April 29, 2011

Painting toes while watching sunrise over Miami, and the wedding

I didn't mean to be watching the wedding, but I was brushing my teeth and turned on the TV in my room and voila. Well, I have my tiara, and some nail polish, so there you are.

The conference is going well. Good science, some interesting debates, some news - and a telling gaffe by someone that went public by mistake and will surely be the talk of the day.

The gaffe involved this statement, in celebrating something positive: "Getting rid of the tea party maudsley folks made a difference…"  

Can't be sure what that means (though I can guess), but it's sad on so many levels. What we really need is to be really talking.

April 27, 2011

Tiaras and mojitos - and a little evidence-based learning, too!

What does one pack for an eating disorder conference? Well, I left room for my tiara. Really. My husband, who is in charge of the Rubik's Cube process of packing for me (for the return trip I'm on my own and things don't fit very well) was mystified. Why a tiara? I'll tell you later.

I'm waiting for my plane to Miami to board, and notice that a half dozen cops with rescue dogs are getting on first. I wonder if I get to sit next to one of the dogs?

Looking forward to Miami - haven't been there since an ill-concieved Spring Break decades ago. I'm sure the county police have forgotten by now. Uh-oh - maybe that's why the officers are here. Hmm. Well, I have the tiara in case things get dicey. How much trouble can a middle-aged lady with a tiara be?

Welcome to Body of Evidence

When I read about Carrie's new blog, Welcome to Body of Evidence, at Psychology Today, I had two thoughts. One was how smart that mag is to have Carrie, of all people, writing for them. The other was that she always has the perfect titles!!

April 25, 2011

Ten minutes until Customer Service opens


Yes, the forum is down. We're all locked out. I wakened to a list of "what did I do wrong?" emails asking why.

So, in the ten nine eight minutes until Customer Service opens, I'm sitting here considering the question I'd like to ask my readers before I go to Miami for the Academy for Eating Disorders conference:

What do we want from the professional ED world?

I know what *I* want, but what do other parents want?

April 24, 2011

And now it's just the three of us. And the dogs. And of course Tug needs a bath.

My friend, Susan, lost her husband to cancer last week. Our hearts hurt for her and their young sons. As always, she has a way with words like no one else: the exact wit of the absolute truth.

The poem she cites in her post today, for Easter, is balm for this difficult spring morning:
Stu McCorkindale, 2/1/50-4/13/11

Thinking of you, Susan, and the boys -

April 19, 2011

If Barbie Were Real

If Barbie Were Real, I think she'd say "please stop playing with me for your ideological games."

If Barbie were real, she'd be two years older than me, and pretty tired of being bashed by feminists for decades. That prodigious bosom would be far lower and her outrageously long legs quite possibly the recipients of new knees. Being a woman of a certain age, she'd be pretty philosophical about being admired and used and loved and hated and imbued with so much power over others.

Including the power to cause people to lose their minds: "

An anorexia survivor builds a life-size Barbie as a body image reality check"

Back when Barbie and I were kids, we did a lot of dress-up and dreamed of being princesses and nurses and hot librarians. Then we grew up and got jobs and kids and therapy. We got clued in to the politics of our bodies, and although we couldn't change our bodies we decided to accept them. Even when we are six feet tall and have ginormous breasts and serious foot arch issues. We realized that no matter how people admire us it won't really make them crazy. No matter how much envy we have for others, life goes on. It doesn't define us. If mental illness was a matter of the world being so awful to us, holding unreasonable standards for us, dangling the unreachable before us - well then it would be even more common and less treatable. But it's not. Anorexia is a mental illness, not: too many envious thoughts, seeing too many pretty people or thin people or rich people or ones with better clothes. Barbie doesn't hold out an unrealistic ideal. She's a doll. No one became catatonic from Pet Rocks, or had snout implants because of Miss Piggy.

Personal Barbie facts:

  • One of my dads knew the real Barbie - the one whose parents owned Mattel. They had a date. He says she was nice. Her brother's name is Ken.
  • I really wanted a Barbie doll as a kid and finally my mom agreed. I was so excited. So we got there and I reached for that lovely one in the long white dress... and my mother balked. She wanted to know why I wasn't getting the black one. We argued racial and identity issues in the aisle. But the black one was Julia the nurse and the nurse's oufit was NOT the glamour I was going for at all! We got the Julia one. I didn't play with her. I wasn't denying my people. I just wanted a pretty dress and those impossible heels.
  • As a good feminist mom, I bought my daughter trucks and books and Tinkertoys, and was very vocal about a "no Barbie" rule for gifts for my little girl's second birthday. Naturally, she got three Barbies that day anyway - all three were black. I can report that by the age of six all my daughter's Barbies (and they multiplied in a rainbow of skin colors, I might add) were re-named the "differently able" dolls - they lost limbs in their close quarters with the trucks and Tinkertoys.
I know I'm not the only one hanging my head over people thinking that aspiring to Barbie proportions, or that negative body image itself, causes eating disorders. But I do know that I'm going up the down staircase on it. So, I've decided to enjoy the exercise.

