Tag Archives: obesity

self esteem: the thread in the quilt of recovery

a quilt in the makinghere is another interview with someone recovering from an eating disorder. this person used to eat too much, and has been and still is dealing with it by going to overeaters anonymous.

isabella: “you’ve come a long way, baby” – how long HAVE you come? what’s changed?

OA person: how long have i come? i would say the longest i have come is out of isolation. i am very aware of the benefits of talking/writing/meeting with others to discuss what is a core weakness in my life with people who understand. i carried the burden alone in my childhood. i am no longer a silent-suffering victim. i am an active participant in my recovery. so i am greatly empowered.

isabella: what’s the most important thing in your recovery?

OA person: the most important thing in my recovery is: hmm…self love

isabella: how would you characterize your relationship with your body?

OA person: my relationship with my body is greatly healed but there is still some ‘disconnect’ and i still need to ‘care more’ for self (especially losing weight). i am grateful for my body. it is relatively healthy. again, it is an improved relationship, big time.

isabella: self esteem – how does it fit into the quilt of your recovery?

OA person: self esteem is like the threads in the quilt of my recovery. i have to think i am worthy of a better life before i can embark on one. the more i use and grow the threads, the bigger and stronger the quilt!

isabella: any other comments or suggestions for someone with a story similar to yours?

OA person: just keep coming back. don’t give up. try something new in recovery. allow yourself to feel like crap if you do. but then move on. feel the feelings and then let them go. break out of isolation and start talking to people, sharing at meetings, phoning or emailing or whatever you can do today to get out of yourself. my biggest ‘trap’ is self.


a note from isabella: “keep coming back” is a phrase often used in 12-step meetings. it means don’t give up, keep trying. it can also carry the meaning of “keep remembering who you truly are, in all your beauty and health.”

image by open threads

a mystery about weight and shame: two weeks under

here’s another book i read recently – two weeks under, by rivka tadjer.

doing these book reviews reminds me a bit of my aunt. she loved buying clothes but she’d often get sick of them real quick, and then she’d ask me if i wanted them. she was 40 years older than i so – well, as you can imagine, as a 22-year-old, i didn’t quite share her taste. but she’d always urge me to try them on anyway (we did wear the same size) and i was often amazed how good her pink polyester set or her brown tweed skirt would look on me.

two weeks under was a little like that. i’m not quite sure what you’d call the genre because i rarely read this sort of book; it did remind me a bit of confessions of a shopaholic (which i managed to read 2/3 through). what would you call that genre? let’s ask amazon. oh yeah, chick lit. two weeks under is also a mystery but not the mystery that i tend to read (i like tough-wounded-but-compassionate-guy stuff, and irresponsible-funny-guy stuff, that kind of thing; robert b. parker is my guy!) perhaps it’s chick lit mystery?

here’s the description from amazon:

elana diamond’s 35th birthday isn’t much to celebrate. she’s still alone and depressed, so this year the make-a-wish-candles can do you-know-what with themselves. and her archrival at work, who thanks to her flawless judgment also happens to be her ex-fiancé, is being groomed to fire her. fighting to keep her job, she can’t afford to pay attention to her non-existent personal life, much less the sudden rash of suicides going on in manhattan. all professional women, all just like her. then someone closely connected to elana becomes the next suicide. she can no longer ignore the dying women, or anything else. an intense, secretive reporter surfaces, claims to be a friend, but he’s a little too knowledgeable, a little too curious. reluctantly, elana tries to figure out why the suicide happened, and if this reporter is involved. she finds herself lured into a consuming world of shame and dieting, where going under a medically induced vanity coma to lose weight makes sense. a kind neurologist tries to help, but when elana finds out what really happened with the suicide, she’s in so deep she might not survive it. anyone who tries to help her won’t either. and no one seems interested in facing the truth. racing against time, and fighting her own demons, elana must try to find enough evidence for the truth to be heard, whether or not she makes it.

what i found interesting was the way tadjer treated the subject of being overweight.

