Let's Ponder Some Disturbing Things

Disturbing Thing #1

This is Scabior, the Snatcher from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as brought to life on screen by actor Nick Moran.  Scabior, we must understand, is a nasty, evil villain in both the book and the movie; the movie ups his creep factor by having him sniff Hermione's hair and generally be threateningly suggestive.  Nick Moran, we must understand, is an empirically attractive actor.

Here's the Disturbing Thing:  People are shipping Scabior and Hermione.

Which just goes to prove (again) if you make it pretty, no matter how Bad it is, people will like it.

Update: Disturbing Thing #1a, to go with Deathly Hallows Part 2

Disturbing Thing #2
Hospitalizations for problems caused by eating disorders grew 18 percent from 1999 to 2006, with the steepest rise among children under age 12 (up 119 percent)
Fabulous!  Great news!  The obesity panic is working!  And it's exciting to see mental health treatment in this country be really prioritized!  Nothing helps someone with a psychological disorder get better like taking away all their treatment options by not reimbursing for them!  Awesome!

You know, I think those are the only Disturbing Things I care to deal with just at the moment.  Carry on.


Why Food Rules Piss Me The Fuck Off

(Or, "In Which I Eschew My Usual Eschewing of the F Word ['Fuck,' Not 'Fat']")

I was about to go to Starbucks.  I was going to get an eggnog latte.  I googled to see if I could determine the eggnog latte's availability so far this season, and the top page was this one:

You know where that goes?  To a nutritional chart right smack dab in front of your face.  I didn't know how many calories were in an eggnog latte.  I didn't want to know.  I wanted to go order a tall nonfat fucking eggnog latte with no fucking whipped cream, and I wanted to fucking enjoy it.

Know what happens now?  I have two choices.  I can go to Starbucks and get a tall nonfat eggnog latte without whipped cream, and I can drink it, and I can try to enjoy it, but I can just about guarantee you that I will crash and burn at that one.  Or I can sit here and not have an the latte, and not feel disgusting and horrific about myself... Until I start tallying up all the other calories from today, because seeing calories is a huge trigger for me.  All I wanted to know was whether the eggnog latte was available yet.  What I got instead was (to me) harmful information without my consent.  (Getting pissed off writing this post is my attempt to distract myself from the urge to tally until it passes.)

Last Friday, Mike Huckabee was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, and they talked about the "nanny state" and weight loss.  (Huckabee used to be quite overweight.)  Maher (about whom I have such mixed feelings that they could've come out of a blender) told Huckabee he was wrong about Mayor Bloomberg wanting to institute a salt restriction on foods in NYC restaurants.  No, Maher said, what actually happened was the public decided it wanted less salt and restaurants started to respond to that.  Capitalism.  Actually, Bill was wrong, and Mike was right.  I posted about the NYC salt restriction at the time, pointing out that our Mayor was imposing his own food hang-ups on our whole city.

But you know, it doesn't matter, ultimately, if a food rule imposed on the masses came down from on high or evolved from a grass-roots obsession.  Starbucks, for instance, posted calorie information long before Bloomberg instituted his calorie rule (which was separate from the salt issue).  In the obesity panic, no one stops to consider whether the obsession gets us anywhere, and people like me (sorry, I do occasionally insist on being counted, you know) don't just get disregarded; we get hurt.

Another thing Huckabee noted in his Real Time appearance was how he'd grown up with a mindset that allowed him to have a very unhealthy relationship with food.  "Were you good?  You get ice cream!  If you weren't good, you get no ice cream."  (I paraphrase.)  Huckabee had to re-contextualize food in order to have a healthy relationship with it.  Do I ever get that.  Food as reward or punishment is huge in America; all splashing calories around at "celebratory" food places does is add a really sick ingredient to an already ailing recipe.

Contextualization is key in the whole obesity panic/disordered eating dichotomy.  So what the hell kind of context are we constructing with the passive-aggressive posting of calorie info, whether at the supposed behest of the masses, or at the father-knows-best recommendations of public policy makers?  We're constructing a shitty, passive-aggressive context, and that is why food rules piss me the fuck off.


Trigger Happy

I could itch my skin off today.  Since I am not an allergy-prone person, this is either dry skin or a psychosomatic symptom of wanting to GTFO of my body.  (Probably it's a combination of both.  It's happened before.)

Triggers are everywhere I look lately.  When one is so inclined, just about anything can be a trigger to obsess about body or food or both.  That thin woman over there?  Trigger.  The post-partum weight loss post on a friend's blog?  Trigger.  A dinner scene in a TV show, my in-laws buying lunch, doing the laundry, getting dressed, getting undressed, sitting in a particular position, looking at clothing in person or online, hearing about the weight loss efforts of others, eating anything, simply being hungry, seeing babies (sets off thoughts of whether I'll ever be healthy enough to have one), seeing old people (sets off thoughts of long term realities of always! being! thin!), talking to my parents, checking my email, ignoring my email, going for a walk, sitting around like a slug, breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time, reading the feminist blogs, stumbling across news related to food/diet/obesity/health.  All triggers.

Basically, everything is a trigger right now except for books, and the cat.

There we go.  That's better.


Work, Pancakes, Blah Blah Blah

Work is conspiring to make me into a hollow imitation of a well-rounded adult.  I have to train someone starting tomorrow and I am not so very hot at delegating.

To say that I fulfill the control freak stereotype of the eating disordered person would be inaccurate.  ... But I don't really want to teach you how to do that because I can just do it myself and that way I'll know if it's done right and if it's not I'll know what's wrong with it, how 'bout you just watch YouTube all day or something, no, this is not too much work for me to handle on my own, I don't know what you're talking about.

Because that always ends well for everyone.  We're certainly not going to talk about how it ends for the food or lack thereof or glut thereof or stressing over thereof or what-have-you-ing thereof.  (Why ever would we talk about that on an eating disorder blog?  Psh.)  We're mostly not talking about it because my higher brain functions have all been subsumed by work, and, re: the food thing, are only capable of producing this kind of analysis:  ".... Uhhhhhh...."

While work is eating my brain, please have a symbolic-type picture, courtesy of Cheezburger:

Get it?  Because if I can conquer eating pancakes (e.g.) appropriately and happily, I can conquer the world?  Get it?  Get it?

Oh, never mind.  I'll just go back to work now.



The husband is trying to lose weight.  To this end, he's eating more healthfully, and to that end, he's taking alli.

I have thoughts, the not least-disordered of which being, "If he's doing it, why aren't I allowed to?"

I can't stand my body right now.  I really can't stand it.  I'm being generally better to it, and I feel as if it's getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and....

I hate being stuck in the hate.  I would love to love my body.  I would love to love that I breathe without thinking about it, that my neurotransmitters are basically on track, that the little wounds I accumulate from living heal a little more each time I sleep.  It ought to be enough.  I try.  I go through the motions.  I try to make it enough.  It ought to be enough.

Who's up for a little Regina Spektor?

(I've got a perfect body, but sometimes I forget)
(I've got a perfect body 'cause my eyelashes catch my sweat)
(Yes they do, they do....)


Boobs. I Have Thoughts On Mine.

I have to buy some bigger bras.  I have larger sized ones than those I'm wearing now, but the band size on them is still too big.  I need to buy my current band size and a larger cup size.

I have in my head the belief that most women under a certain cup size would enjoy this fact, or even be tickled by it.