April 18, 2011

effortless style

Our family's design sensibility
If you wait long enough, you become fashionable!

the Rise of the Personal in Interior Decorating
"In interior design today, the ideal is lived-in, unfussy, creative imperfection. Call it 'undecorating'"
Wall Street Journal's creative imperfection
Around here, we call it 'sedimental' decor: things stay where they come to rest and there is ALWAYS a good book to read that is more important than clearing it all away.

But it is lovely to know that the Wall Street Journal and the style world have blessed our 'undecor.'

April 17, 2011

Addicted to Reality TV

Oprah, what is an "Addiction Technician?"

When did an eating disorder become an "addiction?" I don't mean "seem like" or "act as" or "dependence" or "may function in a brain similar to" or "some people now believe." I mean wholesale accept that eating disorders are an addiction and therefore appropriate and effective treatment is the same? I missed that memo. (Along with the memo that established that the approaches included here actually work FOR ADDICTIONS).

Since when is an addiction, or an eating disorder, necessarily indicate a "hole in the soul?" Doesn't it worry you to possibly add to people's pain by putting these kinds of sweeping psychobabble on people? Isn't there incredible HUBRIS here and don't you worry that you may be hurting people? What if you're just replacing a set of wrong ideas and directions for another set? When you're done with your dramatic orchestration are you going to be there? How long? Will you be back after these 42 days of tough love to tell me how these people you are using are in six months, a year, five years. And if they are NOT well, who are you going to blame? Them? (No need to answer, I think we already know.)

Well, in the spirit of well-meaning but possibly misguided proclamations made by people without qualifications, here's mine: our society is addicted to tough love transformation entertainment, and it keeps us all from really doing the work of understanding what we're dealing with. It's lazy and as distasteful as a circus freakshow.

Addicted to Food, "Welcome to Treatment"

P.S. Your promotion team told me "Laura's Soap Box is a crucial resource for people suffering from eating disorders, overeating and food addiction" so I know you'll agree that using my blog to tell you my real feelings about it are okay? And yes, I watched the whole first episode. I felt very sad.

April 15, 2011

What they see in front of them

Parenting matters. Illness is not just biology going off mechanically - there are environmental aspects to illness and health. But the leap from influence to cause - and prevent - is one that must be carefully taken. The danger of over-valuing a small influence is grave when it comes to parenting.

This blog post says it all so well: Blaming parents: What I've learned and unlearned as a child psychiatrist

April 14, 2011

The Women's Eye interview

I had the great honor to be interviewed by the wonderful writer, Phyllis Theroux, for The Women's Eye:  Helping Families With Eating Disorders

April 12, 2011

Boston University researchers seeking parents and caregivers of anorexia patients

Just in:
Parents needed for anorexia nervosa food study!

Researchers from Boston University are presently conducting a pilot study to develop a parent questionnaire for studying the nutritional and behavioral aspects of anorexia nervosa. If you meet the following requirements, then you may be eligible to participate in our study:

• Parent or caregiver of a child currently being treated for anorexia nervosa
• Child is between the ages of 9-30
• Child resides at home or under in-patient care

The study consists of an interview that takes approximately one hour to complete.

If interested in participating, please email bufoodstudy@gmail.com or call us at 617-964-1807

Thank you for considering taking part in this study. We hope that by speaking to families like yours, we can all work together to find the factors that can prevent, ease, and help treat this disorder.

April 11, 2011

Misreading faces: dyssemia

I have a new favorite vocabulary word: dyssemia.

Misreading facial expression: Misreading faces tied to child social anxiety

Imagine trying to have a normal conversation, and develop social skills, if you are misreading how the people around you are feeling, and how they are responding to you. If you respond AS IF they are displaying emotions that they are not feeling, they begin treating you strangely, and the disconnect deepens.

What if people seem sad when they're really annoyed. People seem annoyed when they're sad. People seem to be getting angrier and more annoyed with you NO matter WHAT you do. That's a hostile world, a chaotic world where you can't learn from experience but you don't know why. You withdraw. I observe this happening sometimes to people, and then wonder how much *I'm* really getting right in my relations with others. Am I seeing warmth in people who aren't feeling it? Getting hurt by situations that aren't meant to? Assuming the worst when there are opportunities for better?

