Helpful Holiday Eating Disorder Support Ideas

The other week, I sent [redacted] an email asking her, in all caps, WHY, WHYYYY I ever go to Blisstree?  So often that site is a miasma of body-negative, food-freaked-out bleh that I just can't even go there.  (And yet, I do.)

However, here's a piece there that really, for me at least, gets it right:

How To Cope With Holiday Weight and Eating Stress... Without Triggering An Eating Disorder Relapse

Non-AP capitalization style aside, this is finally a Blisstree piece to which I am happy to direct some traffic.  Doubtless that fact is buoyed by the author's being in recover herself.  Regardless, it's short, sweet, and written in accessible yet not dumbed-down language.

Something else about it that specifically stands out: the piece outright discusses purging, which so much ED-related media doesn't.  Anorexia being the daintier disease (in popular culture, at least), bulimia and the other disorders that typically involve purging are sort of the ugly stepchildren (despite the fact that their sufferers are much more numerous).

And I definitely second the suggestion to audit the media you consume over the holidays, though frankly, even at this experienced stage, that hadn't really occurred to me.

Anyway, give it a read, if you like.  It's stamped Cynical Nymph Approved.


Mental Illness, "Overmedication," Us

I'd like to say a word about psychopharmacology.  This word's been percolating for a couple of busy weeks and today presents my first opportunity to express it here.

Obviously I haven't been blogging predictably for a while.  Part of this is generic busy-ness.  Part of it's apathy and self-defeat.  But part of it's crippling, numbing depression.  (Okay, I admit, that and the apathy and self-defeat might be related.  Just a bit.)

Look, it's been a helluva Fall.  The past several weeks in particular have been difficult.

And for whatever reason, in the midst of all the difficulty, I made the patently farcical decision to titrate off of my SSRI.

Uh, yeah.  Awesome idea.  That went about as well as you might expect, particularly given my absence in these parts as of late.  (Which usually implies a not-so-hot spell.)

So, I titrated off of my meds.  Some vagueblogging-worthy stuff occurred.  I ended up in my therapist's office this Tuesday, sobbing.

I started stepping back up to my normal SSRI dose Tuesday night.  I already feel better.  Everything isn't roses and rainbows and kitten farts, but I feel better.

In a certain slice of our culture, it's correct to conclude that we're an "overmedicated" society.  There's this assumption that we're "overmedicated," that we as a greater entity are happy to pop a pill rather than… whatever other option we might have.  Even when we're the ones directly benefiting from psychopharma meds, as in the link there, some of us (including me sometimes) are dedicated to the belief that our culture is overmedicated, pill-happy.

But what does that really mean?  This month I've been percolating the idea that maybe it's just an extension of our Puritanism to insist, even if we are individual evidence against the theory, that we are An Overmedicated Society and that medication is Usually Not The Answer.

Well, what do we mean, "overmedicated"?  What do we mean when we say that?

Do we mean to support the stigma against psychiatric treatment?  Because the trope that Americans are ready to pop a pill rather than deal with a "real" problem supports exactly that.

Do we mean that medication should be reserved for "real" problems rather than depression, which we should white-knuckle through? Or rather than personality disorders, which aren't directly impacted by medication according to current evidence?  Because medication can mean the difference between having and not having the extra psychic energy to mount a fierce battle against, say, borderline personality disorder, or bulimia.

But, you know, I don't care what we mean.  The implication of "overmedicated" is, eventually, "over-treated."  The implication is hierarchies, is real struggles and ersatz ones.  Is a continued stigma in reaching out for support for mental illness.  Is, at the end of the day, continued bullshit.

We're not "overmedicated."  We're under-treated.

Please take a second to imagine a U.S. in which psycho-social counseling and other treatments were readily accessible and universally unstigmatized.  Really, really take a moment and imagine what that might look like.

Now tell me with a straight face that you sincerely think we'd still be "overmedicated."

I know I don't think so.  I don't know - I might be in denial.  I might be exactly identical, psychopharmacological speaking, in this alternate reality as I am here and now.  But maybe not.

Look at me, write to me, with a straight face and in good faith, and tell me that more accessibility from day one might mean less need for psychopharma medication at day seventy-three hundred (or day two thousand, or day whenever).  (I'm at day eleven thousand two hundred eighty-something.)


Bloomberg's Food Hangups Officially Cross Line Into Evil

I'm about to use a curse*, so you'll have to excuse me.

What in the fucking fuck is this fucked-up fuck?

New York City, under the aegis of Mayor Bloomberg and his health department, banned food donations to homeless shelters.

Because, you know, he can't assess the nutritional content of said food.

I, just, I.... WHAT?  What.  Wow.  Apparently this occurred in March - MARCH! - and no one noticed until now?

*Does that count as a curse, or four curses, if it's all fuck-based?


They'll Probably Write a DSM-V Entry About Me

I just realized, you guys:  I have become a Bizarro Toddler.

By which I mean that during this weight gain kick I am going to have to hold over my own head, as culinary rewards, fresh fruits and vegetables.

I was just* sitting here with some shrimp, zucchini, and wagon wheel pasta (yes, wagon wheel, a.k.a. best pasta ever), and I am literally thinking to myself, "You eat your pasta, missy!  Yes, all of it!  Nooo, you can't have any zucchini until after you eat that pasta!"

At breakfast it's, "No you may not have peanut butter on an apple.  You will have it on toast.  Then you can have some fruit."

I guess this means I should now hate cookies?  Yeah, no.

*last night (sched'd this post due to out of town trip)


The Appeal of Pro-Ana

Late last week the NY Times blog Well profiled a website, Proud2BeMe, the aim of which is to provide an alternative of pro-ana and thinspo sites.

