Monthly Archives: May 2008

carrnival of eating disorders #17

welcome to the 17th carnival of eating disorders, where we look at blog posts that deal with anorexia, bulimia, exercise bulimia, overeating, orthorexia, EDNOS, body image and other related topics.

i have to confess that after all this time, the name “carnival” of eating disorders still rings funny in my ears. suggests these alternative words for carnival:

“carny, celebration, circus, fair, feast, festival, fete, fiesta, holiday, jamboree, mardi gras, merrymaking, revelry, show, sideshow”

hm. “the mardi gras of eating disorders”? how about “the feast of eating disorders”?

well, maybe not quite. what do you think? should we get a new name? if so, what do you suggest?

in the meantime, this is what we have on the roster for this month:

obesity and breast cancer
like every friday, something on cancer:

obese women tend to have a much more aggressive disease and that means a lower survival rate. in a study, dr. massimo cristofanilli at the university of texas m.d. anderson cancer center, observed 606 women with advanced breast cancer … they classified the women by body mass index into three groups, normal, overweight and obese. obese women had a 56.8 percent survival rate after five years, 56.3 for overweight women and 67.4 for normal weight women. reportedly the fat tissues are to blame for the more aggressive form of the disease and for the likelihood of recurrence.

read here for the rest.

children with eating disorders

australian children as young as six are presenting at hospitals with eating disorders so advanced that almost half require forced feeding to save their lives, a study has found. new data has confirmed that anorexia and starvation are becoming increasingly common among children, with a third of cases seen in under 18-year-olds now occurring in kids under 13.


when my mental health started declining in 2004, i used exercise to cope. actually, i over-used exercise and became addicted to it, compelled to engage in it. my passion for exercise began quite innocently, with the occasional short run or trip to the gym. before long, running to and from the gym became the routine.gradually, however, i began challenging myself and soon enough created a network of people who enjoyed physical fitness and fed my growing preoccupation. i pushed myself to keep up with this athletic crowd. eventually i came to rely on the thrill and escape from the feelings of unworthiness that physical fitness offered.

blondbombchelle talks about her realization that she is dealing with an eating disorder, which also includes exercising too much:

after years of yo-yo dieting and struggling with weight and poor body image i finally recognized early this year, with the help of books, a health coach and other medical professionals, that i suffered from a binge eating disorder complete with a side of exercise bulimia and super-sized diet obsession.

… and gives us these insightful words:

i have been consuming solids for over 32 years now, but am really just beginning to learn how to eat.

anorexia and suicide
josh hill discusses a new study in australia about suicides by people suffering from anorexia. it is a well-researched article that also points to a previous finding:

a previous study of about 250 women suffering from anorexia in 2003 at harvard university showed that the risk of death by suicide among anorexic women was 57 times what would be expected from a healthy woman.

the blessings of bulimia

you think i’m kidding, right? well, i’m not. there are blessings to be found, if one is willing to look. first of all, right at the start, bulimia is a loud warning signal. something is very wrong and we are trying to cope. it is a call for help, and some are fortunate enough to have it heard early on. deep inside, you know something isn’t right. you are looking out for yourself, but you’re not in a position to do it all alone. you’re doing the best you can.

food and body image – when you’re not so young anymore
adventures in reading reviews a book about – well, about women like me, i guess

the day i ate whatever i wanted and other small acts of liberation [is] the latest collection from elizabeth berg. this was my first time reading anything by berg and i found the collection humorous, thoughtful, and nice.

the thirteen stories scrutinize mostly middle-aged-women’s relationships with food, body image, aging and family.

guilt and eating
at small steps to health (which has the great tag line, “we do not take orders from a cookie!”), asithi has some good ideas about moving away from guilt after a mistake:

there is no need to feel guilt for a mistake. we do not need to double our workout time today because we miss our workout yesterday. after all, it is not as if we are going eat 10 pounds of spinach today because we have not been eating them for the last year. instead focus your energy on how to not make that mistake again.

