Sunday, November 30, 2008

Which genes drive metabolism?

Reuters reported an interesting article a few days ago about researchers finding 4 genes that drive metabolism. The four genes FADS1, LIPC, SCAD and MCAD affect the metabolism by determining the rate in which individuals burn up food. These genetic variations could lead to personalized treatment for those who have susceptibility to obesity or coronary artery disease which have genetic components.

So this made me wonder. If you knew you had these genes and that your body would never be the "thin" (in your terms) ideal that you wanted, would you continue to pursue your efforts in trying to obtain it? Would it actually give you a sense of peace, knowing that you didn't have control over what your body did or rather would it make you feel worse, like your body was betraying you by having these certain genes?

Friday, November 28, 2008

It takes guts to build bone

The latest issue of the journal Cell has a very interesting report about new findings for bone formation in the body. Researchers at Columbia University learned that bone formation is controlled through the gut chemical serotonin. Yes, this is the same serotonin in your brain which affects mood, appetite, and sleep. In the body, 95% of serotonin is produced by the gastrointestinal tract, while only 5% in the brain.

While studying two rare bone diseases (one which causes very fragile, weak bones, the other which causes very dense bones) affected by mutations of the gene called Lrp5, they found that the Lrp5 gene was responsible for the synthesis of serotonin in the gut. Therefore, by regulating the production of serotonin in the gut, bone formation was controlled. In this case, with mice, once the intestine production of serotonin was turned off , osteoporosis was prevented. There was an opposite effect in making the bone mass decrease when the production of serotonin was activated. (Lrp5 gene inactivated)

According to Dr. Karsenty, lead researcher, the bottom line is, "
The findings demonstrate without a doubt that serotonin from the gut is acting as a hormone to regulate bone mass."

This new finding has implications for osteoporosis treatment, because many of the medications only prevent the breakdown of old bone. When osteoporosis is diagnosed, the bone loss is already accelerated, therefore, the possibility to find a drug that depresses the gut's serotonin synthesis, could stimulate bone growth for these individuals.

I'm not sure how this or if it would implicate those with eating disorders who have been diagnosed with osteopenia/osteoporosis, but I think there might be some possibility for treatment. This is especially true since there is
no clear evidence for medicinal interventions. Although of course weight restoration and early intervention provide the best possible outcome.

Other source:
Bone finding may point to hope for osteoporosis

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thinking about gratitude

I have been looking to find the right "Gratitude" image for this post. I scoured many images but none was really what I wanted, so instead I used this photo I had taken a number of years ago. It probably doesn't fit, but I don't know, it's pretty and simplistic and really just needs the word "gratitude" to make some kind of motivational/inspirational card. Maybe that makes no sense?

Anyway, I've also been reading a number of articles about gratitude. There's everything from how we should be grateful for the things we have--to the people around us, to the jobs we hold, to food, to shelter, to warmth, and the list goes on and on. There are even quite a number of articles how
gratitude can make you healthier and happier and change your attitude on life. I don't discount any of these things, because I think there is some relevance to all the above.

However, there are some articles that look at gratitude differently. This article from the
Citizen-Times out of Asheville is one that caught my eye: about being grateful for the unwanted things in our life. The author says,

Around the table today there is a tendency to get caught up in being grateful for having the things we want. But often it is the unwanted that transforms our lives and pushes us to grow into the people we are destined to become." He then asks, "Around the table today, are we grateful because we have everything we want, or are we grateful for having what we need — love, integrity, courage, compassion, openness?"

This article out of the The Star-Ledger also gives an interesting spin to the holiday, in saying, "it's okay if there isn't any thanks this Thanksgiving." This author essentially says how we shouldn't make assumptions of what someone else's holiday should feel like, because it is different for everyone which can be either a positive or negative experience.

And lastly, how I think about gratitude. It's an interesting phenomenon to me. I do not just feel grateful on Thanksgiving day but rather daily. I feel grateful for broad things alike-- the tangible and intangible things I have, as well as the people and memories experienced in my life. Sometimes I think I may feel grateful too much. It's in a way of feeling highly grateful that anyone does something out of pure nicety for me. I'm sure this roots back into the whole "deserving" thinking, but still, I find myself struggling with it a lot, despite the fact that I try to be gracious to all walks of life. Maybe it's like this quote from the Christian Science Monitor:

"It's nearly impossible to feel grateful unless you're convinced that the blessing is yours. Which means that gratitude moves us from well-meaning faith to rock-solid understanding."