This is the key passage for me:
For a recent study, she and Nicole Martins, an assistant professor at the university, talked to 33 pro-ana bloggers, women ages 15 to 33 who were willing to be interviewed. The study, published in August in the journal Health Communication, showed that participants were motivated to blog as a way to cope with a stigmatized illness and a means of self-expression and social support.
Pro-ana has always been a seeking for peer support.  I haven't been on a pro-ana/pro-mia site in a long time (yes, the latter exists, but as with so many things bulimic in the eating disorder world, it tends to get brushed under the media rug in favor of the sanitized view of anorexia).  But when I did frequent them (mostly in high school) (yes, they existed then) I can say to the best of my recollection that the participants were never anything but kind, warm, and open-minded.  

I don't know if my experience was typical, but when girls went into treatment or gained weight, or started LiveJournals (they weren't called "blogs" then, not quite yet) talking about their recovery?  The response I remember was always very supportive.  I don't know about now, but then, these weren't sites about keeping each other sick (at least not deliberately).  

And to be totally honest, they were a space without men.  Actually, scratch that.  There were some boys and young men on the LJ pages where I participated or followed.  But they were very... how to describe it... funhouse-mirror feminist.  Feminist except in that eating disorders are an angry, proud symptom of everything anti-feminist in our culture, much in the way that hysteria can be seen as a symptom within that earlier culture.

They were sites about not judging one another.  Yes, in a very disordered way, but there it is.

And that's more than I can say for the commenters on this piece.  >_<

  • Eliot W. Collins
  • Raritan Borough, NJ
I rarely see anyone who is obviously anorexic. I do see many people who are obviously obese. They are everywhere.



Running and Weight Gain

A Quick Word:  Beginning with this post, you may start to see Content Notes here on a semi-frequent basis.  These will most often appear when I am going to talk about calories, pounds, miles, or other measurable, competitive things.  I'll note the specific sections, not the entire post.

I enjoy running, now that I'm into it, and I really don't want to have to stop so that I can gain weight.  But I can't afford a nutritionist right now, to sit down and do meal plans with me.  So I've got to figure out on my own (with the help of my therapist, but she isn't a nutritionist) what I can eat safely (in the symptom-use sense) that will allow me to gain weight.

[Content Note: Calories and pounds ahoy]

In order to gain one pound per week, you have to consume about 500 calories per day more than you are burning, for a total of about 3,500 calories a week.  (This is assuming a normally functioning metabolism and etc.)  

The less you weigh the fewer calories you expend during physical activity (again, assuming everything else is functioning with chart-like precision).  So if I'm only burning, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 153 calories every two miles I run, I only need to be adding 500 calories a day, consistently, to what I'm eating, and about 153 on the days when I run.  I mean, I'm not exactly training for a marathon here.  Or a half-marathon.  Or a 10K.  I could probably handle a 5K.  Maybe.  Sorta. 

(Now you can backwards-math it if you want to know how much I weigh right now, but I'm not spelling it out for all eternity on the Internet, because it is such an embarrassing number.)

[End Content Note]

We're really only talking about padding on some extra calories to meals or foods I would already eat.  But add in the emotions and fears and crap that comes with weight gain, or with the idea of weight gain... and suddenly things are complex.  There's only a certain amount of "just do it" I really have in me.

But anyway.  That wasn't the point of this post.  My point is:


Really, I feel like I broke Google.

You can find, quite literally, bite-by-bite plans for weight LOSS while running.  The best you can (easily) find for weight GAIN is on* and I'm just so gratified to see it exist at all that I won't really get into my disappointment over not finding meals there easily planned out for me, like I can REALLY EASILY FIND on all kinds of WEIGHT LOSS WHILE RUNNING sites.  (I mean, entire weeks of meals you can find.  I found one with TWO weeks' worth.)

There actually is a page on that spells out a sample day for gaining weight with nutritionally sound foods, but a) I won't link to it here because in the context of an eating disorder blog I don't want to go, "Here! I'm eating way less than this right now! That's how you lose weight!" and b) the foods listed are things that elicit the following first thought from me:  "But once I gain weight I can't eat those foods anymore because they cause weight gain.  So obviously I can't eat them now, because I'll never be able to stop eating them, and then I'll never stop gaining weight."  Do you see what it is like inside my head?

So.  Tuesday's plan: Eat something with peanut butter for breakfast.  Don't panic.  Take it from there...

* I've actually become a fair fan of the whole Livestrong site, since it does have an overall easy-to-find weight gain category, something that absolutely can't be said of, say, Runner's World.  Not surprising, I guess, since Livestrong's origins are in cancer treatment and recovery support, where weight gain can be a significant concern.


Weight, To Scale

I did a silly thing.  A really silly thing.  I used the gym scale wrong.

The gym scale is much like a doctor's office scale.  It's got two metal sliders: a little one and a big one.

Did you know the big slider is not just at intervals of fifty?  The little slider is by ones up to "50," with clearly marked halves and tenths.

But the big one, as it turns out, marks fifty pounds, then ninety pounds (signified by a "40"), then one hundred pounds, then one hundred fifty, then one hundred ninety, two hundred, etc.

Guess what I just noticed about the big slider this week?  Yeah.  In my defense, the notches for "40" and for "100" are really close together.

I am not a compulsive weigher (or at least, I'm not since the husband threw out my little digital scale in the winter).  Since June I've probably weighed myself sixish times.  The first of those, in mid-late June, was when I thought I'd gained a certain amount of weight all of a sudden.

I weighed myself as a reality check about four weeks ago, and my weight was low-ish.  (Well, okay, I call it "low-ish."  My therapist calls it "still a really low weight.")  I weighed myself Tuesday and it was all of a sudden healthy-ish, even though none of my clothes fit differently, and my bras were still too big.

