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In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of interaction, via social media and email, with people who are struggling with eating disorders.
The time has come for us all to get righteously angry.
Myself, I have moved past anger to that steel-eyed, axe-sharpening, calm place of volcanic rage.
I am NOT angry at the girls and boys and women and men who are waging daily battle against the eating disorders which are trying to destroy them. I love those folks. I want to help strengthen them and offer whatever support I can, both to them and to their families.
(Why photos of babies? See the bottom of the post.)
No, my fury is leveled at the industries that make money off of vulnerable people by promoting unhealthy, unrealistic, Photoshopped body images. And I am hereby calling out everyone who thinks that promoting pro-ana (pro-anorexic), pro-mia (pro-bulimic), and thinspiration sites and behaviors is a good thing.
Borrowing a quote from Mamavision’s wonderful site, “Anorexia is a disease, not a fricking lifestyle.” (Learn who ANA and MIA and ED are, if you haven’t heard about them before.)
It is time to speak some hard truth. Are you listening?
ANA wants to kill you.
MIA wants to kill you.
ED wants you to die.
I am not exaggerating. Not even a little bit. More people die from eating disorders than from any psychiatric illness. (Sullivan, P.(1995). American Journal of Psychiatry, 152 (7), 1073-1074.) Want to learn more? NEDA has a great collection of statistics.
People struggling with eating disorders (ED) spend a lot of energy convincing themselves and others that ANA and MIA are enchanted phantoms or fairy godsisters who will help them lose weight and then – magically – everything will be better. They will feel beautiful. Accepted. Loved. Worthy. Accomplished. Important. Cherished. Happy. They starve themselves because they are starving for the powerful sense of security and belonging that every human being deserves.
How does this happen?
It often starts when kids stumble into the howling desert wasteland we call adolescence. Her (his) body changes. Hormones start to drive the brain train. Insecurities fester. Pressure and stress boil. Kids look around for guidance. Advertising hammers home the bullshit message that if they just lose some weight, all of their problems will disappear.
It’s a lie. An evil, obscene lie. Advertisers want to make you feel worse, not better, because if you are feeling kind of crappy, it’s easier for them to con you into buying stuff. They hire genetically thin models, pressure them to drug and starve themselves to emaciation, and THEN they Photoshop the images of these models until they resemble aliens.
Starting to understand my wrath?
People suffering from eating disorders are often malnourished. The chemicals in their bodies are all messed up from starvation and/or purging. Their brains don’t have enough fuel to run on, which makes thinking clearly and making smart decisions even harder. This is why they need our loving support, not our criticism or disdain.
By: Stacy A. Nyikos,
Blog: Stacy A. Nyikos
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, Kansas School Librarians Conference
, Laurie Halse Anderson
, Suzanne Morgan Williams
, Zu Vincent
, John Irving
, Barrie Summy
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Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson
I read both of these books back to back and did not give up on life entirely, which speaks highly to Anderson's talent as a writer. These are not easy reads. Speak
, celebrating its 10th anniversary in print, is about rape. Think that's edgy? Wintergirls
is about bulimia and anorexia. This is tough stuff. Anderson does a fabulous job with protraying real, troubled teens. For any girl who has been through rape or is battling an eating disorder, these pieces must feel empowering because they let the individual know, you are not alone.
The reason I review them together is because, despite Anderson's skill at real, gritty portrayal of these issues through a teen character, after finishing the books, I was left feeling much like I had after a spree of John Irving books in my early twenties, i.e. like the main characters were the same person over and over. Lia of Wintergirls
, birthed ten years after Melinda of Speak
, nonetheless feels like the same teen. Anderson's writing chops are much improved, although the symbolism in Speak
is incredible, the writing in Wintergirls
will leave you rereading again and again to pick up craft points, turns of phrase, ideas on how to take mental illness and make it real for readers. Still, Melinda and Lia are interchangeable.
Their voice feels very similar. Their reactions, similar. Lia feels like a more mature Melinda, going further in her personal psychosis, more unstable, more suicidal, more detached. Yet still, Melinda.
Which leads me to ask the following questions: What results in similar characters across novels by the same author? Can we authors only get so far from our own perception? Are we slaves to our own hermeneutics? Or do similar driving motives across different stories nevertheless lead to similar characters?
I am not sure what the answers are, but I would like to know more because I find myself falling into that pattern in a present novel. Certain secondary characters feel similar to ones in an earlier novel I wrote. How do I avoid that? Should I? Or does such similarity define an author much as a defining brushstroke can define a painter?
Food for thought.
For more great reads, hop over to our fearless leader, Barrie Summy's blog
. And for those of you in the Kansas area, if you get a chance, stop by the Kansas School Librarians Conference Thursday and Friday of this week. Barrie Summy, P.J. Hoover, Zu Vincent, Suzanne Morgan Williams, and I are the guest speakers for lunch on Thursday. It's a whole panel of characters just waiting to share!