The article is more about how this young woman was able to not just acknowledge God but actually feel it which helped her conquer her fear of mediocrity and failure and realize what she had to offer. I think this is true for a lot of us in general--to feel convinced that we have much to offer this world.

I've kind of gone off tangent here, but I want to end with this quote by Melody Beattie:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

And with that, I wish each and every one of you a healthy, safe, and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Confessing about the holidays

Most of us find holidays difficult. I'm no exception. Ever since the beginning of my eating disorder, I looked at any holiday drastically differently. It's become more of a going through the emotions feeling than real enjoyment. Besides the fear of foods, chaos, and stress that seems to come with the territory of holidays, there is a feeling of guilt for me.

This is mostly attributed to the fact that it somehow feels
wrong to spend the holidays alone, and certainly I would tell someone that they should be with the people they love. I mean that is what the holiday spirit is supposed to be about.

Since college in which I went "home" for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, I hardly do now. My father asks me every year to come, and honestly, I guess you could say I make the excuse not to come or don't make enough of an effort. Some of this really is logistical reasons--distance, taking care of pets, and working. I know it saddens both my parents since I really have not spent the holidays with them, meaning specifically Thanksgiving day or Christmas day for the last six or so years.

When they each call on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, they always ask what I will be doing. And for most of those times, I tell them I'm going to so and so's house just so they think I'm not spending it alone. There have been a few times where I went to another person's house or volunteered somewhere, but in actuality, I've spent the holidays alone. Usually, I treat it like just another day, though I do have a tendency to make holiday foods for myself or bake something special. Even though I've gotten used to this(or maybe I've just convinced myself of that), for some reason, this makes me feel like an awful person. Even the times when I've mentioned it to people that I did not go "home" for the holidays, there is a look of "why not, you should be with your family," And it leaves me feeling in an awkward place, like somehow people feel sad for me or that I'm some horrible person since other people do not even have families or friends to share the holidays.

What I really want to tell people who ask why I don't visit family at the holidays is that they don't understand--that there are issues between my family and me, anxiety over the food, that my father will get on my case, that the holidays will be ruined because of me, etc.--all of which have happened. These issues also surface whenever my parents are visiting anyway, but it just feels so much more
heightened right at the holiday, a time when things are supposed to be festive, happy, residual feelings of the past put aside. And then I think, what makes me different? Many people go through similar situations, how come I feel like I can't handle it? That leaves me feeling even worse. It's like some stupid perpetual cycle inside my head.

:sigh: I don't know where this post is going. I guess in this moment I'm just feeling out of the norm and blaise about myself, because I feel like I can't really be honest as it would just hurt the people who I know care deeply about me.

It is my hope that one day I can feel better about the holidays and remind myself that there are joys which can encompass them.

Can pro-anorexia websites be attributed to suicide?

Ever since the publishing of the Newsweek article about Pro-Anorexia websites moving to Facebook, there has been a lot of discussion about the allowance of these groups on such public social domains. Well, now there will be more fury to the fire.

Almost a year ago, a 13-year old girl named Imogen D'Arcy from Leeds, England, committed suicide. In a note found by her parents, it was learned that Imogen had body image issues and felt "fat" and "ugly." Upon investigation, it was found that in the weeks leading up to her death, she frequented pro-anorexia websites and had the lyrics to the song, "Courage" by Superchick on her computer.

Her mother's take on the pro-anorexia websites:
"Imogen accessed internet suicide sites on her computer and whilst these were not the root cause of her suicidal thoughts, these sites provided her with the means and guaranteed the success of her actions."

I think this is a tragic case, and it is obvious, there must have been a lot going on in this young girl's life. Perhaps if she had received treatment (none of the articles said she had as it seemed her parents were not aware to what she was feeling), she could have been helped. (Another article here about pro-anorexia websites and this case. Warning: images may be triggering)

I certainly agree with her mother that the pro-anorexia websites cannot be blamed for D'Arcy's already suicidal thoughts, but I think there is real fear with discovering the "means." Now, I know most people going to these websites are not looking at ways to kill themselves, but rather want to be in a place where they feel others understand them and/or are looking for tips to lose weight. Still however, it's the whole idea that these types of things can be taken too far, and especially for someone already in an unstable state both emotionally and physically.

So where do we draw the line?