I would like to get out some Ace bandages and get this shit under control.  We're not talking A to DD here, either.  We're talking 32C to 32D*.  I also have 34B and 34C idling in my lingerie drawer, but they haven't been used lo these many months.  I'm just.... not amused.  I am so very ready for my body to quit it and do what I tell it to.

(Right.  Because it always does.)

* I swear, it would make my life if American bra designers would actually have a constant cup size from band to band.  Does it drive anyone else nuts that the B cup of a 32B and the B cup of a 34B are two completely different B's?  Because I find that just so ridiculous and nonsensical.  If I could have an actual 32 band with the C cup from a 34C bra, my life would be complete, but no.  They're forcing me to buy a 32D because They want more of my money, because They are greedy assholes.


Infuriating, Meet Ineloquent

I usually associate Marie Claire with being the "thinker" of the fluffy lady magazines.  You know, they're the one that sends journalists to cover female genital mutilation, or sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, or Darfur.  (And then run the stories next to the diet pill ads, I mean.)

I do not expect this from Marie Claire.

Should "Fatties" Get a Room?  (Even on TV?)

Okay, did you read it?  If the answer is yes and your eyes didn't pop and proceed to dribble down your face, congratulations, it must not piss you off quite as much as it does me.

Let's start with last things first:  the author, Maura Kelly, added this update after she found herself in a veritable shit storm almost as soon as she hit the "publish" button:
UPDATE: I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn't productive, either.
That's nice.  But here's the problem: the unnecessary and unproductive things you said?  You still said them.  But let's at least take Maura's apology, and continue to what's in the post.
 I'm not some size-ist jerk.
Hm.  Okay.  But you just said this:
To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room - 
Wait for it, now it's time to justify it:
— just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
Later in the update I quoted first, Maura points out that she feels equally uncomfortable when she sees an anorexic person as when she sees a morbidly obese person, so at least that one is diametrically opposed.... sort of....

By the by, there are plenty of "fatties" on TV.  Ever seen half the game and reality shows out there? Overweight and obese contestants are - at a minimum - semi-regularly featured on Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Wipeout (look, I don't know where I came up with that one either), Wife Swap, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Supernanny.... shall I go on?  Is it just that "fatties" aren't allowed to have love lives?

My issue with the Marie Claire post is really the entire framing of the thing.  They tell you when you're little that there's no such thing as a stupid question, but "should we watch fat people making out on TV?" IS A STUPID QUESTION.  I am not being very eloquent here - at ALL - but, sorry, I just can't.  The question she SHOULD be asking is, "Why the HELL do I care so much about someone else's body?"  It's not really about money, although that's the trendy excuse.  (The "fat people are costing us money" trope is tired, and if anyone actually wanted to enact change around other people's behavior for their health, Prohibition would never have been repealed, and cigarettes would have followed booze.)   And it sure ain't the health of the other person total freaking stranger motivates the obsession at a mass level, or else there wouldn't be reality shows like Intervention.   And if it were actually unappealing to watch extremely drunk people do something like make out, as Maura suggests, then movies like Knocked Up wouldn't make quite so much money.  Considering its entire premise is extremely drunk people having unprotected sex.  To me that's a lot more disturbing than two people, who happen to be fat, smooching.

So really, the framing is off.  The question shouldn't be, "Should we watch fat people making out on TV?"  The question ought to be, "What is it about me that it makes me so uncomfortable watching fat people making out on TV?"  If Maura had stepped back and considered where her discomfort came from, her post could have been worth reading, I'd expect.  But this version is, sadly, only worth flaming.


Shut the Front Door

The Gates of Dawn
(Draper, of course)

Today is one of those days (this week is one of those weeks, this month is one of those months) when I'd like to shut the door, close in upon myself, and curl away from the world, both figuratively and literally.

But the month, the week, and the day, none of them are playing nice, and they keep insisting I socialize, see friends and family, eat, etc.


Oh well.  When in need of inspiration for doing things that I really don't wanna do, finding the right Draper painting to counteract whatever unhelpful tendency's keeping me whining usually helps.  So, there you are.  A visual reminder to myself to open the gates.  Let all that life crap in.

Ugh.  Where are my books?


Must Be Wednesday.

It's Wednesday.

That's me.  With my green eyes and my brown hair and my plum lipstick.

Today I'm wearing a red shirt (with a screen print of Red Riding Hood wearing the Big Bad Wolf as a wrap) and a blue skirt, and some grey ballet flats.

And that's my katana that I wish I'd bought at New York Comic Con.

And that's the bloody entrails of half of New York I'm flinging off the katana.

It's all real.  Except for the katana and the entrails.  Sadly.


Briefly: Anxiety, Depression, and Eating

Welcome to Wednesday.  This is me:

See?  I have green eyes and brown hair, and am wearing plum lipstick.  And I am freaking out with anxiety.  Social anxiety does not happen in a neural vacuum, people.

Anxiety is always tricky in eating disorders, because generally you either can't imagine ever eating again, ever, or you can't imagine not wanting to eat everything in the house and then in the deli and then in the grocery store, forever.  That's not to say that these reactions to anxiety (or depression, for that matter; flip sides of a coin) are only seen in folks with eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors (not the same thing).  Reaching to food or becoming totally disconnected from hunger cues in a bout of anxiety is a fairly common reaction to said anxiety (or said depression).

The eating disorder part kicks in when you start congratulating yourself for not being hungry, when you start berating yourself for daring to eat anything at all, let alone a little too much.  (Which, by the way: it's part of "normal eating" to occasionally eat too much or too little.  Really.  Any nutritionist east of Malibu will agree with me on this one.)  The eating disordered part of anxiety or depression tells you, "You don't want to eat every again?  You can't imagine eating more than an apple for lunch?  Well, good.  That's what you should be doing anyway, cow."  Or it tells you, "How could you possibly want to eat more?  You just had a sandwich and an apple and a yogurt.  You're disgusting.  You're going to blow up.  You're never going to stop eating and you're never going to stop gaining weight.  You're a disaster area."  And the eating disorder really moves in and gets settled with the anxiety or depression when you decide that you believe it, that it's right, that it was right all along, and if you just listen to it this time, the anxiety or depression will actually get better.

It's completely counter-intuitive, of course, and practically a bouillabaisse of cognitive distortions and magical thinking.  Always fun, always fun.


And Then My Head Exploded All Over 3rd Avenue. Again.

Where:  East 86th Street near 3rd Avenue (what is it with this corner?)

When:  About 1:00 p.m. on Sunday

Who:  A mother walking two tween daughters.  The mother is solidly built, about 5'2".  The older daughter, maybe 12, is already taller than her mother, and lanky.  The younger daughter, probably 10, looks like she has their mom's body type, being short and rounder than her sister.

What:  The younger girl is crying, her face the picture of abject woe.  Her sister is apologizing, "I didn't mean to call you the F word."  

As I listened, walking alongside them in the same direction, I got the distinct impression that the girls had been having some kind of run-of-the-mill argument, when the older sister was at a total loss for whatever reason, and pointed out that, well, her sister was fat.  The point had nothing to do with the argument, which I think was about who got to go to some event the following weekend.  The mother was silent, and looked positively queasy.  As they walked on and the younger sister kept crying, the older girl's face sunk more and more deeply into the certainty that she had really stepped in it.  

