Friday, February 29, 2008

Anorexia and suicide

This week, a new study out of the University of Vermont was published about anorexia and the intent of suicide. While it is a well established fact that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder of which suicide is particularly high, how seriously is it really taken? Suicidal acts have often been considered a call for help, a wish not really to die but to end the pain. Or for those who have succeeded, a call for help gone wrong. In this study, researchers looked at nine cases of anorexic women who committed suicide through extreme measures--measures where the likelihood to die was insurmountable despite having anorexia. Researchers concluded that their intent was to die by a quick means.

Although I think this is a unique set of research in this field, and I understand where the researchers are headed, I have slight problems with it too besides that the sample size is small. It's either that people do not hear about these types of cases, ie eating disorder individuals hanging themselves, setting themselves on fire, jumping in front of moving objects, etc. which were outlined in the study, or that these are the extreme portion of cases. Recently, we heard about the death of Polly Williams from the documentary "Thin" by an overdose of sleeping pills. Then several years ago, there was Anna Westin who died from an overdose of anti-depressants if I remember correctly. Both of these were more well known cases and used more common methods of suicide. While I agree that overdosing is not a guarantee for success of suicide, I think the intent is still there for many sufferers.

The one thing I do think is very important out of this type of research is to recognize the seriousness of suicidal tendencies among those with eating disorders. Then, perhaps, we can help prevent these type of tragedies, or better yet actually get health insurance to cover treatment costs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Century Project

Going along with the previous entry about body image, here is another book that celebrates women of all ages and their bodies. This is called the "Century Project."

Bodies and Souls: The Century Project image:

The photographer is Frank Cordelle. In this collection of photos, it shows women from the age 0 to 100. Each has a personal statement--some saying why they chose to be included in the project, what it meant to them, or just prose or poetry for how they may be feeling, etc. The reasons vary but each has their own purpose.

I actually saw this exhibit a number of years ago when I was in college. It was a very moving, thought provoking experience. At that time, I felt a bit more optimistic about my body image and felt inspired. It was one of my goals to actually do a project like this.

It's weird when I think about all this, because there was a time in my life when I did celebrate my body--the beauty, athleticism, musculature. I remember telling my father that I wanted someone to sculpt a nude bronze figure of me. Now, I can barely fathom that thought. I'm not sure what happened between then and now, but yet, I'm still discovering to find that piece of me again.

The Full Body Project

I was listening to an archived "Here on earth" podcast from WPR entitled "The Full Body Project." Jean Feraca, the host, was speaking with Leonard Nimoy (yes Spock!) about his book The Full Body Project.
The Full Body Project: Photographs by Leonard Nimoy

It's a series of black and white photos of nude full bodied women. I took a look of some of the photos here and found the photos quite interesting. Several of the photos resemble famous photos and paintings by renowned artists like Matisse, Raphael, Duchamp, and Herbert Ritts. However, more than this, it's the subjects that are captivating. These subjects are women who are part of the Fat-Bottom Revue, a group promoting size acceptance. This is something that is evident in these photos--the comfortableness with their size, their bodies, themselves.

Personally, I admire this type of work and anyone who can pull it off. In a society where we still covet thinness and have become in a sense "fat phobic," this is just refreshing to see. Whether someone is fat or thin or in between, it is about feeling OKAY with yourself just the way it is. I hope more people can reach this goal, including myself one day.

For more interviews on Leonard Nimoy and this project, click here and here

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Finding cameras

I was doing my ritual Sunday postecret checking, and there was a new one about finding cameras and returning them to their owners. Matt from Winnipeg has started a new blog just on this matter called ifoundyourcamera
where he posts photos, memory cards, and cameras that have been found from various places. If you've lost any of these, maybe they will show up on his blog and can be rightfully returned to you. Personally, I think it's a cool project. I've always thought photos are personal treasures that hold onto memories before they fade.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Today marks the beginning of Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW). It runs from today through March 1, 2008. The theme this year is "Be comfortable in your jeans." How many of us have jeans that do not really fit us but buy anyway hoping to fit into them someday or because they are cute? At, an online store which helps consumers buy jeans that fit them correctly, consumers can takes their measurements, find a style, and then buy it. I'm still for going to a store and trying them on before purchasing any jeans. However, this could be a good tool for those wanting to get an idea of what kind of jean style might work for them. I will note that these are designer jeans, so the cost is more expensive. Some proceeds from purchase will go to NEDA.