Over the years there have been several controversial books about suicide. One rose to number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List after its publishment and is now in its third edition. However, that book has been banned in France, though is available in 12 languages. Another book was pulled from the market after it seemed like a "how-to" manual.

I don't know what the best options are here as it seems like nothing is a win-win situation as people are desperate for information. In the end, if someone is in the mindset of suicide, they find a way.

If you are suicidal, please call a hotline or speak to someone you trust.

Related post: study on anorexia and suicide

*Note: I'd normally post the links about the books mentioned above, but I do NOT feel comfortable with this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reminding myself why I don't do gyms

Monday was a rather busy day, and I had a lot planned. First on my list was to go to the Pavillion which is like a YMCA/community fitness center equipped with a pool, a variety of classes, and a fitness room. When I signed up to join last year, I mainly went for the pool, so I could do pool running in place of my land runs.

I officially started going back there last week, mainly because I wanted to cross train which is kind of ironic, because I find most stationary equipment incredibly boring. However, since something happens with my right knee after I hit a certain amount of time into my runs, I figured it would be good to give my 'ole body a little break on hard surfaces.

I've never had any problems going to the Pavillion. It's a mixed crowd there with a variety of ages and sizes. Everyone is mostly doing their own thing, so I felt fairly comfortable going. Monday morning was a different story. I decided to test myself on the dreadmill aka treadmill. This is in itself a feat, as I find myself counting the seconds until the time is up.

I got on the machine, set the workout, and started running. To the left of me, there was a woman probably 20? or so years older than me walking. Yes, I noticed how thin she was and the fact that she was wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. It really didn't help that she lifted her arms a couple of times either so her shirt rose. I overheard her talk to another girl who asked how much longer she was going to be on there. Her reply "another hour or so." No clue how long she was on there previously to me getting there, but the "another" implicates maybe she had been on there for awhile perhaps.

Though I found this all a little disturbing, what bothered me more was that she kept looking over at me. I don't know what she was looking at--my time, my distance, my speed, my pretty, sweaty face? She did this a number of times during my workout, and it left me feeling very UNCOMFORTABLE. I don't know if there was a hidden competitiveness, intrigue, or what. But I wanted to shout, "Look lady, keep your eyes off me and my machine." And I am rarely the type to ever even consider saying something like that to someone.

As soon as my run was over, I stepped off that machine and finished the rest of my workout on the elliptical, sighing in relief. This was just an odd experience for me. I have never been a gym rat type of person and have always minded my own business. Certainly, I notice how long people might be on a machine as I'm sure other people might have of me, but I don't constantly look at them or feel competitive with them. Maybe it is one reason why I just don't do gyms--always afraid of being "measured up."

How do those of you who to gyms handle this? Does this bother you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bulimia is a dental disease

We all know that eating disorders can wreck havoc on oral health. Bulimia, most notably can take a heavier toll at first symptoms which continue to accumulate further as the eating disorder progresses. In this press release, Dr. Brian McKay, a dentist in Seattle, discusses his new book, Bulimia is a Dental Disease.

McKay's goal is not only to educate about the damage of bulimia to one's oral health, but also to bring together the dental community in helping eating disorder clients. McKay says, "
We need a change in the Standard of Care. Dentists must form alliances with eating disorder professionals. Together we can treat both the mental and oral aspects of this disease and the result should be a higher success rate. There is nothing more inviting than seeing someone smile again."

To my knowledge, this is the first book exclusively addressing bulimia and dental health. I have no clue how the book is, but I think it is a good step to help educate and bridge the gap between dentists and eating disorder clients.

In my opinion, I think even if dentists may know there is a problem, there is a hesitancy in bringing up the issue despite the fact that some clients may come in multiple times or simply for one visit never to be seen again. As much time as I've spent in dentists' offices over the last twelve years, not one brought up or asked about my eating disorder. It kind of felt like the giant elephant in the room. It wasn't until a few years ago when I changed dentists and decided to be completely honest that it was discussed. I found them (there were two at the time) to be non-judgmental and helpful, even when I was so frustrated that the damage was completely irreversible despite reducing my purging behavior.

The take home message is that dentists and professionals need to collaborate together to help their eating disorder clients. In effect, this will allow clients to communicate and discuss these issues, even if it is only about damage control, like Lola posts about here.

Sunday's simple pleasure

Today's weather was splendid, in the upper 40s with clear skies. It felt like a virtual heatwave since it's only been in the dismal 30s with lots of gray skies. I had originally planned a run this afternoon due to the wonderful weather. However, I got sidelined, reminding myself I really needed to do something with all the leaves in my yard.