I'm not a parent.  (Except to a kitteh.)  But I wanted to throttle these girls' mother, fairly or not.  I get letting siblings work things out, but I'm just going to hope and hope and hope that this older kid didn't get that crap at home.  That "you are fat; your argument is invalid" crap.  That brand of crap only works as an Internet meme.  I hope she picked it up from her friends, not from her father or mother, and I hope her mother will have a nice, frank discussion with her focusing on the fact that someone's size has nothing to do with your disagreements with them.

I know this older girl is just a kid.  I know it.  But I really wanted to knock her and her mother's heads together and take the younger girl to the bookstore with me.

I was kind of busy, though, since my head had just exploded all over 3rd Avenue.  Again.


Shopping For Jeans. Always hilarious.

I bought new jeans yesterday evening.  It was a quintessentially eating disordered experience.

I grabbed the two sizes I thought would fit me.  Went to the fitting room.  Tried on the bigger of the two first, thinking it was probably going to fit, only to find the jeans farcically big.  The second, smaller pair I didn't have to unbutton to pull up.

Went back out, grabbed the next two sizes down.  Tried on the larger of the two and it fit fine for me, which is actually more loosely than "how skinny jeans are supposed to fit."  Tried on the smaller of the two and it fit "how skinny jeans are supposed to fit."

I stood there looking in the mirror, reasoning with myself about which pair to buy.  The larger pair would stretch out just about as soon as I sat down for longer than ten minutes, as jeans do, rendering the fit somewhat incorrect.  The smaller pair would do the same, but the jeans would still fit "properly" for skinny jeans.  At least for now.

I don't go in for expensive jeans, partially because I'll use the price as an excuse not to gain weight.

I will use the price of jeans.  In order to not gain weight.

I will elect not to put nutrients into my body, and I will use jeans as an excuse.

My comfort in my body will be more important than, say, bone mass, and the jeans will serve as a tool to reinforce that importance.

I bought the larger pair so I would eat something when I went home.

I still thought about what will happen if I size out of the new jeans.  It took a while for it occur to me that I will just buy larger jeans.


Parents, Kids, Bodies

Kids: they're more perceptive than you think they are.

All right, so I know that Passive Aggressive Note is funny.  I know it is.  But it makes me really, really sad.  For Olivia, for her sister, for their mom, for their dad, for any brothers.  Just sad.  Our culture's obsession with food and body, already moving on to the next generation.  Fabulous.

I very much hope that this note occasioned a frank discussion about hunger and satiety cues, about there being no "bad" foods in moderation, and about healthy being beautiful, not just "skinny."

I hope.  HOPE.

(I think we long ago established that I am not actually all that cynical.)


Joke, Reality

The joke:  I got a tapeworm in France.

The reality:  I ate like a normal person in France (i.e. did not restrict) and it's hard to switch back from that.  Ideally, I should shouldn't* be switching back from that at all.  I should be saying to myself, "You know what was awesome?  Eating like a person without an eating disorder and therefore having all that extra mental and physical energy with which I enjoyed the shit out of my vacation."

om nom nom nom nom nom

The joke:  I'm allergic to being back home.

The reality:  I broke out in hives Sunday evening.  After the pharmacy was closed and all the REAL Benadryl was locked in the cage.  Much itching and hypochondria of the no-really-my-throat-is-closing-up-no-truly-it-really-is variety ensued.

* Whoops, LOL, oh, you subconscious, you.  Downright Puckish.


Books: More Fun Than Body Image Distortion

photo source
It's true.  Much of the time I do.  Books have a really hard time being incorrigible ignoramuses (ignorami?).    I read through a checklist of warning signs for reading addiction one time and realized that I could check off fewer than I'd have feared, but enough to make it a little embarrassing.  In fact, the Harry Potter books were what helped catapult me on my first solid recovery in 2003, and the Sookie Stackhouse books propped up my second one in 2008.

I spent most of this long weekend reading, so I felt pretty calm on Saturday and Sunday, if a little antisocial.  I did make it out to tea with a friend.  (Books and tea. Yes, really.  I am a Victorian mademoiselle.)  This friend is a fellow eating disorder patient/veteran/patient.  There's usually something at once comforting and competitive about eating with others whose food relationships are tetchy for whatever reason.  However, with this particular friend, I tend to mostly feel comfort.  There's no judgment and no overt eyeing of what/how much the other person is eating, and no pressure to eat more, which can be irritating.  It's really a shame we don't have much in common other than our eating struggles.
om nom nom nom nom nom

What with one thing and another, I hadn't had a chance to weigh myself on my own scale since before my doctor's appointment on Wednesday, so when the doctor told me my weight was down, as you know, I figured it was down in relation to the last official weight twelve weeks ago, and not to my actual right-now weight.  Until I stepped on the scale this morning for the first time since last Monday.

Someone asked me recently, while I was in the throes of panic and discomfort over the higher weight my scale had been showing, what happens when I stop weighing myself entirely.

Well, what happens is that I lose weight.  Kind of a lot for one week.  In fact, I'm rather hoping that some of it is just a lack of fluids (though I have not been engaging in purgative behaviors).  Yes, Internet, I stepped on the scale this morning and saw reflected there the lowest weight since I went into treatment in 2003.  Now, part of that has got to be low water weight for one reason or another, but in the end, it's also got to mean that I really haven't gained all that much weight.

And therefore it's got to mean that all the discomfort and the panic?  Even less grounded in reality than I thought they were.  So that's beyond frustrating.

Equally frustrating is that I did not mean to do this.  In fact, I have been actively trying to eat in such a way that I should naturally gain some body mass.  And that's just infuriating.  I've been putting myself through the paces, only to either stay right where I've been, or to backslide.  Not fair, Body Fat Fairy, not fair.

I am going to re-reread An Artificial Night now.  Don't bother me.


Link: Feministe Guest Post Fail

Oh, you guys.  Ohhhhh, you guys.

Fat and Health at Feministe

You may have already heard about this one, or read it.  It got 124 comments before comments were closed *cough*, which about triples the comments Feministe guest posts usually garner.  To quote one comment from notemily,


I don't keep Feministe, Feministing, Jezebel, etc. on my blogroll, mostly because there's something about their tone that usually doesn't mesh with my reading style, which is not to make a judgment call on the blogs themselves, but is meant as a comment on my own reading preferences.

But when something like this piece of ignorant flippancy pops up on my radar?  I've just got to point it out and say, really, people?  Is this really what you want in your feminist blogs?  (And judging by a good 3/4 of the comments, no, no it is not what you want in your feminist blogs.)

To read any of a number of sound arguments for why Monica's post is uninformed at best and sexist, hateful and classist at worst, simply read the comments.  I really can't say it any better than some of the commenters have already done.

Cognitive Dissonance and Capricious Meaning

At my doctor's appointment yesterday I was informed that I had lost weight.  When I last went to see her six weeks ago, she didn't weigh me, so the last time she weighed me was about twelve weeks ago.

"Actually, I've gained weight," I told her.  Which is true.  I'm up slightly more than I was last week, in fact, and I still want to claw my way out of my own body starting from my belly button.  (It just seems like the most logical place.)

So what this means is that twelve weeks ago, I was essentially at either the same or a higher weight than my weight now.  And what that means is that the significance and the torturous importance I put on my erstwhile lower weight is... wait for it... totally irrational.  (I know.  It's almost surprising.)

