Tag Archives: anorexia blogs

overeating and anorexia: a dialogue

“yes, it is possible to lose too much weight,” said joshua seth in one of his submissions to the carnival of eating disorders, talking about courtney love’s unfortunate adventures with all kinds of eating disorders.

my first reaction to this was, “well, yes, duh!” but then it got me to thinking. while we read and hear about anorexia in the media, like with many mental health issues, unless it’s in our face all the time, it’s actually not “duh”. it’s not self-explanatory.

there is an interesting dynamic that can take place between people who undereat and those who overeat.

“oh i wish i was skinny like you!” is something that people whose anorexia does not manifest in radical or overly visible weight loss often hear. hearing this can be crazy-making, because the cognitive-emotional reaction often goes in two opposite direction at once. one is a wistful, almost helpless “if only you knew that i’m not skinny-beautiful, that i’m skinny-sick”. the other is a prideful, judgmental, “it’s because i have discipline, you fat cow!”

once in a while it happens that two people at the opposite spectrum of eating disorders sit down and talk and realize that they have a lot in common: a constant preoccupation with food, body image and weight. not infrequently, it plays itself out in similar ways, for example, going to great lengths to avoid situations where certain types of clothing are worn (e.g. weddings, beach); not eating in public; excessive weighing; crushing feelings of guilt over every morsel that is eaten; an obsession with diets; an intense craving for junk food, etc.

and every once in a while, these conversations reveal that eating disorders are precisely not about what the preoccupations are about. a significant proportion of people with eating disorders suffer from depression and anxiety. somehow, at some level, food – eating or not eating it to excess – turned out to be a useful tool for coping with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. granted, at some point the coping mechanism doesn’t work anymore and then a person is burdened with the eating disorder on top of everything else. but that’s usually some time – even years – down the road because another common denominator of eating disorders, similar to drug use, often start out quite pleasant. for the person who eats too much, chocolate tastes good, and the one who doesn’t eat enough, knowing that a lowly feeling such as hunger can be beaten down and ignored can give a heady feeling for control.

“yes, it’s possible to lose too much weight” – and let’s add, it’s dangerous to do too much of a lot of things. one thing that we rarely do enough of, though, is talk to each other and share our experiences. and dialogues between overeaters and anorexics – there’s definitely not enough of that, and i honestly believe it would help everyone.

p.s. there is a movie about this topic, disfigured. i haven’t been able to get it yet but am looking forward to seeing it. anyone been to it yet?

parents and eating disorders

today we have a guest post by laura collins, mother to a daughter who struggled with anorexia, and an activist in the movement to help people with eating disorders. you have probably met her already – she’s contributed some posts to our carnival of eating disorders, from her blog eating with your anorexic.

isabella was kind enough to ask me to write a bit about a new project: F.E.A.S.T. (parents empowered and supporting treatment for eating disorders).

F.E.A.S.T. is really the culmination of six years of networking and information-gathering since my daughter recovered from anorexia nervosa. when my daughter became ill i was as clueless and lost and frightened as any parent. i found the treatment world unimpressed with my willingness, and eagerness, to help my daughter recover. my husband and i felt – because we were – blamed and marginalized.

but we were lucky: our daughter’s illness coincided with a change coming about in the ED world: a growing realization that eating disorders are biologically based brain disease. this knowledge has caused a treatment world that had been focused elsewhere to reconsider the role of parents and carers in the treatment process. instead of seeing parents as either pathological or unnecessary, parents were beginning to be trusted as appropriate caregivers and resources. our family was lucky to have ridden that wave – but i quickly realized that change is very slow and that most parents even today are not being told that their child’s eating disorder is not a choice – and is not something they have caused or erred in not preventing. the blaming of patients and families is still going on – and this is damaging patients and families.

my work as an activist – giving talks, writing articles, offering online resources and years of an online forum – have taught me the power of parents to support a loved one toward recovery. i’ve also learned the collective power of parents, and the damage of the collective silence of ED parents. we’ve stayed quiet out of fear and guilt. when we let go of fear, and reject the blame, we can do great things.

F.E.A.S.T. is a way to empower parents with information, mutual support, and activism. i am so excited to be part of this.

supporting the family is one way to support patients – our loved ones. no parent should feel helpless or alone!

i think it’s important to take into consideration all the many points of view on mental health issues such as eating disorders. while my theoretical perspective on anorexia is a bit different from laura’s, i have great respect for her work, and am honoured that she allowed me to present her new oragnization here on change therapy.