"How odd," I thought. "Just like in June, only this time I don't feel like clawing off my own skin.  Yay!  I must be getting healthy!  I mean, I imagine I've put on some muscle as I've been jogging more quickly, but wow, I never imagined I'd get to that weight and not feel disgusted with myself at first!"

Then, on Wednesday, I looked at the scale again.

Then I said, ".... Oh."

Then I adjusted the big slider to the right.  Then I had to move the little slider to the left, left, left some more.

At a remove, I'm fascinated by my reaction in June (when I am pretty damn sure I was doing the exact damn thing with the stupid scale) versus my reaction on Tuesday.  In June I felt as if I were going to fly apart, so visceral was my feeling of engorgement.  Tuesday I felt.... good.

Wednesday I felt embarrassed, and not just because of the silly scale mistake, either.  I felt embarrassed because some larger part of me had finally wanted to gain that weight.  Tuesday I felt scared, but proud.

I am having such trouble taking enough food into my stomach at one time to allow for appreciable weight gain.  The feeling produces such unmatched anxiety that it is hard to hold on, and to remember that feelings are like waves, with peaks and lulls.  At the same time, I am embarrassed about my body.

It feels as though most of my mind is ready to move ahead, but my body has a humiliating hold over some little part of it still.  Hm.

Someone bring me the pliers.


Blog Love: Binge Eating Rats and Nutella

I'm in blog love.

This blog has been around for a while, but I only discovered it via Twitter this weekend*.

It's a PhD's brain blog, and she's talking about binge eating rats.  And Nutella.

It's basically the perfect blog post (for me).

Here she's describing how a study created binge eating behavior in female rats:

The female rats were exposed to this palatable food…but not permitted to eat it. They were allowed to smell it and ALMOST to touch it. This caused the rats a certain amount of frustration and stress, and when exposed to the actual nutella mixture, they will then binge eat on it, much more than animals seeing nutella for the first time.

Fascinating.  Truly.  I find that utterly fascinating -- and not at all surprising -- in the context of animal behavior (including human animals).

She essentially just described the restrict/binge cycle that fuels most eating disorders.  (In anorexia a binge is not an objective binge, but subjective binges occur more often than not.)

When I started reading this post, I thought, "Oh no.  She's talking about appetite?  Does she really not know that eating disorders, including binge eating, have nothing to do with physical appetite?"

I love having my wrong assumptions thrown in my face, times like these.

The post itself doesn't really acknowledge the eating disorder spectrum-wide presence of this same cycle, which is fine.  It's not an eating disorder blog, and the post is talking about binge eating rats, not generally about human eating disorder patients.

What she doesn't state and what I'd like to highlight is that reducing or eliminating the binge eating symptom (or whichever ED symptom) doesn't reduce or eliminate the disorder.  Rather, like in addiction, once you achieve a reduction in symptoms (or "uses" if you will), you then begin to work on the disorder itself.  The disorder isn't the symptoms, but you can't work on it in the midst of symptoms, not really.  And that, more or less, is the point of psychopharm treatment in eating disorders.

*Someone was dressing down Naomi Wolf's new book Vagina: A New Biography, and pointed here to argue that if the science Wolf describes were really as groundbreaking and yet sound as Wolf wants it to be, someone like Scicurious would've been going on about it for a while already.


NYC's New Large Drink Ban

Anyone who stumbles upon the li'l ol' blog here this week could be forgiven for assuming that we're all NYC, all the time here at Cynical Nymph headquarters.

But I figured this is on-topic, so it bears opining over.  Today NYC's Board of Health passed our mayor's proposed ban on "sugary drinks" over 16 ounces 

You already know how I feel about Bloomberg's "let's post all the calories at chain restaurants!" rule, which effectively prevents me from eating at any kind of chain unless I'm having a really super great day.  (Refresher: I think it sucks.)

Let's take a look at some of the specifics of the ban's coverages and exemptions:

- LOL.  "The restrictions would not affect... alcoholic beverages."  Well, fantastic then, I can definitely see that this is about health if I can still go down to the German biergarten and order a boot of beer.  Everyone needs boots of beer.  Thank goodness I can still buy it in two-litre servings.

- You'll still be able to buy Big Gulps the size of an infant's torso at 7-Eleven.  DOUBLE LOL.  Also exempt are fruit juices, dairy-based drinks (including milkshakes), and one presumes malts, egg cremes, etc.  So go on and get ya that extra large milkshake at McDonald's (assuming those are dairy-based?) or Frappuccino, because if it's 50% dairy, you're good.

- This article does answer one of the questions that the husband and I covered earlier this month: The movie theater (or Subway, etc.) won't be able to sell over 16 ounces of any fountain soda, even if sugar-free.   ... But I can still go right to a vending machine just down the stairs from my movie theater's concession stand, and buy numerous full-sugar sodas from THAT.  (Who drinks that much soda at the movies? It's the people I glare daggers at when they get up to pee in the middle of a compelling scene, isn't it?)

Which leads me to my knee-jerk reactions to the passage of this ban:

Personally, I don't get the appeal of a ginormous drink, sugary or not.  So this one, unlike the calorie-posting one, doesn't affect me much.  But that's just me.

I would not presume to tell someone what to consume or not consume, unless it were putting someone other than them in danger.  (See: NYC's ban on smoking in bars/restaurants, which is just dandy in my opinion.)

However, it's not the "freedom of choice" angle that I take issue with here.  I find the collective freakout of the soft drink industry silly, and transparent in its motivations.  I mean, come on.  

It's that the Bloomberg administration plays into "health, health, health!" in such limited, shame-based ways.

I'd have so much more respect for something like this ban if it went hand in hand with honest-to-goodness prioritizing of public health insofar as things like access to safe and healthy food and body spaces, quality healthcare, solid and up-to-date education, are concerned.

Especially that last part.  Especially.