"Lady, y'ain't right."
As they (and I) say over and over again, eating disorders aren't actually about food or body.  To understand what function the disorder serves, you must dissect the meanings placed on all things food and body.  (And yes, that takes a lot of work, and yes, it is maddening, and yes, it's easier just to skip it.) For me, at no time is this fact clearer than when I'm reminded that the last time I was at this "higher" weight, I was celebrating (on some level) because it was a "lower" weight.  And at that other time, I was merely afraid of another "higher" weight that now seems terrifying, rather than just fearful.

The weights and their corresponding shapes haven't changed.  What's changed is the significance and the symbolism I accord each of them.  It helps, momentarily, to remember this, to point out to myself that my feelings are totally irrational and illogical.  But then I'm expected to take the next step.  "What does xyz weight mean?  Why is it so frightening/such an accomplishment now?"  And while even the meager gain I've managed gives me notably more energy than my recent lower weight, I just can't summon up the stamina to plod through those next-level questions right now.

And so we begin again...


Getting Your Body Back or Losing It? Some ABC's

You will pretty much feel like this.
Battered and out of control and, yes, naked.
As you go through weight gain, self-appointed or supervised, the semiotics of weight rears its Gorgonian head in a serpentine dance with your eating disorder, which appoints itself boa constrictor of your brain.  Low weight and weight loss are celebrated and idolized in our culture.  Especially as you near the point of officially not being underweight anymore, letting your weight inch up can provoke any or all of the following feelings and behaviors:

Anger:  You want to strangle not only yourself, but also anyone who has the gall to notice that you have a body and that it looks good/bad/okay/like a body.  You will want to dump a crock pot of lava down their throats until they shut up.  Even if, say, they're a therapist or nutritionist who's following CBT techniques for treating an eating disorder and not actually talking about your body.

Buffoonery:  You will burst out in public tears over some piece of some kind of food or drink.  Trust me.  It will happen.  Maybe more than once.

Chagrin:  All those people who have watched you lose weight and stay at a low weight are going to wonder what's going on, why you're losing control.  Even if they don't, you're going to remember every compliment they gave your low weight every time you see them or anyone you associate with them.

Defeat:  You are sacrificing achievement by choosing a higher weight.  You are giving up the accomplishment you present to the world, and to yourself.

Ephecticism:  You will totally suspend judgment and the ability to make a decision.  Should I eat the Goldfish?  Should I not?  Am I hungry?  Am I not?  Should I just go back to eating only xyz food?  Every piece of food, every twitch of physical activity will take on innumerable meanings, and you will be on your own as far as picking out the correct one.  Your brain will be a whirlpool, nay, a maelstrom of decisions you are expected to make all the time, WTF?

Fear:  You feel trapped, like you've lost your brakes, totally out of control of where this stops, and fairly certain that no matter what you do, your weight is going to keep going up, and up, and up, and up, and...

You could definitely go through the whole alphabet, and probably the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets, too. And Thai, just for good measure.


The Truth About Weight Gain

La Vérité
Jules Joseph Lefebvre

Over the past 4 weeks or so, I have managed to put and keep on about a pound of fat.  Not water (definitely not muscle, LOL), but fat that doesn't fluctuate one way or t'other, and stays right where it is thankyouverymuch.  I've done this by adding little things (an extra banana here, a matzoh ball instead of no starch there) and suffering through the immediate mood-related consequences.

I want to claw my way out of my skin from my bell button.  I want to lace myself into a corset and meld it into my biology so it belongs there.  I want to jump maniacally on a trampoline until parts of me fly off into the ether.  I feel  so.  uncomfortable.

Although it's antithetical to the philosophy behind decoding and curing eating disorders, I've been making a habit of looking at pictures of me at higher weights, and making myself acknowledge the truth that world didn't end all those pounds higher, during that rounder time.  That I was, truthfully, just fine, more or less.  Not comfortable, still uneasy and squirmy, but fine.  No more unhappy than now (the reverse, of course).   And although one is not meant to assign values of good, bad, better, worse to weights or shapes, it does help to remember that I've come back from a lower weight than I'm at now, to a higher weight than I'm at now, and that I survived, and that after I adjusted back to letting my body do its thing, I wasn't abjectly miserable, as I am now after the banana, or after the matzoh ball.  Or just any time, really, that I notice any perceived change for the larger.

I got through it once, and I can get through it again.  My body is literally built to get me back up there, and fighting nature just makes for misery.  And ain't that the truth?


In the News: Television Eating Disorder How-To's

I've been a busy bee this week, so I thought I'd head to Google News and search "eating disorders" and see what popped up.  It wasn't very hard to find something that caught my eye.

Breaking News - E! Explores Eating Disorders In The New Series "What's Eating You" proclaims E!'s 8/18 press release.  The release promises to be "riveting" television that shows levels of eating disordered behavior "never before seen on television," which is pretty disturbing, when you consider that one of the final scenes on the HBO documentary THIN showed one of the women purging the day she got home.  As in, it showed her bending over the toilet as she vomited.  Intervention had an episode that showed a bulimic vomiting into a sink, in profile.  So I really don't want to know what E! means by "never before seen on television."

On the one hand, productions like this E! miniseries and like THIN do spread the word about eating disorders.  On the other hand, they also function as repositories of tips and tricks.  So do most of the "resources" in this vein.  I've had countless conversations with fellow patients about how we literally learned some of our behaviors from articles about anorexia or bulimia in Seventeen or YM.  The memoir Wasted is also practically an anorexia handbook.  You don't have to be a pro-ana or pro-mia site or blog to teach people how to do it, if they're lookin'.

When I was at the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders in 2003, there was a policy in place that prevented us from discussing or describing symptoms.  Now, while I think the levels they took that policy to were silly (we couldn't use the words "purge," "restrict," "over-exercise," etc., even if we weren't talking about something we had actually done), I have always understood how the policy came about.  It came about for the same reasons this E! show will be lauded as brave television by some, and studied subversively by some others.  Sad.

om nom nom nom nom nom nom

Oh yeah.  School's starting again.  So not only is it ten years to the week that I've been living in New York, it's time for parents to start getting themselves in mental gear to screen for their collegiate children developing eating disorder symptoms.  (Of course, by the time a symptom is noticeable even to a parent, the disorder has already been in gear for a while.  But we can always hope.)

And for the love of chubby toddlers, people - don't harp on the supposed "Freshman 15" if your daughter or son comes home for winter break looking a little more callipygian.  If I see one more "news" item about How To Avoid The Freshman Fifteen!!!! I am going to hurl, and I don't mean that in a bulimic way.  I mean that in an "I will hurl a brick through the news organization's front window" way.


Thoughts on Maudsley

La Comtesse Marzie sent me this link to a Miami Herald article on Maudsley treatment with the following commentary:  "Kinda scary.  It has the potential to be so abusive and coercive, no?"

The above article calls Maudsley little-known, but I'm at least a little familiar with it, by way of Harriet Brown.  I just don't know if it would work long-term in any but young cases, and while this piece states that later on, along with paying lip service to the idea that some parents really do contribute to EDs, this Miami Herald article kind of gets my ears steaming.  The problem isn't so much Maudsley as it is the article reading more like a press release than a piece of journalism. 

For instance:  the focus on refeeding and weight restoration is a cornerstone of all anorexia treatment, so this article does traditional therapies a disservice by suggesting this initial focus is unique to Maudsley - and outright stating that refeeding is ignored in "traditional therapy," in place of blaming parents for the disorder.  It is accepted medical fact that emotional and psychological repair can't occur in a state of starvation, and anyone who knows anything about ED treatment know that "traditional" therapy is a more intelligent construct than to ever suggest something as simple as, "the parents did it, the end."