Instead of my afternoon run, I spent it raking leaves and hanging out with my dogs. Normally, I'd bag the leaves, but it was just too many. I wound up raking them to the sides of the fence and around objects like my big oak tree. Besides the fact that I couldn't see an inch of my yard due to the leaves, I also am afraid of stepping in dog poop. This is one reason I scoop my yard frequently.

While I did all this, the dogs decided to play. It was a wonderful thing for them to be out and enjoy the beautiful day. It was simple pleasure for both them and me, something I need to be constantly vigilant of.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How mad are you?

The psych central blog recently posted about a new UK reality show (some articles call it a science documentary) which aired this month called, "How mad are you?" The show has 3 psychological experts who watch 10 participants complete various tasks, like perform stand-up comedy, play paintball, analyze stretched out photos of themselves, clean out a cowshed, and other tests over a series of days. Then, they are asked to identify 5 who have been diagnosed with a mental illness--anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.

According to the Kent News paper, the show has sparked controversy in the UK with criticism that the format was "cheap and nasty," as well as not "classy." However, others, like the UK Charity Mind felt the show "
encouraged viewers to re-examine their preconceptions about mental health and any stereotypes they may hold about individuals with experience of mental distress"

I have not seen this show, so I cannot comment on my opinion. However, I think the concept behind the show is a good one and certainly could be educational, especially since it is for a lay audience. The title is a bit off-putting, but I guess there must be something to draw viewers to watch.

What do you think? Is this a good way of spreading the awareness about mental illness stereotypes? If any have watched the show, what was your opinion of it?

This article in the BBC also discusses the show and has a few clips.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dinner update

A few of you were interested in knowing how my Monday night unknown dinner event went. I admit, there was a lot of anxiety that entire day, and it seemed much of it was creating various possible menus in my head. I fell back into some old habits of exercise which was probably not the healthiest coping mechanism. :sigh:

I got there in the evening. S.'s husband was making dinner. I worked with their dogs a bit until dinner was ready.

Drum roll please. The menu was:

Salmon, sauteed seasoned vegetables, and a red potato. Yes! When I saw that, I was so RELIEVED. It was simple and good. I did find myself eating noticeably slower but finished the meal with success.

My therapist asked me the next day at my appt. how I felt sitting there at the table. It was awkward at first, but the conversation flowed nicely. By the end of dinner, I was reminded that the emphasis isn't on the food or the dinner but the people and memories shared. Slowly, I'm learning this and getting through the anxiety.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Insight deficit" and denial

Eurekalert posted an interesting article about "insight deficit" and denial. Although the article is about substance abuse and addiction, I think it could easily pertain to eating disorders.

Much like with other addictions, denial can play a very strong role in keeping an individual in their eating disorder illness. The Society of Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C. held their annual meeting this past weekend where researchers discussed this impaired insight as well as other neuroscience topics related to addictions. Rita Goldstein, a psychologist who led the presentation, explained that the insight impairment were in many of the same regions of the brain that addiction symptoms seem to appear. She further said:

It is therefore possible that these core clinical addiction symptoms — craving and compulsion and the chronic relapsing nature of addiction — may be a consequence of compromised insight. Such impaired insight might help explain why drug-addicted patients often have a hard time recognizing, accepting, and/or acknowledging their own signs and symptoms of addiction, as well as the need for treatment. It could also help explain these patients' failure to comply fully with treatment regimens — and their tendency to relapse

Now, I'm sure we can chalk some of the denial thinking into pure starvation and malnourishment, but at the same time, there is evidence of the similarities between addiction and eating disorders in both biological mechanisms and psychobiology. An older article in Psychiatric Times explained it nicely. Also, this abstract by Walter Kaye about the neurobiology of anorexia and bulimia nervosa gives another good explanation of these mechanisms.

Whatever your opinion is about the addiction model and eating disorders, this is good food for thought. It's interesting to think that the "denial" so many of us have had at one point or another may be more than just about refusal to completely admit our illness.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Aww factor

Recently, one of my dog lists sent out a link to these puppy webcams. It's a live stream of these puppies doing all sorts of puppy stuff--from sleeping to playing to nipping to making weird noises, it's all in there as it is live.