There are normally other events going on this week as well. Many have to do with celebrating positive body image, talking about eating disorders, having guest speakers talk about their struggles with eating disorders, etc. I encourage anyone to see what is in their area. Education is key to understanding. Even though in recent years there has been more research on eating disorders, both on the biological and psychological realms, it's still an illness which is understood.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beef recall

In the last few days, there has been a massive beef recall of 143 million pounds nationwide by the California Westland/Hallmark Company. This recall is the largest in US history, four times the amount from 1999 at 35 million pounds. It was sparked by secret footage taken by the Humane Society of the United States of workers abusing cows that were to be slaughtered. This in essence led to the question of the safety of the meat since sick cows unable to walk are not supposed to be used for food supply.

I watched the video footage when it first aired on one of the news stations on tv and was just appalled. Besides the health safety issue which the USDA minimizes to a small percentage, it raises a lot of questions about the beef industry in general. Although we can't make the generalization that this happens in most plants (that's really not the case), it's just the fact that it happens. Temple Grandin, professor and author of Animals in Translation has tried very hard to design these plants and instill policies to treat cattle humanely. Overall, there has been success with her protocols, but it still has a long way to go unfortunately. Click here to see her outline of humane design and slaughter of cattle. With so many plants nationwide, one plant may be excellent in the human treating of their animals, while others not at all. It's quite sad when you think about it. I'm not a beef or poultry eater, but I do think that animals deserve the respect even in their final days. Beyond that, it's for the general safety of everyone. I hope this will be a wake up call to the industry or to at least lead to some more investigations of these practices.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A day off but bummed

After working a straight 12.5 days since my boss was out of town, I finally had today off. It was really needed too. However, I had expected to sleep in until at least 7 AM. That didn't happen as my lovely you know who Mr. Baxter decided it was time to get up before 6 AM! He must have been set from the day before, because I did get up at 5:30 AM just to vacuum. Yes I know a bit bizarre, but I desperately needed to vacuum and kept putting it off and making excuses. Therefore, I figured if I just got up in the morning and didn't think about it, I'd just do it. It's kind of similar when I decide to do an early morning run. I have to not think about it.

I ended up remaining awake and checking my e-mail, reading articles, forums, etc. Then I had to leave for a Dr.'s appointment. This is the part that got me bummed. First I should say, I was exceptionally happy to ask NOT to be weighed. I'm not underweight or anything, so there isn't a real need. It was just one of those days when I couldn't face the scale. I know it probably had to do with both being on my menstrual cycle and gaining weight from five weeks ago. Even though I don't know the number, I can just tell by my clothes. I know that this should not matter but it's still hard. Anyway, the nurse was fine with it and just took my blood pressure. Then Dr. M. saw me. Dr. M. is a physiatrist and I met her in April 2006 when I had my first dog bite which resulted in parasthesia. This time around it was also for a second dog bite back in late September which resulted in a hideous bruise and probably some muscle damage. Since late November, I've been doing physical therapy for that, and it has helped. At the previous appt., I mentioned to Dr. M. my left knee was bothering me as well. She diagnosed it as patello-femoral pain syndrome. Basically, there is pain around the kneecap, but it's not certain specifically why. There are a number of theories for the pain, but I won't go into all of them. Just google it or "runner's knee," or chondromalacia patella.

I told Dr. M. that not only was my left knee now bothering but my right knee was too though in a slightly different location form the left. She checked them both out and did some manipulation exercises. Both knees have some popping going on, but my left knee is a lot worse. The theory we have come up with is that I've probably changed my running gait in order to compensate first for my hamstring and then my left knee. The last several weeks, I've had some pain in all three of these locations where previously I had minimal pain and felt great. I'm not exactly sure what happened from that time to now. Dr.M. said at this point I had to take a NSAID. I was bummed with that. I am not a medicine person, but at the same time this is kind of what I'm left with, so I need to comply and see if it helps, especially if I want to continue running. Dr. M. wants me to try it for a month and then reassess. If it's not better, then I could get a second opinion with an orthopedist. We're holding off on an MRI unless things get worse, well at least in my terms which would mean like unable to walk. Yes, I have a high tolerance to pain. In the meantime, she said I needed to try to back off my running mileage.