and more: barbara goes into the medical/scientific explanation of being overweight and in a post that is not directly related to our topic but is nevertheless of interest to us here, d. singh asks whether google healthy is health for us. can we entrust our health to google? finally, the middle man presents man flu, a story about a strange disease that left “middle-aged, midland-born, middle manager from the UK” with a phobia of eating in public for years.

that’s what i have to report for this edition of the carnival of eating disorders.

i’m going to take a short hiatus from this carnival and will be back with the next carnival of eating disorders on july 31. once again, i’d like to invite anyone interested to host this carnival – and of course to submit any and all interesting articles here!

quickie: i need your opinion!

votingi’m going to be in the may 2008 bloghology.  bloghology is “a collection of bloggers and their masterpieces blended as a monthly ezine.”
one of the things i’ve been asked for this bloghology entry is, “what are your 5 best blog posts?”

now i have an opinion on this but really, your opinion, dear readers, counts for more.

so could you tell me please – what do you think is/are my best blog post(s)?

you can leave your vote here or anywhere else on this blog.  and i don’t require you to crawl through the whole blog figuring out the URL – if you say somethig like, “you know, the one where you talk about dr. seuss”, i’ll do the detective work.

thanks so much!

oh, and if you’re a blogger yourself and would like to be part of a future bloghology, just get in touch with mert!

 image by amypritchizzle (what a cool name!)

the definition of addiction

in the last few weeks, a radio interview and two articles have encouraged me to again look at the nature of addiction. one of them is a discussion we are having on this blog here about alcohol use and art, with contributions by danish composer skovgaard danielsen and zen practitioner and painter eden maxwell. another was an article by trisha gura about chocolate addiction. the radio interview was with dr. gabor mate, well known for his work in our inner city, vancouver’s downtown eastside, as well as on stress and ADD.

so let’s look at some definitions of addiction.

cynthia jane collins in her book the recovery spiral has an interesting definition:

if we habitually or compulsively – with or without awareness or intention – use any activity, substance or person[s] to move us away from our true selves, we are practicing addictive behaviours.

gerald g. may proposes that

addiction is any compulsive, habitual behaviour that limits the freedom of human desire.

ben furman and tapani ahola, two scandinavian therapists known the world over for their imaginative work with therapeutic conversations once playfully gave addictions a name: “the muluttaja”. it derives from fascist times in finland and personifies the idea of “oppression and tyranny.”

virginia satir, one of north america’s foremost “elder” in family therapy, and another of my favourite models for therapy, talks of addiction as a coping mechanism for a rule that says, “i can’t feel what i feel.”

aviel goodman of the minnesota institute of psychiatry, who writes quite a bit about sexual addictions says that

addiction designates a process whereby a behavior, that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide escape from internal discomfort, is employed in a pattern characterized by (1) recurrent failure to control the behaviour (powerlessness) and (2) continuation of the behaviour despite significant negative consequences (unmanageability).

finally, gabor mate, whose absolutely fantastic book, in the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction has this to say:

in the english language, addiction has two overlapping but distinct meanings. in our day, it most commonly refers to

a dysfunctional dependence on drugs or on behaviours such as gambling or sex or eating.

surprisingly, that meaning is only about a hundred years old. for centuries before then … addiction referred simply to an activity that one was passionate about …

in the words of a consensus statement by addiction experts in 2001, addiction is a “chronic neurobiological disease … characterized by behaviours that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving” …

the issue is not the quantity or even the frequency but the impact …

he then gives his own definition:

addiction involves:
1. compulsive engagement with the behaviour, a preoccupation with it;
2. impaired control over the behaviour;
3. persistence or relapse despite evidence of harm; and
4. dissatisfaction, irritability or intense craving when the object – be it a drug, activity or other goal – is not immediately available.

