carnival of eating disorders #23 – part 2

here’s part 2 of eating disorders carnival #23, a monthly blog carnival about eating disorders, body image and related issues. part 1 is here.

intuitive eating: challenge the food police
through thick’n’thin has a series of posts where the book “intuitive eating” by evelyn tribole and elyse resch is discussed. the book contains ‘the in-body experience’… 7 steps to reclaim the normal eater within’. here is step six – challenge the food police

scream a loud ‘no’ to thoughts in your head that declare you’re ‘good’ for eating under 1,000 calories or ‘bad’ because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. the food police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. the police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to intuitive eating.

weight loss and online wellness
tami blodgett presents weight loss journey posted at online wellness: a safe haven.

it’s almost january and you’re planning a weight loss journey. a typical january first: here you are, totally hating being overweight. you wake up every morning totally uncomfortable. you dread spending another day carrying around this excess body fat! it’s the time of year to begin again and your thoughts turn to self-improvement. “that’s it!” you say. “i’ve had it!” join online wellness association member, kelly lacost, as she prepares you for your 2009 weight loss journey.

binge eating to become official
if you hate yourself because for years, you’ve done things like get up at 1am and empty a carton of ice-cream, drive from one fast-food place to another so that they won’t notice how many hamburgers you eat in a row, or have a double piece of pie after five helpings of dinner – well, it’s not clear whether you REALLY have problems. at least not according to the holy grail of psychiatrists, the DSM-IV, which includes binge eating disorder as an “eating disorder not otherweise specified”. that’s about to change.

it’s estimated that anorexia affects about one percent of the U.S. population and bulimia 4 percent. binge eating disorder eclipses both, affecting about 10 percent of the population but it has yet to be recognized as a diagnostic eating disorder unto itself. despite the vast range of eating disordered behaviors, there are exactly three disorders one can be classified with: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (ED-NOS). binge eating disorder falls into the latter category, a vague catch-all diagnosis for people who don’t fit one or more of the criteria for anorexia and bulimia. those classified with ED-NOS can range from a morbidly obese binge-eater to a 90-pound girl who meets every criteria for anorexia, except she still menstruates.

the rest is here, at the f-word.

seniors and body image
i found this blog the other day and thought i should include it here. this post is 2 ½ years old but still interesting.

last year a 63 year old woman i was working with at the time told me that she hated herself because she is so fat. hated herself! and, she added, that if she ever lost weight she still wouldn’t be able to like herself, because she is old! to me, both fat and old, that was a tragedy. what chance is there that a 63 year old woman is going to finally get either thin or young? which means, for her, what chance is there that she will ever be able to like herself? and, what can she accomplish in the world if all of her energy is expended on hating herself? is she going to fight for fairer wages when she is busy counting calories and calling laugh lines wrinkles?

what, do you suppose, would happen if we took all that attention that we now spend on hating ourselves and avoiding mirrors and wearing vertical stripes and counting calories and reviewing everything we’ve eaten so far this week to see if we can “afford” two cashews and breaking out in rebellion and then hating ourselves for eating all of the cashews — what would happen if we took that pathological self-involved energy and turned it outward? if we stopped weighing ourselves and started weighing the politicians and corporate CEOs and far right demagogues who profit from our unhappiness?

the rest is here. don’t forget to go to the last post on this blog; it’s quite moving.

black and beautiful
black is beautiful – or is it? weight and wrinkles are not the only things people are concerned about when it comes to body image. a girl like me is a short student documentary concerning the issues of identity and standards of beauty.

love your body
i missed love your body day back in october! really hope i’ll be present for it this year. fortunately, anastacia caught it – and wrote a beautiful letter to her body.

in honor of love your body day (which i just found out about this afternoon via jezebel), i have written a letter to my body. i’m posting it here with the hope that, if i falter or forget, i will have the strength from reading this to straighten myself out.

dear body,

i’ve been thinking about you quite a bit lately and shaking my head with wonder that i have treated you so horribly for 31 years. i have taken you for granted, thinking that i can do whatever i want without repercussions. i just assume you will cooperate and adjust and it’s untrue and unfair; it has never worked. you have tried so hard to tell me, to warn me, to force myself to open my eyes to the fact that you’re tired and you will not cooperate if neglected. you’ve bitch slapped me about the drinking, the drugs, late nights, self-starvation and an infinite number of ways i mistreat you, and i never noticed or cared. it has taken a long time, but i am finally starting to listen, to open my eyes, to treat you as an ally, to work with you and not against you. and even though i have done nothing to deserve it, you are cooperating with me. (i would, however, like to file a grievance against my intestines. we shall address this privately.)

