Passover: In the End...

In the end, it turned into the other kind of frightening statement:  "You look great."

"So, what did I look like before?  I must have looked fat before.  I desperately need to stay this weight and no higher.  If I keep gaining weight, I'm going to look disgusting in the space of a week.  Forget the part where my husband was asking me to please gain weight right before we left for dinner.  I probably already look disgusting; they're just being nice."

Yikes, people.  Yikes.  This is what our heads do, the heads of the cognitively distorted.

(Yes, I know that's not what was meant by "you look great" at all.  What was probably meant was, "You look nice with that lipstick," or, "Cute haircut," or, "You seem happy."  You know.  Any of those.)


Mary Magdalene in the Cave
Jules Joseph Lefebvre

Last year before going to his brother's for the first seder, I mentioned to the husband that I found it strange that a high holiday celebrates (and is named after) the killing of thousands of innocent children (the Egyptian firstborn).  The husband was unthinkingly sadistic enough to repeat this - identifying it as my own question - at the seder table.  While that was momentarily awkward, it was also kind of awesome, since I stand by the question.


Moral and ethical dissonance of the God of Abraham aside, Passover is primarily a see-family holiday in non-observant families, much like Easter has become for my family.  Yes, the husband's family goes through the motions of the barest of seder stories, and yes they keep kosher today and tomorrow (the husband doesn't), but this isn't a family who does Passover cleaning or observes any of the work rules around the holiday.  

Since this is a family holiday, I'll be seeing some of the husband's extended family for the first time in several months.  On the one hand, I'm queasily considering whether I'll get any negative/concerned comments about, "You've lost weight!"  On the other hand, this morning my weight hit its highest number in three months, right at the cusp of "minimum acceptable weight," and I'm literally having heart palpitations over it.  Cognitive dissonance: achieved.


The date for Passover (like Easter) depends on the moon.  The full moon falls at 2:25 a.m. tonight, GMT, 10:25 p.m. EDT.  The March moon is known by various names, but it's generally considered the moon of intuition and inspiration.  Meh.

There is a pan-cultural ritual called "full moon purging" (though these days it's associated mostly with Wicca/neo-paganism).  You create a sacred space and release unwanted intentions, attitudes and fixations into a fire.  Tonight would be a super night not to live in a flammable Manhattan apartment.  I suppose I will have to improvise.


Calorie Counts Strike Again

Eventually we'll all be reduced to eating this.

NYC's chain restaurant calorie posting rule is going national.  I have thoughts.  Knowing what you're putting in your mouth is all well and good, but you all know my general opinion of the NYC reg, as I've been over it before.  Allow me to pontificate again, briefly.

When are we finally going to start talking about the underlying cultural issues behind the supposed need for calorie posting, and behind the very real need for expanded eating disorder treatment centers.  Disordered eating of any stripe does not happen in a void, people.  That's not to say that everyone who eats at a chain restaurant has disordered eating habits.  Far from it.  It is to say, for the umpteenth time, that the yin-yang of the obesity "epidemic" and our cultural deification of thinness aren't going ANYWHERE until we figure out, at a collective level, what purpose the food (or the lack thereof*) is serving.

* And I won't even get into the vitriolic, mean-spirited discussions about poverty and nutrition.  There's such a pervasive stink of privilege in most of those debates that if I start to focus on the self-perpetuating nature of poverty and poor diet, I just get plain depressed and decide that there is no point in trying to help anyone.  So I'm not gonna go there.


Rational Mechanics

"I wish we could derive the rest of the phenomena of Nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles.  For I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they may all depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, Philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of Nature in vain."  
- Sir Isaac Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

Anorexia, bulimia and ED-NOS share the common diagnostic criterion of over-evaluation of shape and weight.  This is distinguished from the "normative discontent" of body shape dissatisfaction in the general population.  Diagnostically and in treatment, "over-evaluation of shape and weight" and "body shape dissatisfaction" are seen as very different things.  "Body dissatisfaction" is rampant in our culture.  At what point does the "normative" set of thoughts transmogrify into the disordered thought pattern identifiable in the psychopathology of eating disordered patients?

The difference between the former and the latter is that the "normative" behavior doesn't unduly influence a person's sense of self or her evaluation of herself as a worthy/good/successful/etc. person.  Part of this difference occurs because the preoccupation with body shape and weight is functioning as a stand-in for something else.  Part of it is thanks to the higher level of obsessionality observed in ED patients (especially anorexics and underweight ED-NOS patients).  (Those two "parts" together function as a sort of psychic ouroboros.)  