he concludes his chapter, “what is addiction?” by saying

we need to avoid the trap of believing that addiction can be reduced to the action of brain chemicals or nerve circuits or any other kind of neurobiological, psychological or sociological data … addiction is a complex condition … we need to view it simultaneously from many different angles … to get anywhere near a complete picture we must keep shaking the kaleidoscope to see what other patterns emerge.

now my question to you – those of you who have experience with addiction, either personally, through friends or family, or professionally: what do you think of these definitions? do they define addiction? or do you have another definition that works better for you?

quickie: enviro peeves

comfortable public transitalexander over at planet thoughts asks, “what’s your pet enviro peeve”? what a great question!

i’ve left a comment there (hope it’s approved by now) about plastic bags at the supermarket.

another one of mine is public transit. coming from europe, and having lived in south america, i’m used to public transit in all shapes and forms so i’m a bit enured to its challenges. actually, one of my peeves is people not moving to the back of the bus when it’s full. here in vancouver, when the bus driver deems the bus is too full, it just drives past any waiting passengers until the driver feels the bus is at the right capacity again. much of it has to do with how full the bus is near the bus driver. it irritates the bejeezus out of me when the driver yells, “move to the back!” and no-one reacts. have none of these people ever had to wait for the next bus when a too-full bus drove by??? it always seems incredibly selfish to me (“i’m on the bus now, so who cares.”) so when i’m near the front of the bus and the driver needs room, i push relentlessly.

anyway, the other day, it was like that again, and a woman towards the back of the bus shouted, “we’re already packed like sardines, we’re not gonna move!” i looked over, and saw nothing sardine-like. however, i did notice that there was pretty much the same number of people as there were slings to hold on to. all of a sudden it dawned on me – people need their space! and if they’re used to space, as they are here in canada, they’re not going to give it up unless they get something pretty good in return.

ever since having had the very pleasant experience of using the go-train in ontario for my commute many years ago, i have been thinking that transit needs to be comfortable and pleasant, otherwise people won’t use it. this experience on the bus the other day just reconfirmed it.

all of which illustrates one of my pet peeves: we need a transit system that entices people to use it.

what’s the solution? well, here in greater vancouver, one solution is certainly to vote paul hillsdon into surrey council, one of my fellow vancouver bloggers, and 19-year-old environmental wunderkind.

so, friends, what’s your enviro peeve? and what do you think is the solution?

(image: kim bach)

(this post was included in the eco blog carnival)

frozen pea friday post: health and poverty

moneyin last week’s frozen pea friday post – the weekly post about people dealing with cancer, inspired by susan reynolds and my friends who are dealing with cancer – we alluded to the difficulty of paying for the necessary care needed for people living with cancer. this immediately led me to thinking about the connection between health and socio-economic status (SES), or income level. having spent the majority of my career as a counsellor with people living in poverty, particularly people in vancouver’s downtown eastside, canada’s poorest urban area, i am very familiar with the connection between health and income.

says one canadian government web site:

only 47% of canadians in the lowest income level rate their health as excellent or very good, compared to 73% of canadians in the highest income group.

canadians who live in the poorest neighbourhoods are more likely than residents of the richest neighbourhoods to die at an early age.

at each rung up the income ladder, canadians have less sickness, longer life expectancies and improved health.

in the UK, “life expectancy in the wealthiest areas is ten years longer than the poorest areas. the gap appears to be increasing as life expectancy for the prosperous continues to increase while in more deprived communities there is little increase.”

the impact of poverty on health by shelley phipps for the canadian population health initiative and the canadian institute for health information gives further information:

research has found a very robust relationship between an adult individual’s income and that individual’s health. regardless of how health and socio-economic status (ses) are measured and how these measures are combined, there is little doubt that poverty leads to ill health.