145 pounds, 5-foot-6. disgusted, she studies her lumpy, clearly 35-year-old self in the shower.

honey, that’s not overweight. it’s a woman who, depending on her frame, may have some soft spots on her but overweight is something else. i couldn’t quite decide whether tadjer really believed that numbers like that were overweight, whether she wanted the reader to think that the protagonist thought that was too much when it really wasn’t, or whether she hadn’t done her research (the last option is unlikely – she teaches journalism at SUNY).

now i may be splitting hairs here – but if the target readership is women who are battling with weight, then they will probably ask themselves questions like that, too.

fortunately, rivka tadjer has a blog, so hopefully she’ll read this and help us clear this up. consider yourself tagged, rivka! (does the answer lie, perhaps, in your definition of the term “weightism”?)

tadjer does a good job at bringing out the deep yet only superficially articulated feelings of shame that plague women who are struggling with their weight, as well as the uneasy, disjointed and a lot of other un- and dis- relationships such women have with their mothers:

i spent a lot of time alone when i was a kid, so as horrible as it sounds, being alienated came kind of naturally. i guess you can inherit loneliness. and when you’re alone, you start guessing at what’s right, and you start judging yourself, harshly.

well, my mother was the first to do that. she always wanted me to be more – smarter, neater, better dressed, more doting, better looking. she told me i did things wrong all the time, didn’t show me how to do them properly, and then she’d pepper in that i shouldn’t push myself too hard, success isn’t everything.

on that same page, there’s also an intriguing sentence, “i’ve been the ayn rand of my own body.” i wonder what exactly is meant by that.

how cool, to be able to ask the author these questions. i’m looking forward to your answers, rivka!

if you’re looking for an easy read over the holidays but want something a little different than a mindless romance novel, two weeks under will hit the spot.

disfigured: anorexia, obesity and a friendship

reviews seem to be the theme these days. here’s a video i was sent – disfigured. i wonder who shouldn’t watch it. one-track-mind rambo fans, perhaps. people who can’t stand delving into other people’s psyches. those who don’t like sex scenes on screen, no matter how elegantly presented. and if you don’t like watching people who are overweight, it’s not for you, either.

if you don’t count yourself among any of these, watch it. it’s well done, it’s interesting, you’ll learn something.

disfigured is about a friendship between two women – one anorexic (darcy), one overweight (lydia), neither of them extremely so. which makes me like the movie right off the bat – it’s good to remember that most of “those” people are actually quite normal (whatever that means, but that’s material for another blog post).

here are some tidbits:

on using anorexia to deal with conflicts:

someone pisses you off, you count how many calories you can cut the next day – YOU’re the one in control … now it becomes a blood sport

both, overweight and underweight, get the “we-have-to-talk-about-your-health talk” from well-meaning people, or people who can’t resist the temptation to stick their noses into other people’s business:

they let me know that i am fat … they always have some great system or plan … “you have such a pretty face if you only – ” (ate more; ate less; exercised more; exercised less – pick appropriate advice)

part of the plot is a half-hearted relationship between lydia and bob. bob weighs a bit too much, as well and – shoot, i’d love to tell you about that but i’d spoil it for you.

on the secrecy of overeating: “you eat at home, alone, when no one’s looking.”

which again, isn’t so much different from being anorexic. when you’re anorexic, you pretend to eat to distract people who are watching you.

on the addictive quality of overeating when lydia, after trying to “learn how to be anorexic” in order to lose weight, caves in an brings home bags full of goodies:

i just want to really get it over with? what – life? i already feel crappy but i have to eat what i bought, i just want to get it over with

then the tables are turned – well, maybe, that’s for you to find out if (when!) you watch the movie:

bingeing: you should try it … it’s better than sex … cross over to the dark side

many psychologists and therapists would say that part of the reason for eating disorders are disjointed feelings around what it means to be cared for and about. this meets with flippancy (“you hate me? no, i’m fine”), eating (“this is me taking care of myself. at least somebody is. – who takes care of you?”), and isolation (“you don’t understand!” “i do understand!” “i won’t let you!”). finally “if anyone is going to try and care me into getting healthy, i’ll scream.” and then … well, as i said, see for yourself.

the film ends with a moving, inspiring monologue by lydia.

these bodies – they’re us. how can we live in them every day and find them so strange? how can we hate them? they’re beautiful, and miraculous and sad – everything we experience, we experience through them. sooner or later we’ll just have to find a way to love them for what they are.

i’m not a big movie buff, actually more of a movie scrooge. if there were more movies like disfigured, though, i’d watch way more.

blogathon: weight loss dude’s 5 diets

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link;if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps. thank you!

and here is another entry to the carnival of eating disorders, which happens on this blog every last day of the month. a blog carnival is a sort of readers digest of blog entries on a specific topic. because of the blogathon, i’ve decided to feature three entries that i thought were interesting. this is the last one, by the weight loss dude, entitled five lifestyles that do lead to weight loss

there have been at least five times in my life where my lifestyle did lead to an ideal weight or weight loss at a rate that would lead to my ideal weight.  i’ll cover each in more detail in the future, but i thought i would list them for you to ponder:

his list includes

  1. running and eating well.
  2. the high fat experimental diet i mentioned in a prior post … it apparently leads to poor overall health based on how i felt during that diet.
  3. methamphetamine addiction. this is not recommended for obvious reasons.
  4. the carbohydrate addicts diet.
  5. atkins style low carb dieting.