Eating disorders, much like chemical addictions, are blithely self-sustaining.  You discover you can quell [insert uncomfortable emotion here] by [insert disordered or addictive behavior here], and you experience (though you don't necessarily "discover") that [disordered or addictive behavior] actually leads to [uncomfortable emotion], so you use [disordered or addictive behavior] to quell [uncomfortable emotion], and then....  (Look.  Another psychic ouroboros.)  (And isn't it grand that an ouroboros is a serpent eating its own tail?)  

This being the case, boy oh boy can eating disorders (and addictions, I'd imagine) feel really fecking futile.  The eating disorder is a classic, if rather gross, example of inertia.


The Loud Body

bodily expression

We use our bodies as statements of who we are every day.  Do you have tattoos?  Do you have piercings?  Are you an athlete or a dancer?  Do you choose to veil?  That's you experiencing your body as a means of communication to the rest of the world.  Anorexia and bulimia aren't so different from other deliberate body choices, in that respect.  Of course, getting a sleeve or making a voluntary decision to wear a hijab are actions that don't carry the consequences of eating disorders.

Marzie wrote a post last week pointing to RAWA, whose site has long documented the horrific epidemic of Afghan women self-immolating.  Please use your judgment about whether to go through the photo gallery; it's truly graphic and heartbreaking.  These women literally set themselves ablaze because they were all trapped in a situation without realistic hope of extrication, or even alleviation.  Regardless of the immediate trigger that led each woman to grab oil and a light (one woman in the photo gallery set herself on fire after she broke the new TV her husband brought home), each found herself stuck in a situation where she had no voice.  But it's hard to ignore the screams of a human being on fire.

Where self-immolation is sudden and bright and the stuff of nightmares, eating disorders are quieter, and of course women in developed nations with eating disorders can't be remotely compared to Afghan women who perceive their only option as burning themselves to death - except in that both actions are physical expressions of a person's experience of life through her (or his) body.  If self-immolation is a guttural scream, eating disorders are a low, drawn-out moan.

Eating disorder therapy puts much focus on interpersonal effectiveness and appropriate emotional expression.  Extremely generally speaking, anorexics tend to show restriction of emotion, and bulimics tend to shy away from conflict.  Why on earth would restricting and manipulating food intake in order to control body size and shape be easier for us than putting into clear and consistent words who we are, what we need, and what we aren't willing to compromise about?  I don't have the answer (or else I'd have the answer AND millions of dollars).  When you take away the physical discomfort of weight gain and the mental discomfort of breaking food rituals, then you're faced with the emotional discomfort of being asked to change the body you've deliberately (and possibly dangerously) chosen present to the world.


Mujer Azul

I'm feeling quite blue today.

(No, not that kind of blue.)

I'm also feeling particularly sensitive to fullness.  I am hyper-aware of my waistline and abdomen in general.

I can tell you which came first, the mood or the physical fixation, but try to use your Logic and guess.


The Idiot Box

black 'n' white kitteh appreesheeayts LOST's allegoreez.

Tuesdays (since February) have generally been "good" days, or rather, good evenings.  One of my foremost reasons for engaging in "symptomatic behavior" is that it qualifies as "me time."  (How many quotations marks can I use in this post?  Let's keep track.  We're at three sets so far in two sentences.)  There are other, normal options to create "me time," like practicing piano, doing yoga, taking pictures, going on a walk, etc.  But the problem with all of those things is that (for me) they take a modicum of L'Oréal-worthy because-I'm-worth-it-ness.  And when you're stuck in "I'm not worth it" mode, as I tend to be when engaging in restricting or binge-purging, it is HARD to get off your petunia and do something to change that feeling.  Not impossible - but hard.

So the easily accessible obsession of addictive fiction - like the final season of LOST, or like discovering serial genre novels in autumn '08 - helps appreciably in creating an at-hand "me activity."  I have a problem with physical things (like yoga, or a walk) acting as "me time" substitutes for symptoms, as they invariably transition into symptomatic behavior.  ("I just walked through Central Park taking pictures for two hours - why should I ruin that with a snack?")  Addictive fiction captures my mind and takes it on an impromptu vacation from all its BS, at least for an hour or so.  And it's hard to pay attention to addictive fiction if your stomach lining is collapsing in on itself in hunger, or if you're stuffing your face.  The optimal place from which to enjoy addictive fiction is a place of comfort.

I'm thinking once LOST is over, it's going to be time to finally get into BSG.


The Problem with Manhattan

Awkward: When you run into your former nutritionist at the grocery store, and your cart is basically full of apples, carrots, celery, and diet soda. And she totally notices.