Another fallacy the Miami Herald article blithely tosses in: "traditional anorexia therapy often excludes parents from treatment."  No!  No, no, no!  Not unless you redefine the word "often."  Not often!  NOT often!  Family therapy is an integral part of the best-known and more traditional U.S. treatment centers.  Renfrew, Remuda Ranch, Cornell - they all employ family therapy for many patients, as do dozens of smaller centers whose approach is based on those big three.   

Finally, later in the piece, the Miami Herald writer notes that Maudsley has its highest success rate with younger patients whose anorexia has been of relatively short duration.  There's about a two-paragraph concession to journalistic footwork toward the end of the article, with one quotation from a patient whose relationship with her parents was damaged by Maudsley and who didn't feel treated "as a whole person."  Then the piece moves back to Maudsley worship.

Again, I'm not convinced that the problem is Maudsley itself.  (However, it's hard to imagine - from an older patient's perspective - a treatment course in which refeeding is literally not explained or discussed while it's going on, at the hands of professionals, much less parents.) 

In a perfect world, the basic steps make sense.  But most families that produce eating disordered children are not perfect little worlds.  (Is any family, even one with perfectly adjusted children??)  In more dogmatic and controlling families, especially, the warped sense of self that is at the root of so many eating disorders is NOT going to be repaired while the child is immersed in only the environment that produced the warped sense.  Similarly, if a child has learned eating disordered behaviors from a parent (as children so often do, whether or not the parents will acknowledge it), then the parents had damn well better have training about and insight into their own behaviors and how to modify them.

The success rate of Maudsley for younger patients is impressive, especially at five-year follow-ups.  If that statistic reflects reality, it's great.   But you'd have to be one seriously open-minded parent with a penchant for being brutally honest with yourself about yourself to execute Maudsley in an emotionally responsible manner.


Women's Perception of Women: "Skinny Whore"

Never mind.  I do have something to say.  But please continue to the post below and the Gratuitous Kitteh Picshurz.

As usual, there are all stripes of post-BlogHer roundup posts floating around the ol' BlagoWeb this post-BlogHer week.  They range from ruin-your-keyboard-with-Perrier funny, to dry lists of activities, to fabulous gluts of pictures to... well... to totally gobsmacking.

A post to which I will not link* recounts a meeting in a Hilton elevator.  The blogger is asked by a fellow elevator rider if she is, in fact, a blogger.  When answered in the affirmative, the stranger tells our blogger that she "fits the bill" and elevator chick will leave something with the concierge for our blogger.  We get no description of elevator chick, other than that she is "this very interesting chick."  Later, picking up her gift, our blogger discovers that elevator chick left her a large bottle of humidity-control hair product.

At this point, elevator chick ceases to be elevator chick and becomes a "skinny whore."  

This transition:  I have issues with it.

How is her body size relevant?  Is she a whore because she's skinny, or was she being paid by some guy in the elevator while he was zipping up his trousers?  Is she a skinny whore because she has inadvertently (and admittedly in a really gauche way) insulted our blogger?  What if the gift had been free eyeshadow?  I'm guessing she would have remained in the realm of interesting elevator chick.

One of the Comtesses asked me if there is any insult for a marketing shill that wouldn't have rankled.  Sure, I can think of a few.  "Graceless marketing shill."  "Marketing shill who needs to think about how she'd react if someone approached her with those words."  "Girl who really wanted to go to BlogHer but couldn't make it without sponsorship from a brand willing to pay her way."  (Except I that last one's not an insult.  BlogHer is expensive.  Sure, there are more subtle ways to fulfill your sponsorship duty, but why should money prevent you from the experience?)

Can you imagine if elevator chick had been labeled "fat whore"?  How about "ugly whore"?  But because elevator chick is "skinny" (whatever that means), we can criticize her body and roll all our feelings about her momentary lack of social grace into a perception ball, implying that because she looks a certain way, she is a certain way.

Any time I see body shape or size being used against someone in an arbitrary and, basically, uncalled for manner, I will protest.  Most people have at least one thing that they just don't find funny, that others will suggest they lighten up about, and this is one of mine.  I don't think making malicious assumptions about someone based on their body shape or size is acceptable, in jest or no.

Sometimes I'm just no fun.

* It's not that I don't want to send traffic her way.  It's that I have never read her blog before.  Therefore, I don't want to give the impression that my thoughts on this post are My Thoughts On This Blogger.  I don't have any thoughts on her yet, other than that she seems very outspoken in her humor.


Playing the Part: The Urge to Prove It

It is a common fear in the eating disorder treatment process that if a patient is not at a low enough weight, then her disorder will not be taken seriously (translated to a more basic and generally accurate level, that no one will give a shit about her).  The fear isn't entirely baseless; there is a wide-ranging misconception that if someone is not gaunt, she is not sick, and the misconception isn't confined to those who are unfamiliar with eating disorders.  A fellow patient of mine once said to me, "What do you think about Paris Hilton?  I don't think she has an eating disorder.  I mean, she's never looked emaciated to me."

I spent the weekend of BlogHer with some of my best friends, all of whom are aware of and well-versed in the basics of eating disorders.  If there's anyone on the planet who will be concerned about my well-being regardless of my weight/shape, it's these women.  But from the word "go," any time we were around food I was distracted from the conversation and the experience of just being with them by whether or not I was eating - I kid you not - too normally.  Friday lunch I was horrified to find that I'd finished the perfectly healthy protein portion of a salad because I was paying attention to my hunger and satiety cues.  Thursday night I did my usual weird food ritual where I remove all the protein/dairy from a salad and eat it last (Friday lunch I ate it first!  Because I wanted to!  How hideous!), and then I actually finished the protein and dairy which were, again, not huge portions.  You'd think I'd be glad to be eating in such a way that wouldn't leave me starving and distracted later, but no.  On some level I was always preoccupied with whether I was playing my part and proving my disorder.  To women who had ALL seen me eat multiple times before, and who couldn't care less, in the best possible sense.

So it shouldn't have surprised me that Saturday was a Bad Day.  At lunch I felt acutely uncomfortable with - again - a salad and some protein.  I could feel the stirrings of anxiety, but set it aside and tried to invest myself in the company instead.  A cab ride later, I was awfully car sick, and I did the only thing that works to alleviate my motion sickness:  I got some sparkling water and some crunchy snacks.  It worked on my nausea, but I began to get very concerned with how much cracker stuff I'd just consumed.  By the time we got to dinner I was feeling pointedly squirmy, and when the waitress made kind of a thing about what I wanted to order, that was it.  I ate my house salad and was able to get through about half a sushi roll and maybe a dozen pods of edamame.  (For reference, the nutritionist's take on appropriate sushi consumption is "two rolls and two pieces, in addition to vegetables and/or other protein, depending on the composition of the rolls.)  I had a rolling panic attack later, which is exactly what I didn't want to happen on our last night together.

So over the whole weekend, I missed out on being fully with my friends multiple times, and I enacted a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of twitchiness.  Since it was an event whereby I can measure concrete time (like a holiday or a birthday), I was all too aware that last year I had no such attacks or severe preoccupations.  I considered what I ate in Chicago, but I didn't let it consume me (pun intended, har har har).

