ago had you asked anyone, even many scientists, whether there was water on the moon the answer would have been no and the questioner would have been considered questionable.

Now data show water on moon.

There are lots of things we don't "know." Or only a few people know, and most people don't believe them. Most important things, especially in science, are initially scorned. That didn't make those ideas wrong - there was water on the moon all the time - but it should make us all a bit humbler.

And yes, I am thinking of a bunch of stuff that I "know" and try to help others see. I'm also thinking of what moon water I'm missing. What does it take to turn skepticism to belief, or knock a belief out of place?

November 7, 2009


Psychotherapy in the Age of Biological Psychiatry:

“Psychiatrists know about the latest drug trials, but they don’t always know about the latest clinical trials of psychotherapy"

How important it is that we not operate on the extremes, or in little niches. The progress in science and society should result in better outcomes and collaboration, not pendulum shifts that serve no one.

November 6, 2009

Sweets for geeks

Only the geekiest among us will love this: The Cellular and Molecular Substrates of Anorexia Nervosa, Part 1 - as it isn't written for the average reader and took me two straight readings (hence my delay in posting it as I lately don't get four straight minutes to concentrate) to really absorb.

But I loved it. We need more of this thoughtful and intelligent higher level explanation of the disparate threads of knowledge out there. We need to get out of the ED world and get others to take up the ED information.

I can't wait for Part 2.

November 4, 2009

Gifts for my daughter

I got the chance to finish Jenni Schaefer's new book, "Goodbye ED," and put it on my daughter's bed for her next visit home from college then chatted her ear off about it.
(She'll also find this, from her father and brother.)

I've only given my daughter, who suffered from anorexia, a few books about eating disorders. Life Without ED (Jenni's first) and this one are the only patient narratives I've ever recommended.

It will interest my allies and my critics that Jenni's book isn't about or even much mention genetics. You won't find predisposition, brain disease, or Maudsley in this book. It isn't about parents taking control or refeeding or any of the topics I spend so much time ranting about. Those are my bailiwick, and Jenni has hers and they don't conflict. My focus is on caregivers and how those around the person can respond at the start, hers is about how the patient takes over recovery from the inside - and on life after recovery.

We need both. Recovery has stages, and we play different roles at different places in the story. The ultimate goal for parents and loved ones is to watch as the person moves beyond the illness. We need more discussion and thinking about recovery and wellness after an eating disorder. We need the unique and truly thoughtful work Jenni is doing.

November 3, 2009


If I could, I would slip this under the door of every family the day their dear child is diagnosed with an eating disorder:

D's memory of first refeeding meal

If parents knew from the start that the disease LIES and the patient needs us to take the long view and not take anything personally... imagine.

November 2, 2009

testing, testing

I've come home for a break between shifts volunteering at the Lion's Club vision and hearing screenings at my son's middle school.

Am I the only one who finds it perverse that the two things I've volunteered to do this year are for Donut Day sales and this health screening?

The Donut Day stuff cracks me up, because we've got this simultaneous dual message going on in the schools: Don't be fat! Buy a box of donuts! Don't eat junk food! School spirit equals eating donuts! Fun equals donuts! Don't eat! Eat! I am the only mom who isn't making comments about guilt and my backside and eating the whole box and skipping dinner. With every donut I say "Enjoy!"

The vision and hearing screening interests me, too. I hate to think that I'm volunteering in search of blog posts, but it is impossible to sit at the screening table and watch these young kids getting their eyes and ears checked and not compare it to the weight screening that also goes on in some schools. (Not ours. Over my dead BMI.) These kids are nervous as they approach the table, it's crowded in the trailer and the kids are self-conscious. They don't want to get it "wrong" and you can tell they think others are judging. They whisper their answers. They don't know which way to go, they confuse right and left. Poor dears.

One girl an hour ago looked close to tears as the Lion's Club guy came and did a re-check, asking me at full volume (he wears a hearing aid) "did she get those all wrong?" Then taking her sheet and telling her she can go now - without explaining what was wrong or how anyone would follow up.

I remember once my daughter heard the dentist say her molar development was "immature." She was crushed. We should be careful.

One girl didn't get all the numbers right and gushed "I just don't want to get GLASSES." I looked at her - through my glasses - and assured her they were fun.

One boy sat down ready to rumble: "I only missed two last time." "It's not a competition" I said.

Kids want to do well, and they don't want to look different or weird to their peers. Even a vision/hearing screening can be worrying and chaotic. The screeners are not necessarily reassuring and polite or thoughtful (I am, I hope, but some people are insensitive or dismissive. Others are sitting there worried about being judged by the other adults in the room - the testing procedure is tough to get a hang of. We got five minutes of training before the kids started filing in, and 'mistakes were made.'

I was, quite consciously, thinking of body mass/weight/fitness testing in schools as I was doing this - thinking about how I do help with one and would never with the other. The biggest difference, of course, is that the stigma of having poor vision or hearing is nothing compared to that of weight. The second is that vision and hearing screening can actually lead to health interventions that are real and helpful (there are no weight interventions for children, nor do we really know whether weight tells us much about health).

The greatest difference is this: telling a child she needs glasses won't lead her to do dangerous things to her eyes, or cause her to blame herself. That boy who beats the hearing test isn't going to be told he should be proud of himself for giving himself superior ears.

I'm going back now for another session. I feel especially gentle and careful to these little souls with their health sheets - for reasons they don't even know.

I like donut day better, even with its mixed messages.

** I'm back. Yes, there were some kids who come through there and clearly no one knew they could barely see with one eye or that they lacked peripheral vision. Yet on reflection I've decided these screenings aren't a good idea. Health measures shouldn't be done in a public assembly line, and amateurs shouldn't be doing the screening.

November 1, 2009

Survey of F.E.A.S.T. members

We're planning for a website overhaul at F.E.A.S.T., but before packing up and moving we want to do some housekeeping. F.E.A.S.T. members are invited to review the website and fill out a survey online with suggestions and feedback.

If you prefer, you can email your comments and ideas to