  • the relationship between individual income and health is non-linear (i.e. low-income individuals suffer larger negative health consequences than high-income individuals reap health benefits, though high-income individuals do reap benefits).
  • long-duration poverty has larger (negative) health consequences than occasional episodes of poverty.
  • both income level and income changes are significant predictors of health status, but income level is the more important of the two.

further along in the study, there is mention that chronic diseases such as arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and hypertension are much more common–often twice as common–for aboriginal persons, who also have generally much lower SES than non-aboriginals.theories on how SES and health are connected include these:

absolute income hypothesis
this hypothesis suggests that health status improves with the level of personal income, but at a decreasing rate. one implication is that:”…if income is redistributed from the rich, whose health is not much affected, to the poor, whose health is more responsive to income, average health will improve. other things being equal, including average income, nations (or other groups) with a more equal distribution of income will have better average group health.”

absolute deprivation hypothesis
this can be regarded as an extreme version of the absolute income hypothesis. it suggests that very low standards of living are bad for health, but that once past some deprivation threshold, additional income is not particularly important for health. the emphasis here is that individuals living with very low incomes will encounter physical conditions that may undermine their health, such as poor nutrition, more limited access to health care, hazards from poor environmental quality, health-limiting behaviours such as smoking and sedentary habits and stress resulting from coping with very low income.

neo-materialist hypothesis
this hypothesis argues that high levels of income inequality are simply one manifestation of underlying historical, cultural, political and economic processes that simultaneously generate inequalities in social infrastructure (such as medical, transportation, educational, housing, parks and recreational systems). from this perspective, inequalities in health derive from inequalities in all of the above aspects of the material environment.

lynch and co-authors employ the metaphor of a long trip on an airplane to explain the difference in interpretation between the psycho-social and the neo-materialist interpretations. on a long trip on an airplane, passengers seated in first class are treated better: they have, for example, more room and receive better food. passengers travelling in economy class are cramped and, these days, receive little–if any–food! lynch et al argue that by the end of many hours of travel, the differences in physical conditions and treatment will reduce the well-being of the passengers in economy class (beyond feeling negative emotions because they know they are being unequally treated).

(image by old shoe woman)

a buddhist carnival – may 2008 edition, part 2

so … here’s part 2 of this month’s buddhist carnival. you can find part 1 here.

buddha’s birthday
talking about carnival, here are some pictures of buddha’s birthday festival in perth put on by the buddha light international association (i know it from my husband’s family, who are japanese pure land buddhists, as hana-matsuri). here’s a picture.

a buddhist monastery in india
and while we’re traveling, let’s go with maneesh to india. he has a really nice description of namdroling monastery in kushalnagar. on the outside it looked quite ordinary, he says, but inside, one room had so much of positive energy that after standing there for ten minutes he felt completely refreshed.

inner smile
… and somehow i can just imagine leaving there with a big smile! gia combs-ramirez (what a neat name!) talks about the inner smile

this is a smile that is created by very slightly raising the corners of your lips while adopting the inner stance of a smile.try it … first smile big, lifting the corners of your mouth way up. feel the corresponding shift inside of you with this smile. now just slightly smile and put more emphasis on the shift inside of you.

one of the biggest proponents of the inner smile is thich nhat hanh. go to gia’s blog and you’ll see a picture of him – smiling.

letting go of blame
great to see a submission by matthew spears, who always contributes well thought-out (and well … in-heart?) articles, like this one, the flame of blame. he comments, “by assigning responsibility to anyone or anything for a given result, you are assigning blame. it is the need to look for a cause for an experience that is the major factor in blame. so if you want to let go of the blaming process, you must let go of a need to assign responsibility.”

i and we
finally, an interesting little reflection piece about the word “i”: “try to use the word “we” instead of “i” for one day. while saying it feel all the ancestors behind you, and all people in the future.”


thank you, friends, for a really good buddhist carnival, thanks for the honour of hosting these great posts. let’s all come together again next month, on june 15. please, if you have an article you’d like to see featured here, use this submission form.