This is really hard for me. First off, I've planned to run a marathon in early May. I'm really excited about that and want to be in one piece by then. Secondly, I just do not get the same endorphin rush running low distances. Dr. M. was really understanding of this as opposed to my father who just keeps saying "don't run, rest for a month." He doesn't get it, and it drives me crazy. He says I'm OCD about it which I'm not. I don't run everyday, I have rest days, cross training days, etc. Do I get periods of anxiety build up? Yes, but I do not think the earth is going to shatter if I don't do a run. Most of the time, I am able to keep this in check seriously. Dr. M. and I discussed the endorphin rush thinking. She was saying how after a few days, runners do feel lousy because of not having that endorphin rush. I have tried to do other exercises like biking and such, but it is just not the same. I will admit the endorphin rush phenomenon is controversial. There are proponents who believe that strenuous exercise releases endorphins which are similar to opiates and produce a "feel good" feeling. Others think the endorphin rush is mythical and not measurable. Still others believe it is all just in one's head. Here's a nice article outlining the controversy of the "Runner's High." All I know for me is that I really do feel better after running, and it always lifts my mood.

Anyway, I kind of got off topic a bit. After my appt., yes, I did got for a run which I had already planned and felt better afterwards. It was a good run overall too. My highlight of the day however, was some woman who said I had pretty hair as I was walking into Whole Foods. And this was after my run, so to me, I didn't look too hot. My hair was down, combed out, and spritzed with some nice smelly stuff. In another post, I'll talk about hair which is actually kind of part of my identity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! Besides the flowers, chocolates, and dinner, you can also try the "Love Detector." Yes, you got that right, that is the name. It's a service out of Seoul, Korea from a mobile company. Apparently, it uses technology that is able to analyze voice patterns to tell whether your significant other is speaking honestly about his/her affections. There is even a "love meter" incorporated and a detailed analysis through a text message.

Hmm, whatever happened to just saying how much you care about the person in person. My thinking is that if you know someone well enough, you will know whether their affection
s are real for you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The latest new "doll"


From the makers of Mattel, the company who brought you the ageless Barbie whose proportion sizes are so off the chart that she could not exist, we are introduced to the "America's Next Top Model" doll. It was just time before this really happened, and it seemed to miraculously hit shelves just as the launch of the new "ANTM's" season begins next Wednesday.

image: Entertainment Weekly

The dolls are Paisley, Sienna, Sidney, and Tascha. All are 12 inches tall with jointed torsos (hmm, I guess the rest isn't moveable?) and adorned with the oh so necessities girl needs--jewelry, outfits, shoes, a purse, a compact, and hairbrush. They are now available on amazon and ebay and can be yours too for only $29.99.

A writer from Entertainment Weekly whose photo is above wrote an article about getting these dolls in the email recently. He wrote his own rendition of the elimination round. Personally, I found it quite funny.

I admit I've watched reruns of ANTM before. To me, it's just another reality show with all the drama and fuss imaginable. Surprisingly, when my mom visited me awhile back, she caught some reruns of it and found it highly addicting! I thought that was weird since she is not normally into that type of show at all.

I'm not really sure what to think of this. It's just another added marketing thing to young girls.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The devastation of eating disorders

I was originally going to add another post about the fashion industry since London's Fashion Week just kicked off yesterday. However, I'll post that at another time.

I was surfing forums and came across the news that Polly Williams who was one of the four women featured in the 2007 documentary "Thin" has passed away. It's incredibly sad and a grim reminder just how powerful eating disorders are. I don't know any of the details but word has it that she committed suicide. Lauren Greenfield, the documenter of "Thin" recently posted on the HBO Thin forum with the obituary from the TN paper.

Although I did not agree with everything in the film "Thin," I held out hope for those women that they would recover. Unfortunately, as a psychiatric illness, anorexia has the highest fatality rate. I hope Polly is at rest and my heart goes out to her family and friends.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Eating disorder diagnostic criteria investigated

Will diagnostic criteria for eating disorders change?
According to this new study out of Rhode Island hospital and Brown University, researchers found that the majority of eating disorder individuals fell into the category of "EDNOS" or eating disorder not otherwise specified. This essentially means that these individuals did not fall strictly into the categories of anorexia or bulimia defined by the DSM-IV-TR.

