April 26, 2013

more exercise is NOT necessarily better

It's okay to just have fun.
I am surrounded by folks who think that exercise is not only good but that more is always better and there is no such animal as moderation when it comes to activity. I hate this. Around food and exercise we have boxed ourselves into a corner of never good enough. It just isn't true. More exercise is not necessarily better and it is actually quite do-able for most people to do the OPTIMAL amount of activity for our health. The sad reality is that people fail to start doing so because they believe it "isn't enough."

We just love to hate ourselves, it seems. We don't want to have fun, or feel good -- we prefer to set expectations that are not enjoyable, not sustainable, and not even healthy. When I see runners out in all weather, people bragging on their miles, running through injury I don't see healthy athletes I see compulsivity and "using" exercise as an emotional regulator despite costs to joints and overall health. I don't envy it, and I don't feel "bad" that I do less activity. We probably need as a society to stop being so supportive of extremes in exercise.

Don't believe me? Double the Workout, Double the Benefits?

April 20, 2013

"Breaking news is broken"

I don't know exactly how this happened, but I used to think that watching the news, especially during big breaking events, was responsible. I thought of it as being "informed" and mature.

I have a very different view now. I learned during the period of the 2011 attacks (very close by), and the anthrax and then "Washington Sniper" period that I was really making myself sick with worry and unhelpful anxiety by winding along with every twist and mistaken lead and endlessly repeated film clip of horrible things being shown not because they were relevant or useful but because they existed.

This past week has been, for the US, filled with urgent news: bombing, explosion, ricin, police hunts. Very little of it needed ME to know about it in real time - although I did want reassurance that my own family and friends in Boston were unaffected, that was not done by watching the news.

In 2013, it isn't just the TV newsfeed but also Facebook and email alerts and Twitter and many of the other ways we are "updated" in real time if we choose.

This has been an anxious week. I didn't change the events by turning off the TV, but I did change my own reaction and my anxiety level. These days I think this was the most informed and mature way to approach it. It doesn't mean I "care" less. It also doesn't mean I know less: waiting until the end of an event makes me more likely to actually hear the "news."

Breaking News Is Broken

Don’t watch cable news. Shut off Twitter. You’d be better off cleaning your gutters.

April 17, 2013

Virtual lobbyists don't get blisters!

The most important rules for the Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Day are:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Wear comfortable shoes

Well, I'm missing Lobby Day today, which pains me, but I get to participate anyway and hope you will, too!

EDC is encouraging us to be "Virtual Lobbyists." It doesn't take any particular skill or shoes - just about 10 minutes of your day. AND IT MATTERS.

Follow the simple instructions on EDC's blog, and make sure that when our friends who are IN Washington today visiting their Congress members they are doing so with your stated support. Each person, and every phone call, and every email really do get counted and are understood to represent many others.

Virtual lobbyists, wiggle your toes and get on it - I just wrote to my Representative. Contact yours and then say so below!

April 12, 2013

Doing the right thing should not be so difficult

Mental illness doesn't change at the 18th birthday, but laws do. We need to change this, or have a system in place to make certain laws conditional.

Parents are usually the best hope for patients. For patients who do not have, or have already alienated, their families they suffer even more. For those who do, and that is nearly all, the laws and customs need to change.

Allow parents to "do the right thing."

April 11, 2013

In the family

It's no great secret that not everyone gets along in the ED advocacy world. It is also obvious that the divides are getting worse and uglier. Yet, like any family, we can't just ignore one another either -- and we do have to resolve things. Hard truth: no one outside the eating disorder world cares whether we are effective or not. We need one another and we need to do a better job together.

The way forward is not through silence or holding our noses while we hold hands and sing kumbaya. We need to talk, really talk, and it will be painful and awkward.

Coalitions are possible: in the past few months, a large coalition of advocates and organizations proved that they could all come together on a topic: protesting the actions of another organization!

More and more are speaking up, these days, and we all should.

April 10, 2013

NEDA responds

I am so surprised and pleased to see a fulsome response from NEDA about a recent guest post on Carrie Arnold's blog (I posted a link a few days ago). It is enormously good news that NEDA, the largest ED organization in the US, is responsive to questions and criticism from individuals like this. I applaud them. I better understand NEDA's work after reading that post.

Many people I know have had questions recently for NEDA and feel they were not heard, nor responded to. I am hoping that this is the beginning of a new approach to transparency and collaboration.

Look at me.

What can you tell about my mental health by looking at me?


What can you tell about my metabolism, my health, my diagnosed diseases? 


It is not all right to judge and evaluate and gossip about people's mental health status or health based on their appearance. 

1.  It is none of YOUR business.
2.  There's no way to tell if someone is "too thin" or "too heavy" by looking. If you're not on the treatment team, your opinion is not wanted and not appropriate.
3.  Mental illness is in the brain which you cannot see. The anguish and the suffering and the triumph and the healing of mental illness are invisible.
4.  Really, folks? Really?