he goes into a bit of detail of how these diets worked for him. read the rest here.

i usually don’t feature a lot of “how to lose weight” articles here because that’s not what eating disorders are about. they’re about behaviours around food, food addictions, and often enough about obsessing over diets (which is one of the reasons there are similarities between overeating and anorexia).  so talking a lot about diets would be a bit counterproductive.

having said that, i have to confess that i find the weight loss dude’s approach amusing and engaging. his idea is to try a new diet every week or so. by doing this, he says, he won’t get bored. he has lost weight and, what i find more interesting, he gains a lot of insights along the way. there’s also a certain down-to-earth feel to his blog that i like. i guess when you try one diet after the other, you can’t really keep up the i-have-found-the-diet-of-a-lifetime hype that comes with a lot of other diet blogs.

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. thesaurus.com 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!

carnival of eating disorders #16

hello people! this is the new edition of the carnival of eating disorders. unfortunately, i’ve been having problems with the blog carnival site (the site that administers all the carnivals) so i have had only a few submissions this month, two of which i’ll be including.

to substitute for the slim pickins, i’ll feature this time a poem – last day of poetry month! – and two topics that twitter friends of mine have suggested.

a bulimia poem

imagine yourself in a room of people eating.
jaws break down and digest tiny nutrients
absorbed by miniscule pores, countless internal mouths
in the stomach lining, fissures in nerve tissue.
by the window, there is a girl frozen with fork raised,
distanced from the herd”a cautious lone zebra
crouching in the reeds, spying lions at the waterhole
and hiding her stripes.

go here for the rest.

anorexia promotion to be outlawed in france
the first topic suggekeira knightley, super skinnysted is by jan, who thought it would be useful to talk about a bill adopted by france’s lower house of parliament this month which could be the catalyst for the worldwide fight against eating disorders. the bill still needs to be approved by the senate but if that occurs, it would make it illegal for anyone — including magazines, web sites and advertisers — to publicly promote extreme thinness or unhealthy methods of dropping a few dress sizes.

here are three views on that.

girl – woman – beauty – brains says

with the jury still out on the cause of eating disorders, i can’t condone france’s hard line approach to dealing with the media. you know what happens when the government gets involved in free capital issues. not only does corruption loopholes or other means to circumvent the system arise, but usually the legislation and ensuing laws are ineffective.

looking at how this might play out in the courts, particularly in the US, carrie from ed bites takes a more favourable view, citing the ideas of a father of a person with anorexia who also happens to be a lawyer:

while the first amendment probably protects pro-dieting and pro-ed speech from government censorship, it does not protect that kind of speech from civil liability. the tobacco industry, for example, was nailed for huge money damages for failing to disclose the dangers of smoking and for evil practices like marketing cigarettes to children. those practices violated general tort law and consumer protection statutes and were found by the courts not to be protected by the constitutional right to free speech. it would be interesting to look at the marketing practices of the diet industry for examples of where it crosses the line. like failing to warn of the dangers of dieting.

finally, the people at 5 resolutions are pretty clear on their positive take on this and urge others to go along:

if you think the u.s. government should play an active role in eating disorders research, treatment, and prevention, go to the eating disorder coalition’s website and sign up for their newsletter. we just did.

what do you think? should any form of favourable communication about anorexia and bulimia be banned? or is that a form of censorship? what kind of effect would such a law have on people with anorexia or bulimia, and on the population as a whole?

anorexia and exercise
the second alert i got from my twitter friend rob cottingham, who pointed out that the april/may edition of the running room’s magazine has an article about eating disorders. i tried my best to find anything on the internet about that but wasn’t able to. going onto the running room’s forum, there is a small section on anorexia. interestingly, it has a poll asking whether anyone on the forum knows a runner with an eating disorder. 25% said they did. i think the idea of a sporting goods company talking about eating disorders is fascinating, and if any of you know anything more about this, please let me know!

and here are the two submissions that made the cut.

obesity and overeating
the weight loss continues to report on his particular way of losing weight – trying a new diet every week or so. here he talks about eating raw.

at small steps to health, people who are struggling with their weight are encouraged to

take a few days (at least one weekday and one weekend) to write down any emotion related eating. on a sheet of paper, put in four columns: triggers, behaviors, consequences, and action plan.

she then goes into a bit of detail for each one of these. this is a method that works well for people who are really ready to beat their demons. it works for any habit, and i highly recommend it.

so, people, that’s it for this month. if you have written an article on any of these topics or have seen one you like, please, submit it to the next edition of carnival of eating disorders, to come out on may 31. please use the carnival submission form.