This really doesn't surprise me at all. Experts have debated for years about the official criteria for eating disorders. Many have said it needed to be changed and the definition broadened as this study shows. I read awhile back that some eating disorder experts have suggested the removal of the "amenorrhea" criteria in anorexia for the new DSM-V, set to be published tentatively in 2012. In many cases, amenorrhea has been shown not to be that reliable of an indicator for anorexia. In this archived article from The New York Times, there is wide discussion about the "future of EDNOS." It will also be interesting to see whether other new subtypes will be considered such as "purging" disorder which made news back in September 2007 by Dr. Keel from University of Iowa.

Authors are even weighing in on naming and labeling, including Aimee Liu. On her website, she is actually having a naming contest asking people to think of a new name for "eating disorder." She will then address the Academy for Eating Disorders for "official" consideration.

If you speak to those with eating disorders, many get upset about the whole diagnostic criteria for eating disorders feeling that it's basically just a "label" and should not matter. Others feel that without an official diagnosis, their illness is not validated. Unfortunately, insurance companies want a label. To them, that label is important. It gives them the power to say what coverage they can allow whether or not it is actually sufficient for your treatment. Further, without a pure recognized "biological" basis, many insurance companies will not cover as much for treatment. Researchers are gaining ground on this area, but it has a long way to go. Many states have some form of a mental health parity law, but it varies state to state. This site gives a nice rundown of each state.

Whew, lots of information there. I went a little off tangent, but all of this relates to one another vastly as these are the issues of today.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Yeah, power!

Tuesday night, we had some horrendous storms with lots of rain and wind rip through here. Since it was at night, most people were sleeping, including me. The one good thing I did (or at least thought I did) was set my cell phone alarm in case the power did go out. Lo and behold, the power did go out, however, my alarm did not. Actually, I should back up and say my cell phone alarm didn't go off, but Baxter decided to take its place. It worked out well since I had to be at work by 8 AM.

So no big deal the power was out. I called that morning and reported it to the electric company and talked to them about when restored service would be. They said they were working on and it would be soon. Evening rolled around, and no power. Again, not that alarming, I had my flashlights, candles, and my headlight band. I expected the to be restored by the time I woke up, especially since my landlord who lives 0.5 mile away had power.

The next morning, again no power. I was beginning to panic at this point. I had a lot of freezer and refrigerator food plus all my dogs' food and my freezers were thawing out. After talking to the electric company this afternoon and them telling me there was no guarantee on restored power today, I decided to move my stuff into coolers. Then when I got home around 8:00 PM after going to the library to check my e-mail because I hate being "e-mail-less" and whining to my friends that my power was out, the power was back on. I was quite relieved to say the least, but at the same time, I felt like I was worrying for nothing.

It's interesting, because back in 2003, there was a very bad ice storm here. I ended up without power for 11 days! I survived it and did okay, but ever since then, I just seem to panic when the power goes out for longer than a day. It's not only that, but I've come to the realization that I would not do well in some place like Alaska where there are not as many sunlight hours.

I think there is more to this than just the power going out. It's the fact that my whole routine changed. I wasn't able to get any of my land runs in this week due to the weather. I had other appointments in the afternoon to go to, I had more work to do at the kennel since my boss was gone, and a few days, I just didn't feel that well and was exhausted. I'm hoping now that things are mostly back to normal, my mind will ease a bit, and I can relax. It's amazing how important electricity is and not to be taken for granted.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat and health care costs

The title of the article is "Fat people cheaper to treat." After reading the article, it kind of makes you feel bad if you are thin and healthy, because you cost more in the long run. The government has continued to say that by preventing obesity, it will cost less. This study basically counters that whole theory. Researchers looked at three groups: obese, smokers, and healthy-living subjects (thin and non-smoker). They found that the obese and smoking groups had higher health care costs from age 20 to 56. However, because both these groups die earlier than their healthy counterparts, they cost less in the long run. And if you have lung cancer, the only cancer incidence which was the same in all three groups, you are really cheap to treat. Gee, that's good to know. However, if you have Alzheimer's, you may live longer and cost more.