Coburn, Jake. LoveSick. 2005.
I enjoyed the book, but the whole premise was so wacky that I had a hard time buying it. First of all, the author states that this is really a true story and that he had their permission to tell it. The story is rather implausible so I would have had issues with it anyway, but saying it is a true story made me even more annoyed because I really doubt this could have happened.
Ted was on his way to a full ride scholarship at a great school. His only problem was his alcoholism, which lead him to crash his car into a tree, busting up his knee. He was ordered to AA and lost his scholarship too. Erica is a rich girl from NYC. She is a bulimic who is supposed to be in recovery but she keeps slipping. Her father and therapist don't think she should go away to school because she isn't totally recovered yet, but she insists she is going. Her father pays an associate of his, Michael, to find someone that needs money, and hire him or her to spy on Erica for them. The job pays full tuition for 4 years, and the only job is to live near her in the dorm and report her activities to Michael. Ted needed the money since he lost his scholarship. Predictably, he ends up falling in love with her and telling her that he was hired to spy on her.
The book was fast paced and I am sure most teens will enjoy it. My only reservation with it, as I stated above, is that it seems totally unrealistic. But, many teens may not care, and just enjoy the story for what it is.
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, Medical Mondays
, bulimia nervosa
, daily food record
, treatments that work
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Ashley- Intern Extraordinaire
It is estimated that 1-3% of young adult women and one tenth that number of men suffer from the eating disorder bulimia nervosa, which involves binge eating followed by purging and feelings of guilt and shame. The goal of treatment is to unearth the factors that trigger such a disorder. The Treatments That Work series offers effective ways to combat various medical issues, and in Overcoming Your Eating Disorder: Workbook, by Robin F. Apple and W. Stewart Agras, patients are presented with ways to conquer bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorders. The following excerpt talks about keeping a Daily Food Record, a method that allows patients to connect what they eat with how they feel.
Common Concerns About Keeping Records
Despite the value and usefulness of keeping food records, it is not uncommon to be somewhat hesitant about self-monitoring.
Perhaps you have used food records previously and were unsuccessful. Even if prior attempts to record your eating were ineffective, we encourage you to give record keeping another chance! We expect that you will find food records helpful when used as part of this treatment…
Maybe you think that closer examination of your eating problems will only make matters worse. You may feel that you already spend too much time thinking about eating anyway. But there are many reasons for becoming even more vigilant about your eating, particularly when your goal is to improve it. As explained, the process of keeping track of your eating, and also the product of record keeping (a long-term food diary) can bring substantial benefits. When you monitor your own eating behavior, you become more ware of the context in which your eating problems occur, particularly the thoughts, feelings, and situations that place you at “high risk” for binge eating and purging. By noting the association between these types of factors and the occurrence of binge-eating episodes, you will be better able to identify and anticipate these difficult, triggering situations and to work out strategies for avoiding or responding differently to them. Retrospectively, you will be able to learn from past problems and successes with your eating by reviewing the contexts in which these types of eating episodes tended to occur and the coping strategies you attempted to implement. Noting long-term patterns will help you view your eating problems as more predictable and controllable…
The Importance of Timely Recording
Many individuals with bulimia or binge-eating disorder often acknowledge having a poor memory for the details of their binge episodes. They commonly describe “spacing out” while eating; even those who remain “aware” tend to reconstruct their eating patterns in a manner that reflects a global, overly negative, and black-and-white thinking style (e.g., overestimating the amount of food consumed, exaggerating its effect on their body weight and shape, viewing any departure from rigid rules about what should and should not be eaten as gross violations, and interpreting a small overindulgence as having “ruined” the whole day). For these reasons, we recommend that the most effective strategy for recording food intake is to do so at the time of or as soon as possible after eating. The advantages to this are considerable. First, the information obtained is most accurate and least vulnerable to distortion or poor memory. Second, the food record, when used in this fashion, can serve as a tool for planning meals and snacks in advance. When used in this way, the Daily Food Record can actually prevent or reduce the extent of overeating and purging by fostering a sense of commitment to sticking with a regular eating pattern and healthy food selections. Third, looking back over your records can help correct the types of perceptual distortions just described (e.g., the sense that you overate or “blew it,” without actual data to support that feeling or impression). Reviewing your food record daily may help you stay focused on the positive, reminding you that you are still on track, even when you are ready to give up. Likewise, an accumulation of food records over time will provide data about your rate of progress and level of improvement during the course of treatment.
Today's Ypulse Guest Post is from HemingwayHeroine, a YA blogger who works in children's publishing. I asked HH to share her thoughts on Wintergirls Laurie Halse Anderson's controversial YA novel about a girl with a severe eating disorder. If you... Read the rest of this post