This week I have a call set up with an intake counselor for a program of support groups.  (Free ones!)  If I needed evidence that it was time to make this call, I certainly have it now.


The Public Body and Extempore Expressions

Were you at The People's Party or Queerosphere on Thursday night before BlogHer?  If you saw the chick in the turquoise wig and the red silk corset, that was me.

I got a lot of comments on the costume (all the Comtesses did, though we were missing our Empress and not whole without her), most of which were some variation on, "I love it!" or "What are you guys dressed up as?  It's so fun."  

One woman approached me twice.  The first time she said, "Look at your waist.  It's ridiculous!"  Later it was, "And your waist - we're just not even going to talk about your waist."

I couldn't do much other than crack a flustered and probably slightly psychotic smile and stammer, "Uh, ah, well, uh."  Being in a bathroom full of strangers it felt appallingly rude to say baldly, "I write an eating disorder blog," though that did occur to me after the second comment the woman offered later.  I certainly didn't want to say, "Hey, thanks!" because the idea that my body (and by extension myself) is only worthy of notice if I'm a certain size is exactly what I'm trying to train myself to back away from.

If I'd bluntly described my blog in response to what was superficially a compliment (and a dig at her own body), it could have been perceived as unspeakably rude to make her feel embarrassed by her comment, or it might have opened up a dialogue about parsing and commenting on other people's bodies.  Don't know now, since I didn't speak up.  Regardless, while I did tell people who asked that I blogged about eating disorders, I wasn't up to doing so in front of a bathroom full of strangers during what was otherwise a pleasant conversation.

The problem, of course, is that without someone speaking up in the moment and saying, "I'm not sure you realize that you've just reduced my body to my waist line, and I know you don't realize how that gets into my head," no one who isn't already aware of the problem will learn to examine the way they think about bodies, and the way they speak about them.

It was an unguarded duo of moments for this woman.  She was the only person the whole night who commented on my body, rather than on the costume.  That she was is actually incredibly heartening to me.  But aside from the other Comtesses (who heard both the remarks, and one of whom actually exclaimed, "Are you serious?!" after the first one), I have no idea whether the other women who heard the comments thought them at all unacceptable or unfortunate.  They were both of those things, though I don't believe she said them with any malice.

I didn't get the sense that it occurred to her to analyze her words.  "Your waist is ridiculous."  "We're not even going to talk about your waist."  I realize they're colloquial expressions, but they have meaning, and they were coming out of the mouth of a tipsy gal, so, ya know, in vino veritas.  Ridicule and shunning, applied to a body part.  Not what she intended, but what so many people do countless times a day without even realizing it.  We reduce people to their waistlines or their legs or their breasts, and to us they become subsumed by the body part.  This process is nakedly apparent in unguarded or spur-of-the-moment exclamations and interjections.  Hopefully at some point I will develop the social grace to handle these things in the moment.  But I'm certainly not there yet.  I'm still at the deer in headlights stage.

Well.  It's good to have goals.


Placeholder: Eating Disorders and Orthodox Judaism

Still unspeakably busy.  There's so much I want to blog about lately (especially the Girls Gone Wild lawsuit discussed by Fannie, among others), but there is no time!  Here's another placeholder link, this one on the intersection of eating disorders and identity.  Hopefully later this week (or next week? or the week after?) I can come back and deal with this one in more depth.  Lots of inneresting stuff at work here.

Eating disorders a hidden problem for Orthodox Jews
by Eleanor Goldberg, for Religion News Service

Two pieces that are of particular interest to me:
“It’s not this evil thing anymore,” Hart shared of her relationship with food. When she toils in the garden’s acre of produce, she often thinks, “this is what a zucchini looks like—it’s beautiful. It’s magical.”

The problem is as much cultural as kosher, experts have learned. They discovered that a skinny bride in her early 20s is often idealized as the ultimate prize, as well as her quick evolution into a mother of a large brood.
“I speak to boys who tell me they want someone who’s a size zero or size two,” said Frank Buchweitz, director of community services and special projects at the Orthodox Union.
Such issues are now incorporated into Renfrew’s group therapy sessions and Jewish-themed classes, starting with the text of a traditional prayer sung by husbands on Shabbat.
“There’s many things your wife is supposed to be—gracious, kind and wise,” Hahn said. “Thin is not one of them.” 

I will endeavor to put some thoughts together later in the week.


Recovery Snapshot: Equations

bagel + cream cheese  =    *_*

solve for *
show your work

    (bagel ÷ is it hot in here?)
+  (cream cheese ÷ why do my legs feel like I've just run a marathon?)  
    oh, this again.  how fun.

An alternative answer for * is:  the Hudson River School, my go-to for calming art.  Here, please have some:

A View On the Catskill - Early Autumn
Thomas Cole


Reintroducing Foods

*for a given definition of "medicines"

See the cat?  Yesterday that was me.  I was sitting at my computer, totally minding my own business, when BAM, I felt it necessary to send the following email to two of Les Comtesses:
Can one have a hot flash at 28?  Or is it just an anxiety attack because I'm deliberately eating something extra?
Guess which one it turned out to be?
... Yep.  Anxiety attack.  So much fun!  Kind of like a cocaine OD and a hangover all at once!
From there the discussion devolved into how I've never seen St. Elmo's Fire.  (Well, it continued once I'd returned from histrionically lying on my bed and waiting to die.)

What caused this anxiety attack?  Well, if I had to say, the tipping point was turkey.  Some maple honey roast turkey.  About two ounces of it.  Yes, deli turkey is popularly associated with anorexics, as in, "the only thing they eat."  (Well, people usually assume it's that and celery.)  That's the funny thing about eating disordered people's rules: they usually make less than no sense to anyone but the rule holder.  Even fellow ED patients can hear a certain rule someone else has and think, "Is she crazy?  Doesn't she realize that makes no sense?"

Well, yes, we do realize it.  To a certain extent.  But usually the rule fails to make sense so spectacularly that it does a 180 and makes total and complete sense.  "I have winnowed my foods down to A, B and C.  I have maintained a low weight/continued to lose weight.  If I add food D, or even just swap out food A for food D, I will gain weight/cease to lose weight.  Therefore, foods A, B and C are my only safe foods."  (This absurd axiom holds true for many bulimics and binge eaters, outside of binges, as much as it does for anorexics.)  If you know the barest facts about eating disorders, you know that they're not about food, and this nearly universal food rule situation is a good illustration of that.  Foods A, B and C will almost never be the same foods for any two ED patients; but foods A, B and C will be just as important to any two ED patients at roughly analogous places in their illnesses.  It isn't about food; it's about the perception of control.

And so, reintroducing food - any food, no matter how nutritionally "healthy" or calorically light - is cause for panic.  And yesterday's panic attack was one for the books.  My fridge now boasts, alongside the turkey, Greek yogurt and cherries.  (When reintroducing foods, you don't start with chocolate mousse, you know?)  At some point I'll even get back to putting the turkey in a sandwich and some cereal in the yogurt.  But one panic attack at a time, you know?  I'm taking my mom to Paris for her birthday in September, and damn it, I'm going to enjoy the food and not have any stinking panic attacks over salad dressing.

Excuse me, I have to go eat breakfast and exhibit symptoms of early-onset menopause.


Recovery Snapshot

Thursday, 9:30 p.m.