Does anyone see the irony in all this? It is a reminder how much health care has become a business. In the end, we all need to strive to be healthy individuals no matter the size. Obviously, those with eating disorders were not looked at, but if it had been, it would have been interesting to see the comparison of costs of complications and treatments. Oh right but then again, they don't live as long, so it may have wound up cheaper overall compared to all three groups. Okay, I'm in a little bit of a sarcastic mood today.

New York Fashion Week

image: New York Times

February 1 launched New York's Fashion Week. It's considered a huge event for American designers to showcase their newest collection. Within the last year in a half, however, it's the super thin models that have been given the spotlight than the actual clothes. With the death of four models during that time, the modeling industry was forced to make some changes. Madrid was the first to actually ban too thin models. Milan followed suit with a manifesto, however, London and New York did not. They each decided to come up with something different, asking designers not to use too thin models, have healthy food backstage, provide for workshops educating models on eating disorders, and requiring models be at least 16 to walk the runway. There may have been a few other guidelines, but I don't remember off the top of my head.
They essentially said that the modeling industry was self-regulating and bans were unenforceable. You can take a look at the rundown of the model industry changes here.

Last year's NY Fashion Week, several articles claimed "super skinny" was out and that only healthy models were walking the catwalk. Hmmm. So is that trend still true this year? I'm not so sure taking a look at the photos. Now I have not looked through all of them as there was quite a few. None quite jump off the page at me, but still, I think thin is still in for the most part. If you take a look at the New York Times Style section and the Nymag fashion section, you can make your own judgment.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Gaining: the truth about life after eating disorders

image: gainingthetruth

I just finished Gaining: the truth about life after eating disorders last week. Overall, I think it is a very good
book. Even though I already knew much of the research Liu explained in her book, there were some different and interesting insights. I didn't find the book triggering, but I did think it was interesting how much she quoted Marya Hornbacher. Nothing against Marya who is an exceptional writer, but I think Wasted is a triggering book for many. Obviously, Liu didn't quote those types of passages. There were also many quotes from the late Caroline Knapp in her book Appetites and Sheila Reindl, author of Sensing the Self. Other professionals too were gave their viewpoints as well.

Reading this book reminds me of a friend, K. who several years ago divulged to me about her anorexia in her teenage years. When she told me, I was dumbfounded as I honestly never imagined her to ever have had an eating disorder. At the time K. told me, it was a sigh of relief for me as we were both rooming together at a conference. I then knew there wouldn't be judgments on what I was or was not eating which was something that cause me a lot of anxiety. And I did have many from other conference attendees whom I was working with. To this day, K. does not have an eating disorder. Like Aimee, the author of the book, she didn't get any formal treatment.

I guess what I find interesting is that thinking about her characteristics--wanting to be in control, a bit neurotic at times (in a nice way), always keeping a strong face in hard times, perfectionistic, etc. are all traits many of those with eating disorders share. I often wonder how it is that she was able to overcome her eating disorder and not look back whereas I've been stuck in it for the last almost twelve years.

Anyway, there's a lot more to this book than I've posted here. I'll probably have to re it again at some point to full take in all the information. I do think this is very hopeful book for those in recovery and recommend it.

Help the Hungry

Someone sent me this site a few days. I think it's pretty cool. Basically for each word you get right, 20 grains of rice is donated to the United Nations World Food Program. So check it out and see how your vocabulary is.

Free rice

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day. Will Pinxsutawney Phil see his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter or vice versa? Personally, I am hoping for the latter, although it would be nice to use my recent purchase of yaxtraks this year.

Although I do not completely believe in Phil's prediction as gospel, I think it's fun to play along with this tradition. After all it's been going on for 120 years! Plus, I just think groundhogs are cute. Last April, I literally saw one in my back yard underneath my shed. That was really cool to see. I remember grabbing my camera and trying to take some photos. I got a few shots without him moving, but they were from a distance. Here's my version of Pinxsutawney Phil. It's hard to see, but he's that little guy sitting there.


Well, according to the official Groundhog Day website, Phil has seen his shadow. That means six more weeks of winter. :-(