If you adore puppies, are interested to see what goes on in puppy litters right after they are born, you wonder what your dog might have been doing as an early puppy (if they were still with a litter), you're bored, you need some cute awww factor, or just want to kill some time, this is for you.

And if you get hooked on watching these webcams, well you won't be the only one. I've already gotten my mom hooked on watching the Cavaliers. My general feeling is that these live stream footages will begin to pop up everywhere, including with other animals as well. If not just for entertainment, it is actually educational as well.

Shiba Inu puppies
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies
White Miniature Schnauzer puppies

Anyone can have an eating disorder

This was from Postsecret this week.
I remember when I was younger and told how could such a smart girl like me ever have an eating disorder or think so harshly of herself. It really used to leave me feeling such guilt for being Ed'd, like it was wrong, like I should just know better--that somehow my rationale thinking should win.

In the end, eating disorders are hardly about rationality. Instead, it's about genetics, environment, coping, and stress. And it doesn't matter who you are, what intellectual rank you have, or where you fall in society.
Anyone can descent into the wraths of an eating disorder.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When you don't know what you're having for dinner...

Last week, I mentioned the success in my Friday socialization update. Okay, this was a good moment. So then this past Monday, I got thrown for a loop. Let me back up a minute and give a brief background. I met with S., had lunch, chatted, etc. I recommended that her puppies enter puppy obedience classes since this would be a good age for both socialization and learning basic manners. Since she missed orientation and said she would be out of town this past week, I offered to catch her up to where the class would be if she decided to do them. S. said she would let me know after the weekend. Honestly, I did not think she would take me up on this offer.

Monday rolled around, and the day didn't start off great, sleeping away half of the day which is very uncharacteristic of me. Then, my exercise routine was way off, and I just wasn't feeling very gung ho to do anything for the rest of the day. Then, I received an e-mail from S. wanting to know if I could still come over that evening. I had to stop and think about this, gauging my sort of irritable mood and not so hot physical appearance, but I obliged since I had made the offer previously.

She sent me directions to her house which I should also note I drove in the dark with no known idea where I was going! If you remember from my mazeophobia post, you'll understand why this was significant. I made it to her house with mo wrong turns, met S.'s husband who is extremely tall at way over 6'0, met her two puppies and immediately began working with them. As I worked with them, I explained dog behavior, the clicker, how the clicker works, why the clicker works, what we wanted the dogs to do, etc. and then I eventually handed it over to them to try.

We finished all this in about an hour in a half, and I suggested I would come back this week since they were going to be out of town on class night. Both agreed to this, and then S. was like, "we should make you dinner." Gulp. When I had arrived at the house, her first question to me was whether I had dinner. Okay, I lied, but really I wasn't hungry nor wanted anything. She seemd a bit disappointed and kept trying to offer me things--beverages, dried fruit, etc. I declined the offers, already feeling hot from embarrassment or something.

I honestly didn't know what to say. I bashfully agreed and then headed home wondering what the hell was I thinking? Sure, I've had family make me stuff before and even some good friends but that seems different. I've known S. for about a year, but it was first on a business level of me being her client in physical therapy and then evolved into a friendship of sorts. But still, I don't know her well yet.

About mid-week, I e-mailed S. to ask how things were going and reconfirm our Mon. session. She e-mailed back saying things were going okay and reiterated that they were making me dinner. I figured if they were going to do this, then it would at least be fair to tell them I was vegetarian but ate fish and hated cheese.

Monday evening should be interesting. I don't want to look like an ass and ask what they are preparing. That just seems impolite but I am a bit concerned too. I know this is similar to going into a restaurant and not knowing what you're going to have, but at least there, you have a menu as a guide. Here, I just feel like I have nothing to go by. However, at the same time, I don't want to disappoint them either.

I guess I'm really hoping they decide to stick to "safe" stuff--fish, maybe a vegetable or two, maybe rice, something like that? S. is a runner, and I think eats healthfully. I'm not sure about her husband, but he was wearing a half-marathon long sleeve shirt the night I met him. Maybe that counts for something, though I hate to make preconceived notions.

I'll post an update how everything goes. Though I know this is a bit anxiety provoking, I'm also reminding myself that these spontaneous events of uncertainty can be a good thing. Besides, it'll be good to report some positives in therapy the next day after three weeks of what feels like just binge-like eating behavior, but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"New eating disorder?"