Why am I bringing this up? Because sometimes even my friends can fall into whispering about certain advocates being "too thin" or "looks unwell" or "is a bad example." I'm horrified at comments about "she looks beautiful, just right" or "underweight" or "overweight" or "slim."

In the eating disorders world, with what we know about weight bullying and the difficulty of determining healthy metabolism/weight and the horrific symptoms of body image distress shouldn't WE know better?

Here's who talks about being "too thin" or "looks bigger than:" ED says that. Let's not let ED have real estate in our heads, folks. Let's not diagnose people by appearance or think we understand what is going on in people's heads by appearance. We know better.

Research money: where it comes from and where it goes

We're all frustrated that eating disorder research, where it exists, is not being used in practice. That's a problem.

At the same time, there is so little real research being done and far too much of it is following the tail of bad premises of the past.

What to do?

Well, one thing we can do is look carefully at who is funding studies and then find ways to support and contribute to those efforts.

I'm hearing a lot about GFED this week and recommend checking them out.

April 8, 2013

Walking, yes indeed, walking

Where should our advocacy energy and dollars go? Carrie Arnold's guest blog is a must read for ED advocates:

Why ED charity has lost the plot

For a response, see: NEDA responds

April 7, 2013

"cerebral Afghanistan" and breach births

I needed a cigarette and a moment to compose myself after reading Research in eating disorders: should we focus on the brain?, the invigorating debate published in the new Advances in Eating Disorders journal between Philip Graham and Ken Nunn. Why can't we have more of this and why aren't more people listening?

A good debate, to me, is when I get both sides and learn something in the process. This back and forth and back, and forth, allows the debaters to exercise talents of intellect and erudition that defy the simplistic, beads and feathers, professional courtesy-addled field of eating disorders.

I happen, no, I happily choose Nunn's viewpoint, myself but I believe we need to hear Graham. We cannot make progress without the Grahams and without understanding their cautions and experience. We need that tension and distance, dare I say it, for Darwinian reasons alone!

April 5, 2013

EDC and AED tweetchat on April Lobby Day

AED | Academy for Eating Disorders | Prevention, Treatment, Education,
 Research | www.aedweb.org
Join the Chat!
AED Tweetchat with the Eating Disorders Coalition on their Upcoming Spring Lobby Day
Tweetchat: This Monday, April 8, 1:00pm EDT*
Join @aedweb and the @EDCoalition to discuss the EDC's Spring Lobby Day coming up on 4/17. Learn more about their lobbying efforts and what you can do! Use hashtag #AEDchat
About the EDC's Lobby Day: The EDC brings advocates together twice a year for National Lobby Days as the most effective way to educate Members of Congress and push for important policy goals like the FREED Act. Join us for a tweetchat discussion on April 8 to discuss the EDC National Lobby Day on April 17 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC where our voices can make a difference in the lives of those affected by eating disorders. By addressing eating disorders at the Federal level, there is the opportunity to help everyone impacted by eating disorders.
*To find your converted local time, click here.
It's easy to join in the chat!
1. Go to tweetchat.com
2. Enter the name of the chat: #AEDchat
3. Read the posts related to this and/or sign in to add your tweets.
Note: Tweetchat will add the chat locator (#AEDchat) each time for you.

April 4, 2013

We help ourselves by helping others

Kelsey Heenan and her mom spoke on a really wonderful panel at the recent F.E.A.S.T. conference in December and now she speaks with Jeff Bell (who was our Keynote Speaker that weekend) in an interview just published on the Adversity to Advocacy alliance site.

Thank you, Kelsey, for your clear and strong voice and sharing your story. You and your husband and family are a genuine inspiration for so many of us!

charismatic megafauna

In a former life I was a graduate student in the field of natural resources. One concept that stuck with me was the power of "charismatic megafauna." The public is more likely to support environmental policies that protect animals that are adorable, and unlikely to be moved by less tangible species. Deer and owls draw dollars; lichen and snakes, not so much.

I fear a similar phenomena in mental health. As much as it matters to the bereaved families that an eating disorder patient was "A former head girl and top athlete," or "brilliant" or "beautiful," these attractive qualities are rather bizarre to point up as deepening the tragedy of their struggle and their loss.

Less shiny, less accomplished, average folks with eating disorders don't deserve to die more than anyone else.

I dislike it when I read that the victims of eating disorders are "often the best and the brightest" or somehow angelic and apart. 

We should fight for those struggling with mental illness regardless of their attractive qualities. In fact, we need to acknowledge that the very symptoms of mental illness can render a person quite miserable and difficult but every bit in need of recovery and a life that is normal - not some pressure to yet another kind of perfectionism.