(image by jo salmon

stress and obesity

i just came across this interesting study conducted by the georgetwon medical center.

they injected a neurotransmitter (neuropeptide Y, or NPY) into targeted areas of laboratory animals, thereby reducing the fat that had accumulated there.

the investigators speculate that their findings may lead to better control of metabolic syndrome.

the fascinating part of this is that this is connected to a mechanism the researchers found by which stress activates weight gain in mice. this may explain why people who are chronically stressed gain more weight than they should based on the calories they consume. (yippee! i’ve always been suspicious of the simplistic calories in, calories out theory.) said one of the researchers:

decreasing fat in the abdomen of the mice we studied reduced the fat in their liver and skeletal muscles, and also helped to control insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, blood pressure and inflammation. it might work the same way in humans, but much study will be needed to prove that.

the findings could provide some comfort to stressed individuals who blame themselves for a weight gain that seems outsized given the food they eat.

read more about this here.

weight loss and the law of attraction: a dialogue

yesterday, we had a guest post by david about using the law of attraction to lose weight. since david’s and my views are a bit different, i promised you a dialogue about it. so here we go. i will start with some of the ideas with which i agree:

i completely agree that our expectations are an important part of how we each create our own unique worlds. there is a lot of research that supports that, e.g. on self-fulfilling prophecies and other expectancy beliefs such as self-efficacy beliefs (the “i can do it” factor).

introducing more self-love into our lives and stopping harmful self-judgment are very important; personally i believe that they are a significant ingredient in not only improving our personal lives but also in improving the lives of those around us (hence my tagline: making lives better, making better lives).

appreciating and loving our bodies is a crucial element of this. currently, denise wilfley at washington university is working on finding out whether improved body image can have an effect on weight. it is well-known that a disturbed body image is connected to low self esteem.

lastly, i also agree that paying attention only to negative statements (“if i eat that, i’ll get fat”) is counterproductive. we shape our reality according to our attentional biases.

now let me point outwhere i don’t share david’s point of view.

we can’t deny that eating certain things on a consistent basis will make most people fat; that’s one of the main reasons for the obesity epidemic in north america. i doubt there was a big change to the negative in terms of body image in the last 60 years; but we know that the arrival of fast food and an insane amount of choice of overly fatty, sweet and salty food coincides with the rise of obesity.

also, research points to the fact that obesity does have a genetic component, and most people who’ve tried would say that “it’s hard to lose weight” is a statement of fact. i think it’s important to keep these things in mind (without dwelling on them) because they can help with weight loss. e.g. it’s useful to know that 2 cups of carrots have the caloric equivalent of one slice of bread.

david says, “when you love your body, then naturally your body will feel better and will become healthier. as this happens your body will naturally shift to fit the image that you are holding in your mind: a healthier, thinner body.” i am not sure how that mechanism is supposed to work. has it worked for you?

existing research does not show that a better relationship with one’s body results in weight loss (maybe ms. wilfley’s work will change that; we’ll have to see). also, the experience of fat acceptance people would refute the claim; people who are part of the fat acceptance movement often put much effort into having a positive, loving relationship with their body, without a resulting weight loss.

finally, david writes, “you will never lose weight while you judge yourself fat. that is rule number 1.” unfortunately, that is not true at all. the people who arguably have the worst problem with body image – people who struggle with anorexia or bulimia – do precisely that. so does just about every other person who diets.

summarizing all of this, i’d say that when aiming towards a healthy body weight, it’s useful to pay attention to how our minds shape our uniquely experienced version of reality, and to love our bodies. it is also important to keep in mind that a positive body image does not equal a weight that your doctor would be happy with; and that body weight is correlated with caloric intake, exercise, metabolic rate and genetics.

and of course, let’s not forget that much of this is very individual. i don’t doubt for a minute that improving one’s body image can be the solution to someone’s weight issues (which is different from saying that it is the solution for everyone).

it is interesting to note that a large-scale study on the effectiveness of various treatments for obesity recommends intensive counselling as the best approach. since the best counselling is counselling that is tailored to the individual’s need, i would hope that those for whom improved body image holds the most promise will receive exactly that type of intervention.

over to you, david and of course you, dear reader – what do you think? what’s your experience?

(this article was included in the 50 best blog posts on the law of attraction