Irene Rubaum-Keller, a blogger at the Huffington Post recently posted about a "new eating disorder," she has been seeing in her practice. In her post, she talks about women in their 30s and 40s who come to her not knowing how to maintain a healthy weight. These are women who I'm presuming (at least she does not say this in the post) do not necessarily fit a clinical eating disorder diagnosis but would still take drastic measures in their eating and exercise regimens to lose weight. Once they reached the desired weight, they went back to how they ate/exercised before and regained the weight.

Now older, they realize they can no longer take the drastic measures they did previously and feel at a loss of what to do. Rubaum-Keller feels that these individuals have learned how to lose weight temporarily and gain weight but not maintain a healthy weight.

I'm not sure I'd classify this as a new eating disorder. To me, it seems like the profile of the yo-yo dieter. I guess I get where she is going with the idea, but to call it a new eating disorder seems a bit of a stretch. That seems to be happening a lot however. At least she didn't give it an "-rexia" name.

What do you think? Is this a new, different eating disorder? If so, what's the criteria exactly?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Healthy eating obsession

The Today show had a short segment on the obsession with healthy eating this morning with Leslie Goldman, author and blogger of the Weighting Game and Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Weight Management Center. For the most part, I thought they got their point across about the hazards of obsessed healthy eating and how it can lead to vitamin/mineral deficiences, loss of weight, loss of muscle mass as well as eating disorders and/or orthorexia.

What I found interesting were the comments from the show. Some people understood what was being said, while others felt their lifestyles were being attacked. It just goes to show how many people are misinformed about the whole topic. The operative word in all this is "obsessed." I wish people would understand that most people know there is nothing wrong with wanting to be vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, or raw foodist (okay, the last two kind of make me raise my eyebrows but to each his/her own) as long as they are educating themselves and it is for the right reasons, not being masked by fear, an eating disorder or otherwise. That would mean correct nutrients and caloric intakes were being met as well as a heathful dose of psyche, ie "balanced," not black/white thinking.

One commenter mentioned
that we should "highlight the positive aspects of these 'unhealthy' foods"--that maybe that would help people see a bigger picture.

What do you think? Is there a way to stop all the paranoia of obsessed healthy eating? Or is this a moot point with the nation worried about the obesity epidemic?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Light bulb moments

image: stock.xchng
We just started a new set of dog obedience classes, and it's really quite interesting to see what dogs will be there. There is always a vast variety--even the little puppies have developed their own personalities. There are the very social butterflies who think each and every dog should be their playmate, the bold, assertive dogs who don't worry about anyone in their way (much of the time, these are the small dogs who think they are ten feet tall and bullet proof), the shy, anxious wall flower dogs who do not want to leave their owners at all, the fearful dogs who want to just defend themselves (that's usually with barking and using their teeth), and the dogs who already come in with some form of "baggage" (many tend to be rescues but not all). The remarkable thing is that a good number of these dogs will have what we call "light bulb" moments. These are the moments when you see their little wheels turning in their heads, and the dog really thinks, "so this is what got me the reward!." It's such a fun and astonishing thing to watch.

In Tuesday's class, this point was made very relevant. There was a Boxer mix who apparently was a bit fearful after some occurrences at the dog park. One of the exercises in the class was "touch." We taught her to touch to our fingers, then to an object, specifically a cone. At first, she had no idea what she was getting rewarded for. But after several "clicks" (a click marks the behavior that that is what we want the dog to do), she was beginning to get the idea. Soon after, we changed the criteria so that she only got clicked for touching the top of the cone. Again, she was getting it.

We removed the cone, and then presented it later to see if she would remember. Again, she kind of looked at it, trying to figure out what got her the reward, and then, suddenly, there was the "light bulb," the aha moment, and she touched the top of the cone. The look on the dog's face was almost giddy-like. She was just so proud of herself for figuring it out. The owners too were very impressed with her learning, but really all dogs do have their light bulb moments.

So, this reminded me of several things. One, how I wish we had light bulb moments that came so easily like a dog's. Two, why even if we do have these light bulb moments, we still don't necessarily "get" it. Three, can we have different variabilities of the light bulb? Four, what makes some of us realize the light bulb moments while others of us take longer.

But then again, maybe we're all waiting too long for the light bulb moment? Maybe it's already there, but just needs to be turned on or some of us just have it dimly lit? I don't know if this will make sense to people, but it's something interesting to think about nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Diary of an Exercise Addict

image: peachfriedman
I read the book Diary of an Exercise Addict this weekend. I had first read about Peach Friedman in a People magazine article on exercise addiction published a few years ago. I was interested in hearing how her recovery went and found out she was publishing this book.