The funny thing is I know people who are poor at reading social cues but instead of withdrawing and feeling bad they do the opposite: they walk around in the belief that all is right with the world and that they are rubbing everyone the right way. These people can be great: bulletproof self-esteem.

Most people seem to get it right most of the time, but then under stress misread everyone. And how does this relate, or not, to the issue of prosopagnosia?

I see this dyssemia more in people I know who are quite anxious - and stress ramps it up. As the linked article mentions, it isn't clear whether anxiety is driving the deficit or living with this deficit raises anxiety but both make sense and would naturally feed one another.

Or, am I reading it wrong?

April 10, 2011

A room of my own

Our sunroom has crickets, leaks when it rains, and the glass is cloudy in the spots we can't reach. But now it's mine. This week we finally gave in and moved out the old couch no one uses and now it is all dance floor except for the bookshelf that holds the satellite radio and and old chest freezer where I keep a list of routines to practice. Oh, and some sculptures by my artist daughter to keep it all very arty.

It is now officially a dance room. And today it has two new decorations that take up no floorspace but do a great deal for my happiness: two vintage posters from husband. Thank you, sweetie - they're wonderful!

April 6, 2011

My very own feathers and beads!

Look what I got! Mary sent me some ACTUAL feathers and beads.

Does this give me a license to treat mental illness now?

April 4, 2011

9 mistakes CBS makes

Since CBS news was kind enough to offer parents a list of mistakes they make that cause eating disorders**, I think it only fair that I offer:

Eating disorders: 9 mistakes CBS News makes

9. Confusing eating disorders with disordered eating. Common mistake. Bad journalism.
8. Thinking that eating disorders are wrong thinking gone too far (ask yourselves whether OCDs are just taking tidiness too far)
7. Believing that you can prevent mental illness by good parenting
6. Showing a wild-eyed mother with food all over her face is somehow not so dehumanizing it would actually help someone?
5. Mistaking good intentions for good results
4. Confusing scolding with advice
3. "child=daughter and parent=mother" is an infuriating but telling mistake (this one is Cate's - thank you - I can't believe I didn't say this!)
2. Failing to consult experts who could have explained the above
1. Putting this facile stuff out to the public and thinking no harm can come from it

To the parents whose kids have eating disorders: ignore this drivel.
To the parents whose kids don't have eating disorders but watch this slide show and nod approvingly: may you never know how sadly wrong and cruel you are.
To the parents who might actually need this advice in their parenting: you aren't reading this or watching that piece so no problem.
To CBS: for shame.

**And make no mistake, when you say that there is something a parent can do to prevent, or "not foster," or "avoid" an eating disorder you are indeed saying that the parent IS causing the eating disorder by doing these things. I'm sick of the weasel wording around this issue. You can't prevent something if you can't cause it.


It hurts because it's true. I know it's true because it hurts.

xkcd: Probability

"Google Yourself in April"

Parents turn to the Internet for information when a loved one develops an eating disorder. What they find, as they search in the middle of the night, matters.

Often, treatment providers aren't aware of some of the information out there under their name. Updating websites is a chore, and busy providers may not have updated their information for years.

In the month of April, F.E.A.S.T. is asking all eating disorder treatment providers - and informational websites - to review and update their information. We hope you will take special attention to the messages given to parents, and reconsider any of the following:
  • Blaming parents for causing eating disorders, in part or as primary cause.
  • Attributing eating disorders to dysfunctional family dynamics.
  • Listing any of the following as causing eating disorders: parents with inappropriate “boundaries,” parents with poor body image, enmeshed mothers, distant fathers
  • Using terms like "contribute to," "enable," "trigger," "risk factor" as a substitute for "cause"
  • Advising parents to leave treatment decisions, including nutritional and weight decisions, to children
  • Advising parents not to discuss treatment and not involving parents in the treatment
  • Advising parents not to be the “food police” or be involved with cooking and food decisions
  • Advising parents that patients have to “want” to get better
  • Regarding parent responsibilities around this illness as distinct from those with other serious illnesses
For more on F.E.A.S.T.'s April campaign:

April 1, 2011

Care with family roots

Isn't it wonderful to see family seen as a resource and "roots" of caring and not root of the problem?

Yay, Lauren!

Care with family roots

Our Charlotte is taking the media by storm again!

More help needed for anorexic children, say experts

and more help for parents is needed, say I.

Thank you, Charlotte, for getting in a word for the necessary and grueling and truly therapeutic parenting that can be done in facing this illness.

Early intervention, good information, strong parenting, hard work, love and food.

Anorexia, 138 Years Ago

Nice blog post by Hepperman on Anorexia, 138 Years Ago

Finally, women re-framing anorexia, instead of being framed by anorexia.