eating disorders, a mental health issue
last but not least, laura collins points out that an eating disorder is a mental health issue and asks the provoking question maybe we need to start stigmatizing for not having a mental disorder?. she’s concerned about parents who slink away from discussing their childrens’ mental health issues and wonders what’s really so bad about it when, according to some statistics, 50% of young people are dealing with them. here’s what she says about the brain:

it’s an organ. it interacts, more than any other physical system, with the world. it learns, it changes, it responds to the society and circumstances of its time and place. its vulnerabilities are also its strengths: we humans often respond to the world in miraculous ways. we create art, we shelter babies, we invent unthought-of of things, we stare down dangers – these require a nimble mind. a risk-taking and highly responsive mind also at risk for malfunction, just as complex machinery fails more often than a simpler tool.

a commenter challenges her:

i agree that mental illness is very real but i have a hard time believing that half of young adults suffer from it. i get annoyed when people who don’t have an illness claim to have it. it trivializes those of us who actually do suffer from illnesses.

what do you think? is mental illness easily trivialized? do you see eating disorders as a mental illness?

thanks to all the wonderful, thoughtful contributors. i’m looking forward to the next eating disorders carnival on january 31.   in the meantime, do you have, or do you know, a post that would be a good addition to this carnival? if so, please submit it here or drop me a line.


  1. Considering illness as dis-ease…a 50% affliction rate is quite the conservative estimate.

    Perhaps “mental illness” is a term of art for industry professionals, but from where I sit (in ignorance) the description is fairly applied to eating disorders. After all, if you remove the patient’s brain, their eating disorder promptly disappears.

    Chris | Martial Development’s last blog post..How to Learn Zhan Zhuang From a Book

  2. Tricky question. Is politics a mental illness? – it seems to not deal with the real world (global warming and so forth).

    I guess I think mental illness is often trivialised – try out telling someone you’re depressed and experience the barrage of trivial advice.

    I guess I see eating disorders as a mental illness in the sense of other behaviours that cause us harm. I’m uncomfortable with the term ‘illness’ though – it can lead to the idea of taking a pill for it rather than learning to enjoy our physicality and beauty.

    Evan’s last blog post..Wellbeing from Mindlessness (in defence of categories and habits)

  3. A really informative post – fantastic information, which is really relevant to the issues of today. I have a friend who is very overweight and one friend is far too thin. I do find it very hard to cope with being their friend! – all we ever seem to talk about is food!! I do try my best to support them, but it´s hard, when all I want to do is go and have a cup of coffee and a cake with them.. then the conversation moves onto “full fat milk” and “cream” and… euch! Everything in moderation – everyone has to learn…exercise and drinking plenty of water means you can have a little bit of what you fancy every now and then!


  4. @CC i’m so sorry, i had misplaced your submission. it will be in the next one for sure!

    @evan is politics a mental illness? good question! i know what you mean about the trivial advice. (“you should try st. john’s wort! it helped aunt hilda when her cat died!”) (not to minimize aunt hilda’s grief but you know what i mean …). and i, too, feel a bit strange about the word “mental illness”. however, i have to say that i have become more comfortable with it over the years. a cold is an illness. why not a bout with mania?

    @anna nice to meet you here, and thanks for the comment! “everything in moderation” is, of course, just the thing that painfully eludes a person with an eating disorder …

  5. Perhaps the real question is whether eating disorders (and depression and bipolar and schizophrenia and anxiety disorder) are BRAIN DISORDERS.

    I believe they are. That doesn’t mean a pill is the treatment – we don’t have a pill for them. But it does recognize that the patient is dealing with a real and very serious problem that will require excellent clinical and practical assistance to overcome.

  6. laura, this is always an interesting question, almost one of philosophy as much as science (it’s the whole mind-body thing, in the end). someone like daniel dennett comes to mind.

    i’d be interested in hearing what you mean by “real”. if it turned out that someone who, say, suffers from constant sadness, or someone who eats way too much didn’t have a correlate of that in the brain, would the suffering be less real, less serious?

  7. Suffering is suffering and deserves care and support – no question.

    But I cannot imagine a scenario where an emotional state or cognitive experience DIDN’T have a correlate in the brain!

    The issue with mental illness is, to me, that there are some conditions that are exponentially more difficult than our normal experiences and we try to treat them as if they are just extensions of normal. The same tools used for simple sadness isn’t appropriate in depression, and standard psychotherapy isn’t usually strong enough for an eating disorder. I think we do well to respect the profound brain experience of mental illness.

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