Happy NYC

We could do with some happy NYC pictures today, yes?  Yes.

High Line Park, Chelsea, June

MoMA, August

88th Street, July (as improbable as that may seem for clematis)

The Chrysler Building... some time.  I don't know when.  It always looks this same, which is, of course, the point.


English to Eating Disorder Translator

"Baby, you look so much healthier.  Like, looking at these pictures of you from six months ago, you can tell in your face how much healthier you are."

What he means: Your skin is glowing.  You smile more.  You don't have that pallor of malnutrition.

What I hear:  Your face is puffy.

What that means: I look fat.

"You look so much better now."

What he means:  You look so much better now.

What I hear:  You really gained weight!

What that means:  I'm going to keep gaining weight, uncontrollably.


"I know this is hard, but I also know you want a healthy life together, like I do."

What he means:  I know this is hard, but I also know you want a healthy life together, like I do.

What I hear:  I know this is hard, but I also know you want a healthy life together, like I do.

What that means:  He knows this is hard, but he also knows I want a healthy life together, like he does.

There we go.  That's better.


(Body) Love In The Time Of "Globesity"

So, this happened.

I would be lucky if I were able to have only two reactions to this release, and if those two reactions were the following:

1)  LOL, "Globesity."  I would have LOVED to've been in the room when the marketing team came up with that one, LOL.

2)  LOL, Bank of America Merrill Lynch still wants people to take its advice, LOL.

Sadly, I am not that lucky.  (Is anyone?)  Instead, my reactions included the following:

1)  >_<  cringing

2)  ಠ_ಠ  disapproval

3)  \(-_-)/ tossing my hands in the air and giving up

The cringing comes from an overwhelming feeling of Here We Go Again-ness.  It's a little hyperbolic, since I expect this press release won't exactly take over the Internet tubes.

The disapproval comes from immediately calling to my knowledge that something like 5% of weight loss tactics prove successful in the long-term, and that often they prove harmful. (Aminorex, Mediator, Fen-Phen, Redux, Meridia, Acomplia, etc.)

(Which is to say nothing of the anorectics still on the market that carry significant side effects such as pulmonary hypertension, acute glaucoma, etc.)

(Which is also to say nothing of the hilarious meta information you can pull up about these drugs if you google their names.  Example: "An experimental wonder drug, Rimonabant, helps you lose weight, quit smoking and it also helps protect your heart."  Except it did the opposite, in that it greatly exacerbated suicide risk.  Whoops.)

But the third thing?  The tossing my hands in the air and giving up?  That comes solidly from trying to exist in a weight-loss-obsessed culture while trying simultaneously to gain weight and to keep sanity.  (And I do not say that colloquially.)

It's quite an experience, trying to go against most of the food- and body-related messages that are everywhere - just everywhere.  I would like you to imagine being online, watching TV, walking down a street with ads, waiting in line next to magazines at the drug store, going down aisles at the grocery store.  Now take note of how many words and images bombard you with just two basic messages:  LOSE WEIGHT.  LIMIT WHAT YOU EAT.  This is not hard for you to imagine: if you live in a Westernized society, you probably live this most days.

Now, please imagine that instead of losing weight, you are actually supposed to be gaining weight.  Please imagine that instead of limiting what you eat, you are actually supposed to be giving up your hyper-control of food.  Please imagine that doing this with your food is actually changing your body and changing its shape, its weight, and its size.  Now, please imagine that in the most twisty chunk of your grey matter, you are really, truly terrified by these changes.  Panicked.  Horrified.

Now please tell me how all the LOSE WEIGHT, LIMIT WHAT YOU EAT messaging is healthy for you.

Weight can be a factor in health - high or low.   But the diet industry, the obesity panic, and now apparently the investment banks... They are not adding to the health of the human population.  They replace self-love with torture, and sanity with knee-jerk madness.   I am trying to love my body as it changes... er, or at least to not hate it... but this crap isn't only hurting people like me.

(via Marianne, via s.e. )


Eating Disorder Recovery: Body Over Mind

It's been an up and down time, literally.  My weight was really quite down for a while there.  I broke below the three-digit mark for a couple of months, which hadn't happened since 2003.

And now it's back up.  Just... boom, like that, all of a sudden.  Back up above BMI-chart-underweight.  Back up to something near BMI-chart-healthy-weight (which is lower than my historical set point weight, but whatev).

And I hate it.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

There is only so much reasoning, only so much logicking, only so much Pro And Con Listing I can do.  I hate it.

The husband loves it.  He's been more helpful than not, though he does suffer from Heteronormative Man Syndrome, which means trying to solve problems before just listening.  (For that matter, I also suffer from Heteronormative Man Syndrome with him sometimes.)

But there's only so much he can help.  This one's on me.  And I hate it.

I wish I could better describe the internal experience:  That I've been tricked and betrayed by my body... that I know (without believing) that my body's just doing its thing, and that it's not tricking or betraying me at all... that I also know (without believing) it's my mind that's tricking and betraying.  I can know, and know, and know... and still not believe.

And that, of course, is the disorder.  That's how having anorexia or bulimia or ED-NOS is different from... well, shit, from normal modern life for a horrendous percentage of the Westernized world.

In recovery (from an eating disorder, from OCD, from addiction, from depression, from anything) you hear the refrain from those who went before you:  It'll get easier, it'll get easier.  So while my mind is still rebelling at that promise, I'll try to follow my body in the meantime.

But, oh, do I hate it.


How to Approach Someone with an Eating Disorder, According to Daytime TV

In the spring I went to a taping of Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show.  I'd forgotten about it until Monday (congrats, Silver Fox) (he shook my hand at the taping) (I kind of didn't want to wash it afterward) and it finally dawned on me to hunt down some clips online to see if any of the cameras they stuck in my face (audience reaction shots) ended up with me on syndicated television.