I weighed myself for the first time since at least Monday, and I did it at night, after dinner. Why did I do that? Why? I can think of nothing more bone-headed than what I did. There are no words for how much I wish I didn't do that.  First, I'm freaked out by the weight.  Second, I am sadangrydespondent that I'm so freaked out by it, that it makes me feel panicky, shamed, trapped.  And why the sadangrydespondent feeling?  Because there's no good reason for the weight to freak me out, to make me sad, to scare me, to panic me.  There's no piece of reality in my reaction to seeing the scale.  I'd be tempted to go through a mantra about the amount of food in the digestive system and the time of day being important factors in consistent weigh-ins, but the whole basis behind that mantra (that the weight I saw tonight isn't an accurate representation of my current body mass - and it isn't) misses the whole point.  It should be moot that the "high" weight I saw is not my bones/muscles/organs/skin/fat.  The only thing that should matter is that my instinct to reject an arbitrary number makes no sense.  But I cling to the likelihood that in the morning I'll see a more arbitrarily comfortable number once again.

Sometimes the uphill battle against myself just feels like a parody.  Sometimes I feel downright Sisyphean.

And then sometimes I check the mail late and find a piece of momentary salvation from a demented babydoll:

Now to skip the whole rolling-the-stone-up-the-hill thing, and jump right into the air, and simply forget to hit the ground.  Hm....


And Then My Head Exploded All Over 3rd Avenue

Overheard on the Upper East Side today...

Little Boy:  Can I have a milkshake??!!?

Dad:  Ask your mom.

Mom:  Don't make me the bad guy, John.

Dad:  Milkshakes make you REALLY fat.

Little Boy:  ... What about ice cream?

Dad:  Yeah, that too.

My Head:  *asplode*


Recovery Snapshot

Do you have days when being inside your own skin actually makes you feel claustrophobic?

I have actually managed to lose weight somehow.  Not much, but after clawing my way up a double-digit of ounces, I've slid right back where I was, and now all the anxiety feels terribly purposeless.  This whole business is like a truncated Chutes and Ladders.

I always preferred Candy Land.  (Big surprise, right?)

I like board gamez.  
I like teh sound teh peecez makes when I paw dem onto da floor."


Changes In Routine: ANXIETY! ACK!

Please have a Knut.  It will help.

Changing routine is easily one of the most distressing parts of dealing with an eating disorder, whether you're the person with the disorder or the person who has to be around them.  For the anorexic, bulimic, or binge eater, having to change something that is comfortable is acutely anxiety-producing, and for the person/people around the patient, dealing with that anxiety (or trying to ignore it until it passes) can be maddening.

Tuesday and Wednesday decidedly do NOT make up my usual routine.  Some helpful hints for eating disordered folks, and those around you, just as they pop into my head, to keep me busy while I try not to burst into tears over here.  (I woke up Wednesday on the verge of tears I was so anxious, totally confused.  "Why am I having an anxiety attack all of a sudden?" I asked myself.  "Duh," I realized later.  I mean, really.  It's a little ridiculous.)

Tips for Eating Disordered People

Tip 1:  Weighing yourself.  Don't do it right now.  Give it a few days, if you must do it at all.  If the number goes up arbitrarily on this one day, it's not related to what you ate in the last 24 hours anyway (that's just not how it works).

Tip 2:  You probably have a "problem area" that causes you more anxiety than most of your other body parts put together.  DON'T TOUCH IT. PAWS OFF!  In fact, put on the piece of clothing you have that makes you forget about that part most easily.  For me it's the waist (as it is for so many of us), and I'm wearing a lovely Empire-waisted maxi dress today.  Not perfect, but it helps.

Tip 3:  Get out.  Take a walk (with your billowy clothing on).  It'll get your mind off things and let your body do one of its positives, move.  Just remember - paws off.  No grabbing at pieces you hate.  If you're anorexic or an over-exerciser, time your walk and don't allow yourself to go over 30 minutes.  (Don't go if you don't think you can limit yourself to that.)

Tip 4:  If you run to anxiety before depression, like I do, remember to breathe.  Standing up and nearly passing out does nothing but exacerbate anxiety, and unless you actually have a heart/blood pressure problem, it's the anxiety that's causing the dizziness.  You don't have, say, a brain tumor.

Tips for Everyone Else

Tip 1:  For the love of Knut the Polar Bear, people, don't go, "Wow, you ate that whole [food]."  For the love of Knut, DON'T DO IT.  IT WASN'T A VERY BIG OMELET AND I HATE YOU.  *ahem*  Sorry.

Tip 2:  Actually, tip 1 pretty much covers it.


Cornell is Slicing Little Girls' Clitorises. Because Female Bodies Are Scary.

Individual and varying female sexuality:  Aiieee!  Scary!  Let's lock it up!  Or, you know, slice it up.  Either or.
(La Grade Odalisque, Ingres)

I don't keep up much with Feministing or Feministe, so Les Comtesses know to forward something when I'll find it particularly inspiring or appalling.  Guess which category THIS falls into.

Why - whyyyyyyy??? - is there this cultural obsession with women having "normal-looking" genitals?  I never understood why parents would want to roll the dice on an intersex child rather than allowing the child to mature and make the decision.  I can understand parents' apprehension about the child's navigation of social norms, and about the child's own confusion, but I'm not sure how arbitrarily making a decision then having to surprise your girl child about why she can't have children is a healthier option?

But when you aren't even talking about a clearly intersex child?  When you're clearly talking about a female newborn?  All that really comes to mind to say about it is, *ehm*


I mean, sure, it's okay for the penis, scrotum or testicles to vary from one male to another so very widely.  But you'd think that vulva and clitorises are supposed to come from a single, "correct" mold.  I mean, labiaplasty on women with no history of trauma to that region is sad enough to me.  But clitoroplasty and subsequent testing on little girls?  What.  The Fuck.

Men's bodies can look pretty much however they want (until they get WAY too fat, then look out! he'll kill us all with his selfish piggishness!) but a female body has to be managed right down to the most private detail - a "detail" that should have nothing to do with some arbitrary esthetic at all.  The point of the clitoris and the labia is not to be pretty.  In fact, if you believe Eve Ensler *bless*, the entire point of the clitoris is to, you know, orgasm.  The clitoris is special, isn't it?  Why on earth would you risk taking away part or all of clitoral function from your newborn, who will one day be a woman who might, you know, want the option of a fully pleasurable sex life?

We can say what we will about the barbaric FGM practices in certain societies (Somalia, Egypt, etc.) and decry the morphing of women into nonpersons in countries that enforce veiling (Saudi, Iran, etc.).  But in the area of expecting women to look a certain way, are we really so much better?  The conformity of the female genitalia is an obsession that's just as weird as abayas, if you ask me.  And people are obsessed.  I get over a thousand hits a month on my Brazilian wax post.  Personally, I make grooming decisions based around comfort rather than esthetics, since the husband could not care less (sorry - TMI).  But do I think for a second that the over twelve thousand people a year reading the Brazilian wax post are there because they're thinking about comfort rather than what's perceived as the trendy thing for female genitals right now?  I don't think that for a second.

It's a bizarre, bizarre obsession, and in the case of these little girls who will grow up to be women, and who are being fondled by adults throughout their childhoods???  It's heartbreaking.



Ophelia, Odilon Redon

"I will go mad!"
"Good idea.  I went mad for a while, did me no end of good."
(Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, Life, the Universe and Everything)

Sometimes it really is the best option when reality refuses to behave.  But here we're going to just briefly mention both kinds of "mad."