At some point the show appears to have had a segment on teen eating disorders, because there were a few pieces of web content about what triggers eating disorders, etc.  This is all via a very media-friendly-looking licensed psychologist, Dr. Ramani, who seems to make the talk show circuit.  The list of triggers was very age-range-specific to teens, and isn't really anything you've not read a hundred times before.

The How to Approach Someone with an Eating Disorder I find a little more problematic.

Number One
Parents must create a healthy food space and model healthy eating and exercise behavior.

Okay, but what does "healthy food space" mean?  What does "healthy eating and exercise behavior" mean?  There aren't clips readily available on the site, but I assume that to Dr. Ramani this means what it means to most eating disorder specialists: food as physiological and social enjoyment, not as a moral issue, a varied diet and exercise/sporting activities geared toward having fun and feeling good.

Great, but do you know what "a healthy food space" and "healthy eating and exercise behavior" mean to parents I've known?  They mean never drink your calories, broken record statements like "are you sure you want the whole bagel?", and constant vigilance of going up a size... and for them, that IS a healthy food space.

Number Two
Create open lines of communication.  Be present with your daughter.

Or son.  I mean, statistically daughter, but here we run up against the evils of daytime TV.

Number Three
It is critical that they see a physician...

(This one's long, and perfectly sane.)

Number Four
Don’t let fear stop you from talking to your daughter.

This one dovetails well with part of the slideshow's intro:  "In terms of approaching them, parents often feel fearful and their first attempts can often be accusatory and put their girls on the defensive."  Amen.  Been there, done that, and obviously it worked really well, since that was fifteen years ago.

Number Five
Talk to a mental health practitioner with a specialty in this area about how to approach your child specifically. You do not need to suffer alone.

Agreed, but be aware that your daughter may well lie to the mental health professional, and that mental health professionals only have the patient's word if it's a first-time meeting.  "Do you ever purge?" the first psychologist I was taken to asked me.  "I mean, I've tried it once or twice," I told her, instead of the truth.  "Well," she said, "Now that I've seen you I'm not so worried about you."  And again, we see how well that worked, since that was almost ten years ago.

Number Six
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page...

This... this has got to be a tough one.  My parents were always on the same page here, as it were, so I can't volunteer any criticism or tips here.

That's it.  That's the daytime TV website version of how to approach (your female teenaged) someone with an eating disorder.  Nothing you haven't heard before, but it certainly leaves a lot of grey areas that could edge into the problematic.


Shorter Mitch Albom: Get Off My Lawn... And Back In The Kitchen

This  (which I found here) makes me feel better about really disliking Mitch Albom without ever having read a single one of his books.

(The husband loved Tuesdays With Morrie, and I contemplated giving it a shot, until I read some of the guy's opinion pieces, and… gack.  It was this kind of stuff. Loooots of this kind of stuff.)

I have a few thoughts, only the first of which is how sad I am that Mitch Albom would probably never like my Brazilian wax post, then.  I use the word "vagina."  Maybe if I go change it to "your v-word" he'll read it!

I read a comment on the Twitter with which I heartily agree, and which I feel sums up the entire problem with this piece (if we don't treat the get-off-my-lawn premise as a problem but rather as a mentality of its own).

The comment was something to the effect of, "Never complained about the whole male-run porn industry thing, didja?"  Certainly the numbers of porn viewers are untold leaps and bounds beyond the readers of Shades of Grey.

I'd add that I've never seen Mitch Albom write up a critically lauded film wherein male characters use vulgar words for vagina.  Because no movies like that exist, I'm sure.  Definitely, definitely sure.

And it's a little ~telling~ that Mitch takes issue with Girls, and yet I don't recall a similar rant from him when Game of Thrones premiered last year.  Let's compare:

- Shows breasts
- Shows penis (1 so far, I think)
- Shows vigorous sex (including with not-peak-of-attractive bodies)
- Uses foul language
- Lady creator
- Lady show runner
- Lady writers
- Touchy issues other than depiction of/conversation about sex: abortion, STI's, sexual harassment

Game of Thrones
- Shows breasts
- Shows penises (2 come to mind, but it might be 3?)
- Shows vigorous sex (including woman-on-woman prostitution)
- Uses foul language
- Dude creators (books and show)
- Dude show runners
- Dude writer (books); Dude and lady writers (show) (well, a lady writer is credited once for "teleplay," and another lady writer is credited twice for "written by"... out of 20 episodes)
- Touchy issues other than depiction of/conversation about sex: limbs sawed off and intestines hanging out, a four-stroke beheading.  Also some burnt children's bodies, children being shoved out of windows, children being stabbed through the throat.  Also people burning alive.  Incest (forgetting the depiction of, it's a moving force in the storyline).

I think you see where I'm going with this.  (Note: I love Game of Thrones and really don't love Girls.  Just so we're clear.)

I can't wrap this up without also referencing Albom's apparent problem with the movie Hysteria.  If you think a movie about the invention of the vibrator has nothing to do with the majorly stunted agency of women at that time in history, then you, sir or madam, have some reading up to do.


Recovery Relapse (Yes, Really)

It is possible - just possible - that April and May were total shit.  I am admitting to nothing outright, but let's just say that it's possible and leave it at that.

Put another way, sometimes I feel like the only person on earth who can attend a wedding rehearsal dinner involving pizza and a birthday party involving cake, and come away losing weight both times.

Despite being in really excellent care right now, and despite really, honest-to-god trying, I have actually gotten to my lowest weight since at least June 2003.  Lose.  Lose, lose, lose.  Loser.  I feel like one literally and colloquially.

I've been keeping a food log with my therapist, and it does give me a fair amount of insight into, "Okay, that really is NOT enough food to maintain this weight," as well as, "Wow, I sure do eat a lot of apples and bananas."

I am just so angry with myself that I want to cry.  I've always been an angry crier.

I can't blame myself totally (not in the sense that I blame other people for my own actions) because April and May were... Wow, you guys, they were epic, and their epic nature was not of my making or under my control. 

The rest of June and July are going to be tough, but better.  I hope.  I pray.  (I don't pray, literally.  I... concentrate.)

It is my intent to blog more frequently, but the blog might turn into a spate of navel-gazing for a little while (ha, I mean, more than usual) in tandem with some "homework" for my treatment.  You've been warned.

For now I'll leave you with a flower.  It's blooming at my East River park right now, and it is a singularly comforting shade of yellow.


The NY Times, Meat Eaters, Ethical Eating, Lazy Thinking

Let's chat about this contest in the NY Times Magazine, asking entrants to reason out the strongest ethical argument for meat eating.

As someone who is currently embroiled in a battle with myself to make it okay to eat anything (steak, macaroni & cheese, oatmeal, whatever), I read this from a very specific point of view.  Short version: "Animals are sentient beings and I try to eat ones that I know have been treated well.  However, right now, I have to pay most attention to eating protein in appropriate amounts and to getting re-attuned to my own intuitive eating cues."  (You should know by now that this is what passes for a "short version" with me.)

So from that somewhat specific yet hardly unique standpoint, how do I read this contest?  (Literally read and figuratively "read.")    First, I kinda dig the winning entry.  I particularly appreciate what many vegetarians and vegans I've known tend to ignore in chat (with me, at least): soy production is not necessarily much less stressful to the earth than some forms of meat production.  A soy farm using petrochemical fertilizer is above and beyond a small or mid-size organic, cage-free poultry operation, in terms of damage to the local ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the winning essay doesn't actually correlate with the real world most U.S. citizens live in today.  If you're living in the Sonora Desert in a yurt, then yes, you presumably have access to the ethical options the author describes.  But if you're living in a Sonora Desert in an adobe ranch house with your Honda Civic taking you back and forth to Whole Foods, then going out and hunting lizards is not for you.

Let's skip back to the contest wrap-up piece itself. (Emphasis mine.)
Some critics insisted that even contemplating a life without meat was an indulgent luxury, a silly game for a wealthy first-worlder. I found this puzzling — as if the poor feast nightly on roast suckling pig and only the 1 percent eat boiled tubers. Over all, rich nations eat much more meat than poor ones, and raising animals for food takes more agricultural resources than raising crops. In any case, a vast number of the world’s ethical vegetarians live in India. Caviar is a luxury. Ethical discussion is not.
Problematic statement is problematic.  Actually, Ariel Kaminer, what the poor in the U.S. do is cut high-fat hamburger meat with rice and vegetables to stretch the protein farther, whereas the middle class and rich buy the 90% lean ground beef and mix in free-range eggs when making their Italian meatballs.

What the poor do is buy ham and bologna cold cuts that are such a high percentage water and sodium that their texture resembles rubber more closely than pig or cow flesh, whereas the middle class and rich get the stuff sliced at the deli counter that's antibiotic free, fresh roasted in the store, etc.  Ethical discussion is, at some point, a luxury.  Deal with it.  Moving on.

A few months ago Mark Bittman (I think it was him - he's a heavyweight in the NYT Dining section, and one of the judges here) noted that McDonald's has requested that its pork suppliers phase out their gestation crates, and he rightly pointed out that this was, as the kids say, kind of a big deal.  McDonald's is a huge buyer of animal products of all kinds, and what they say essentially goes.  People can rant and rave against the ethical evils of McDonald's, but their new policy on gestation crates will create huge, forward-moving waves in the hog and pig farming industry.

Having said that, this was an interesting snark inclusion:
The contest is anti-pig-istI don’t get why the contest graphics failed to include a pig. Pork is a more popular meat than goat, lamb or veal. Lobster, fish and squid are not meats. Since there was no pig shown in the graphics, it made me feel people who eat pork were not welcomed to participate. BLASMAIC, WASHINGTON, ON THE 6TH FLOOR BLOG
Honestly, it is strange that a pig isn't included, since gestation crates are one of the better-known ethical violations going on in factory farming, and this is a discussion on the ethics of meat eating.  I'm not sure where the writer jumped from "no pig" to "pork eaters not welcome," but the point stands.

People saw conspiracy in this contest, and misogyny, and racism, and more. Honestly, all I see is lazy thinking.


The Vatican Wrist-Slaps Nuns, Because Women

Allow me to change the subject.  Let's talk about nuns.

Yep, you read that right.

Last night I was reading this, thinking to myself, "These guys are scum, but even so, most of them were around before the Church as we know it even existed."

*cough cough*  *cough cough coughcoughcough*

Then this afternoon, Marzie linked to a story that MSNBC headlined "Catholic nuns group 'stunned' by Vatican scolding for 'radical feminist' ideas."

Covering the same news the Huffington Post interviews a nun who volunteers escorting women into abortion clinics, and yeah, I can see where the Vatican would call that a "radical feminist" thing to do.  (I just don't happen to agree with them, is all.)

But what are they mostly talking about here?  Spending too much time on "social justice" issues and not enough time promoting pro-life and traditional sexuality issues.  (The Leadership Conference of Religious Women, the group the Vatican's ire is focused on, even has a "Social Justice" drop-down menu on their homepage, o noes!)  One of the big issues?  The LCRW was a big Obama supporter in the health reform wars.  The Vatican didn't like this, presumably because access to stuff like chemotherapy isn't as important as lack of access to contraception.