Restricting, bingeing, purging, etc. have a measurable, physical effect on the brain's workings, and when you try to rearrange the wiring again, it really does feel like going mad, especially if you don't particularly believe in anxiolytics for your particular situation.  The irrational reactions that recovering anorexics/bulimics/what-have-yous experience when rebuilding an appropriate nutritional platform is cited as difficult for ED-inexperienced therapists to empathize with.  These reactions are also one of the most common causes of relapse, giving up on pulling out of a relapse, etc.  Relapse and refusal to comply with treatment are both, naturally, frustrating for a treatment team (just as they are for the patient, mind you).

One can see why a therapist who doesn't specialize in EDs (or who doesn't have much experience yet) would balk and fume, if the frustration got to be too much.  I mean, what does such a reaction look like to a casual observer?  Some chick freaking out about cheese (e.g.).  Eating disordered patients (especially anorexics) are cited as provoking some of the most negative responses, including anger, in therapists across the psychological board.  

Boy, that's an achievement, isn't it?  You've got your psychopaths, your sociopaths and your Narcissistic Personality Disorder patients, but anorexics and bulimics are the patients who provoke some of the strongest reactions, including anger and revulsion?  That is interesting.  That is interesting to me on a sociological level.  To me that says that even trained professionals at a very real level have problems perceiving eating disorders as not, essentially, a choice.  Yes, if you want to get Existential about it, every action we take is a deliberate choice, but the point is: when you get into eating disorder symptoms (like an addiction), after a certain point your brain takes over and it is demonstrably chemically and physically harder for you to pull out of those choices.  And professionals who treat anorexic and bulimic patients know this.  And still, the madness.  It's interesting.


In Brief

After tonight's dinner, my former nutritionist would be very happy with me.  I am not so happy.


That is all.

The Listening Nymph
Jean-Jacques Henner


The Defeatist Omniscient

Learnings.  I has them.

Thursday evening I saw my doctor.  I weighed in at about the same weight as four weeks ago.  (A pound lower, but that doesn't really count.  A pound up or down, NPV = 0).  I've gotten to the spot where I definitely don't see myself as underweight (literally don't see, that is).   Not that I'm ever good about recognizing my own weight or shape, but I've gotten to the point where I see myself in certain recent pictures and go, "Oh.  Really?  Huh."  This is not to say that my body weight or shape is significantly different than it was in, say, April, just that I've reached the point where my eyes are sort of seeing a continuous looped image of my body recorded maybe a year ago.  I look at pictures of myself last May in Sonoma and see what I see in the mirror or looking down at myself right now.  I look at pictures of myself right now and I do not see the mirror.

In general, the doctor news is fine.  I'm having trouble taking in enough calories, but otherwise I'm plugging along.  The doctor is making me visit her every four weeks on the theory that eventually her prodding will get me to take the step of setting up a therapy appointment.  I'm what they call "pre-contemplative of treatment."  The stages from episode/relapse to recovery are often described as precontemplation, contemplation, determination, action, and maintenance (maintenance being recovery, more or less).  Where I, and many like me, get caught up right about now is that we know what we need to be doing.  We know what our disorders are providing for us (and preventing us from providing for ourselves).  We know our other options.  We know there are techniques and therapies, CBT, DBT, MET, what have you.  But we're pretty sure, somewhere in our crazy brains, that since we know all these ideas and treatments are out there (theoretically we didn't know about them, the first time around), and since we're not doing them, it just means that we can't/won't succeed at them if we actively try.   We know about them, so they must be pointless.

It's a logical fallacy of the first degree.  Maybe that's why it's so widespread in the relapsed ED community.  Logical fallacies are very popular with us humans.



Gino Severini
Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin 

On Friday I went to the Met to see the new American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity that re-inaugurates the Met's Costume Institute exhibits, which have been closed since I was still in college.  On Sunday I went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to observe Marina Abramovic's installation piece The Artist is Present.  Viewing both exhibits in one weekend was uniquely thought provoking; they function exquisitely as a juxtaposed pair.

The Met Costume Institute exhibit was very brief, and entirely too crowded for it to have been a Friday night; apparently I'm not the only one who's been eagerly anticipating the reopening lo these many years.  The exhibit consists of archetypal American women's fashions beginning in the 1890's, grouped into categories such as "The Heiress," "The Flapper," etc.  

Once I got past gawking at the impossible waistlines on the 1890's gowns, I spent a little time assessing and appreciating the levels of psychology upon which fashion and trends operate.  These gowns were art as much as they were fashion, but they were practical possessions as much as they were art.  Any good little feminist who read Backlash in college probably remembers the discussion of feminism-friendly eras (e.g. the 1920's, the 1970's) championing fashions that deliberately downplayed breasts, hips, and other stereotypically feminine attributes.  Seeing the evolution from wasp waist Victorian gowns to sleek Edwardian gowns to shapeless Flapper gowns, someone viewing the exhibit from my perspective couldn't help but see the gradual cloaking of the female body.  The gowns almost because equalizers.  The last room on the exhibit - The Screen Siren - is a visual shock after the shapeless (if still elegant) outfits preceding it.  The room contains low cut and clingy Grecian and Oriental gowns that wouldn't be out of place at today's formal events.  It's an interesting transition when you turn out of that room, expecting to see WWII-era dresses, and are instead faced with the exit room of the exhibit.  It contains no clothing, only flashing images of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Madonna, etc.  Not only is it a singularly jarring transition (which I am not used to from Met exhibits),  it functions as both reinforcement and rebuttal of the familiarities of those Screen Sirens gowns.  On the whole, the exhibit was, for me, disconcerting as an example of the hold of the public over female bodies.

With apologies to my friends who are better-versed in art than I, while I go to the Met every chance I get, the MoMA has never been high on my list of museums to frequent; I am not a lover of modern art.  I adore many artists right up through the Futurists (like Severini, above, and Boccioni), and then I just totally lose interest.  When at MoMA, I usually beeline for the fifth floor (1880's - 1940's), then head down to the garden for a little while, then head out.  Sunday, however, I sprinted my way to the second floor, in hopes that I could get a place in line to sit in The Artist is Present exhibit.  (I arrived about five minutes after opening, and the line to sit was already beyond hope.)  This exhibit has generated enough buzz in New York that I'd actually heard about it, which is saying something.  There's an official Flickr stream of each person who sits with the artist, and the experience of their experience is moving just from a computer screen, so I knew I'd have to shake a leg and get down to MoMA to at least observe, if not to participate.  Watching the museum visitors (around the edge of the lighted square in which the artist and partner sit) proved nearly as fascinating as watching the silent, seated duo.  

The exhibit's stated purpose was to break down the lines between performance/art and the ordinary.  What was especially interesting to me - in the Flickr feed as well as in person - was the degree to which the performance acted as equalizer, as those shapeless gowns once did.  As one example, look through that Flickr feed, and I guarantee you you'll just about pass over the celebrities who are tucked away in there, while your eye will pick out various "normal" folks who are wholly more captivating.

Art and performance is always most interesting to me when it succeeds in making me notice something about the world which I didn't notice (or noticed by didn't consider much) before.  The blending of body shapes, the blending of past and present that make up fashion, the blending of performer and observer, the blending of the observers.  They dovetail nicely, but just dissonantly enough to be quite unsettling.  The commingling of art and fashion, modernity and history, exhibition and participation.  Unsettling and fascinating.