Other issues highlighted on the group's website include Haiti earthquake relief (where there are a lot of Catholics), immigration reform (which would, demographically speaking, probably benefit a lot of Catholics), and issues where they're totally in step with the Vatican (things like climate change, nuclear proliferation, war and refugees and torture, and potable water access (a huge, huge issue in the developing world where there are, you guessed it, a lot of Catholics).  Annual resolutions over the past decade include "Strengthen Bonds Among Religious Women Globally" and "Reduce our Carbon Footprint."  In 2001 they released a resolution on human trafficking.  Some seriously radical-feminist stuff, I tell you.

Longtime, detail-oriented readers already know that I grew up Catholic and left that faith by the wayside.  Even though I had to keep going to school Masses, I stopped receiving the Eucharist, which is the entire point of the Catholic Mass, in 1998, so that's when you can say I really stopped being Catholic, if you want to split hairs.

Even so, I still feel an... I guess you could call it an attachment to Catholicism.  I still have some kind of proprietary feeling toward it.  I don't know if you'd break it down that I feel it's "mine" and I ought to defend it, or the other way around - that I feel it still defines me or reflects upon me in some vague way.

I don't really know.  I do know that when I see stories like this, I kind of go Hulk, at least on the inside. Stories of men, rich men for the most part, set up in mansions and townhouses and Bruno Maglis - of men essentially telling women to ignore the poor, ignore injustice, ignore thirst, ignore hunger, ignore violence, ignore wounded combat veterans - or at least don't pay quite so much attention to those things so you can pay more attention to undermining access to healthcare for millions of Americans, and the access to institutionalized recognition and support for millions of others.

I just... what?  WHAT?  How does that even work?  Where is the reality of the world in that worldview?

I am by no stretch of the imagination a religious person.  It's not just that I don't believe in Catholicism anymore (if I ever really did), it's that I am an agnostic atheist in terms of belief, a secular humanist in terms of action.  So while it might be my personal bias to look at an organization like LCRW and shrug at the emphasis on God in their work, but that's not the point.  The point is that they do the work.  "We risk being agents of change within Church and society," their site says.  And the point is that that is NOT the point to the Vatican.

Because if there's anything we know for certain about Jesus, it's that he that he thought all those early Church Fathers were right.  Women are gross and scary and wrong, because, women.


Eating Disorder Recovery: Check-In

As you might have noticed, I haven't been around much during the slide into the worst part of my relapse, nor much so far during my early weeks striving for recovery (again).

This is mostly because the worst part of my relapse tied directly into things I can't get into on this blog for my own privacy (for all that this blog is at least semi-anonymous).

It's also also because ~dearth of interesting ideas~

As a general update for those who are playing along at home:

- My weight has finally started to go back up.  I had my annual GYN exam Friday and (in jeans) I was back up to my weight from about October.  If you saw me in October, you're going, "Seriously, that's it?" right now.  And yeah, seriously, that's it, but I'm calling it a win.  (Point of interest for longtime readers: my doctor actually laughed [with me not at me] at what a painful-looking job I did on my last wax.)

- Today I had my first ever super exciting echocardiogram.  (Pro tip:  it was cold.)  I meant to ask for the pictures to be emailed to me (because who doesn't want to look at their own heart? I sure as shit do) but I forgot.  Pretty sure I forgot because I had to fast before this appointment.  I may have a history of anorexia and all, but I do not do well with fasting.

- Last night I had an intake meeting for a NYC-based organization called the Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia.  This will be to find an individual therapist who is more effective for me than the one I was seeing in 2011, as well as possibly for group therapy.  I'm going to a separate monthly support group for the first time on Thursday night, through a group called ROAED.

- I have been (for a whole 8 days now) going to the gym in our building's basement.  I can say without exaggeration that this is - for whatever reason - the first time in my life that I've gone to the gym without undue obsession over calories burned.  No idea why, but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth.  [redacted]'s jaw will hit the floor when I tell her that I actually ran today.  (Okay, I ran for 4 of the minutes.  What.  It counts.)

I have more to say.  About marriage and recovery and how it's a whole other beast recovering while partnered than recovering while single.  About trying not to play the Cassandra with hand-wringing over, "Oh, it's not so entirely horrendous now, but it's going to be, oh, it's going to be!" About things that are more interesting than bullet-pointed lists, generally.

But that can come later.


Birth Control: You're Talking About It Wrong

I know this is yesterday's news (literally), but.... how do some people not understand how the Pill and its non-oral counterparts work?

Not just their mechanics. No matter how little or much sex you have, you take the same number of Pill doses, insert the same number of Rings, stick on the same number of Patches, get stuck with the same number of Shots within the same amount of time.

No, NOT just the mechanics, though confusion over that boggles the mind.

The pricing.  How do people not understand the pricing of hormonal birth control, and still dare to chime in on this "debate"? (Scare quotes because it's actually a FARCE.)

If my insurance didn't cover my birth control pill, that would be every month of the year I'm spending $92 for birth control, rather than just the first two or three months of the year.  (My Rx deductible is $300, so if I'm taking other medication at the time, obviously the deductible is met by February instead of March-and-then-some-in-April.)

$92 x 12 months = $1,104.  Voilà.  Over $1,000.  And my Pill, while not a generic, isn't one of the most expensive ones.  It's not Alesse, for instance.

How anyone can not know the above and still have the temerity to contribute their verbal diarrhea to any discussion of birth control is just...  I almost want them to keep going because they're digging the anti-woman side's grave so very effectively.

But you know what?  All that is beside the point.  I wish that the people on "my side," debating right back at the idjits who think I pop three Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo every time I get busy with the husband, would quit it with the "but PCOS and acne and PMS assistance and dysmenorrhea, oh my!"  I honestly wish they would stop.

Most women who use hormonal birth control?  Use it as birth control.  

Sure, the reason I didn't stick with a generic was that it didn't provide the same off-label benefit of skin clearing up, and I went, as the kids say, cray-cray with PMS symptoms like I'd never had.  This is despite every doctor I've ever spoken to swearing up and down that generics are identical.  (Most of the pharmacists I've asked and my own experience tell me that those doctors are full of shit.) (Also some other doctors think so, apparently.)

I love me some off-label benefits to my birth control.

I know many women who have taken or now take the Pill because of cysts, anemia, PMDD.  I, with my history, know women who take the Pill simply so they get periods, because their BMI's are so low.  (This protects your bone mass.)

That's all the beauty of modern medicine, and thank Big Pharma that the Pill can help all those things.  It's wonderful.

But talking about birth control:  you're doin' it (w)rong if you seem publicly afraid of acknowledging it as what it is.  BIRTH. CONTROL.

So as much as the one side needs to Get A Freaking Clue, Like Whoa about the pricing and mechanics of being a sexually active woman in the modern world, I feel so much right now like my own side needs pony up and quit being scared of calling BIRTH CONTROL, not just treatment-of-medical-problems, a good thing.


Eating Disorders: Magical Realism

I am really, super tired of feeling like I want to scratch off my own skin.  I haven't even been feeling that way that long, really only about 48 hours.  But it's here.  The mental piece of knowing I'm consuming more nutritive things is no longer alone.  Now it's being slowly but surely joined by the feeling of body parts filling out, just ever so slightly.

The husband has been asking me how I'm feeling.  Tuesday I told him that I was still mostly feeling fine, that perhaps this wasn't going to be as uncomfortable as the formal weight gain I've gone through in the past.  Those programs (partially because of insurance limits) tend to focus on high calorie meals all the time, as much weight gain as quick as is physically healthy.

Realistically speaking you have to expend serious effort to gain any more than about 2 pounds of fat/muscle (as opposed to water) in a week.  (The same is true for losing fat/muscle as oppose to water.)  Realistically speaking the things that recoup "padding" first are things like organs (ever seen a healthy heart in autopsy photos? it has some fat on it).  

When the husband asks how I'm feeling and I share that there are moments of discomfort, he reminds me that the discomfort isn't based in reality.  And that's true, of course.  It's not.  But simply knowing a feeling isn't based in reality is, of course, not enough to just stop feeling it.

My fear is now, as it has been before, that I will continue to gain weight (which I will) but that I will not get used to it.  That I will hit my body's natural set point, and just never feel comfortable there.

Realistically speaking, there are a lot worse ways to feel trapped in your own body and mind.  Magically, that reality does not make me feel any better.


Eating Disorder Recovery: What Do You Want to Eat?

When you first start trying to eat like a "normal" person again, there's usually a period when you feel just obsessed by food.

Now, eating disorders are of course functionally obsessed with food anyway - what you are eating, what you aren't eating, how much you're eating, how little you're eating, what you're going to eat and keep, what you're going to eat and "get rid of."

But in early recovery, the feeling of obsession takes on a different quality.  Since it's been however many weeks/months/years since you were "allowed" to eat what you want, suddenly you have to... you know... figure out what it is you want.  At every. single. meal.

Going from not thinking about what you want because there are only certain things you eat in your disordered routine, to having the option of deciding what you actively want to eat, at least three times a day, is an unexpectedly major adjustment.

I mean, we're talking about, there is a lot of food to choose from, setting aside things like money and assuming you're not working around allergies/sensitivities.  Bagel or toast?  With egg or cream cheese?  Any cheese on that egg?  Any tomato on that?  Or will it be oatmeal or granola and yogurt or yogurt?  What about the fruit on that - strawberries or banana or other berries or mango or kiwi or what? 

Or what if you want to be really brave and eat something everyone else calls "bad"?  I mean, those are all fairly "healthy" foods I just rattled off.

And that's just breakfast. 

And we're still not at the "actually gaining perceptible weight" bit yet.  Oh, no.  That comes later.

No, early on the challenge is all around, "It's okay to want to eat that," but even more so around, "It's okay to have to think about what you want to eat."  Allow me to get cheesy for a sec and extrapolate from there:  "It's okay to think about what you want."

Oh, lord.  Well, I've had my cheese quota for today, then.


Recovery Redux (Redux)

Basically every day over the about two and a half years it took for my weight to reach bottom, almost every day, I said to myself, "It's going to suck putting this weight back on and eating healthily again.  It's going to suck royally."

And it does.  It does, in fact, suck royally.  Imperially, even.

I haven't actually begun to even gain weight yet, but rather have just been getting more nutrients and calories into my body.

And yet.  It sucks.  Royally.  Imperially.

I'm distracting myself a lot with work, or sudoku, or rereading The Lord of the Rings.

I'm thinking happily about all the summer clothes I have, and love, that are too big right now.  I'm taking deliberate time to appreciate the physical energy I have.  

I'm breathing through anxiety.  I'm going through nutritionist litanies in my head, about how feelings are like waves, they have peaks and they never last forever.

I'm surviving, so far, but it sucks.  It sucks royally.

You guys, it hasn't even been one. week.

This sucks.


Checking in on the Met

The Met opened its New American Wing several years ago, and tonight they opened a members-only preview of that wing's new setup for the Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts.  (Opens to the public on Sunday)

Since I get a Met membership every year from my parents for Christmas (that and a National Geographic subscription), naturally, that's where you would've found me tonight.

Y'all.  There was a LOT of George Washington.



I shall call it The Blue Room

Madame X in her new home

This picture just cracks me up for some reason.  Look at Washington in the background... then look at all these slouching modern twits.  (Don't get me wrong.  I was slouching too.)

I also took the opportunity to visit the new Islamic art wing when it wasn't achingly crowded.  If you get a chance, go.  No, seriously.  Go.

Anyway.  I feel... refreshed.