Overall, I think this is a pretty inspiring book. She considers herself recovered but knows to keep a cautious eye as well. Currently, she is a personal trainer and works with the Summit Eating Disorders program in California.

This memoir is written like a diary but not exactly either. It is not as raw or triggering as some other memoirs on eating disorders have been (not that that should be the point but for some it makes it easier for them to relate), but Peach delves into the physical and emotional aspects of her eating disorder. I really like how she gives opposing views of being eating disordered--being so numbed out to the world and recognizing only small, minute details that most people would not even think about, her movement towards recovery--that it was a lot tougher than she expected but was willing to trust her treatment team, and finally recovery as a beautiful, young woman who learned to accept her body and take care of it.

Peach was lucky in that her eating disorder didn't have the duration as other sufferers, and she was able to receive help with the intervention of her supportive parents, therapist, and dietitian. This is not to take away from the years of pain or suffering from her eating disorder, but moreso a reminder how quickly one can descent into the grips of an eating disorder. She's also a role model in showing that you can recover on an outpatient basis which I really did find remarkable given her malnourished condition. She talks about the book in this interview with a local station and more information about her can be found on her website here.

Reading this book was interesting for me, especially given the fact that I was familiar with the area she lived and knew of one of the girls she spoke about in the book (someone I knew in elementary school). I did not grow up there but frequented the area while training in gymnastics, so I could relate with what she had to say about the culture and perceptions there. It makes me wonder if I had lived there (at one point, my parents offered to send me to a private school, so I could be closer to my gymnastics center) what the outcome of me would have been.

But more than that, it reminded me of the missing points of intervention that I could have had or maybe should have had, wandering if things would have been different. One friend of mine used to tell me I was always just a step away from inpatient, but ironically no one else really saw it that way--kind of like the not good enough anorexic or bulimic. It's probably one reason why I have such validation issues even to this day.

I know looking into the past and thinking about this stuff isn't helpful--that there are so many people who don't receive any treatment at all, can't get the treatment they really need due to insurance, or they die waiting. I know I should be thankful for even what I've received. And I am. Truly. I know in the end, it is up to me to decide what to do with the tools, knowledge, etc. that the many years of therapy have given me.

I don't know, I'm just feeling a bit mundane, retrospective, and ambivalent. Today was tough and sometimes even though I make a certain amount of progress facing fears, I still feel like I'm ever so slowly slipping too.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Beauty machine?

I stumbled upon this article the other day about what some are calling a new "beauty machine." Researchers at the Tel Aviv University have created software which "turns a picture of an ordinary face into that of a cover model" by just a click of a mouse.

According to Prof. Daniel Cohen Beauty, the lead researcher, "contrary to what most people think, is not simply in the eye of the beholder. With the aid of computers, attractiveness can be objectified and boiled down to a function of mathematical distances or ratios."

The professor says the main difference between this "machine" and the normal everyday photoshop programs is that that the images are more subtle, still retaining similarities to the original picture.

I guess I'm not seeing how "new" this is since the mathematical idea of aesthetics and beauty have been theorized in many different forms. The most well known is the "golden ratio" theory, though it is a bit inconclusive.

In my opinion, I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing. We already have enough problems with the implications of airbrushed and digital images as it is. Do we really need another one, even if it is subtle?

Friday socialization update

Luck, for the most part seemed to be in my favor today. All the clients came in on time. I was able to leave early to go meet for lunch. I did make it to the restaurant on time despite some slow truck pulling in front of me. That, unfortunately is like Murphy's Law!

S., the person I was meeting, got to the restaurant less than a minute after I sat down. We immediately both noticed our hair and oohed and ahhed at how good it looked--her curly hair was a little shorter and mine drastically shorter. Then, we caught up on everything from running, racing, injuries, parents, my life, her life, and last but not least, her two new puppies. I'm hopeful she'll get them into classes, or at least let me help her get started on some training.

Meanwhile, we both orderd pad thai--hers with chicken, mine with tofu and tea--hers iced, mine hot. The hour seemed to go by quickly, and I wished we had had more time or were not under time constraints. Oh well, maybe next time.

So all in all, it was a success and a good reminder that socializing can be fulfilling. I leave today, i.e. going to sleep on a good note. I sort of feel like I made a big deal out of nothing, but I know I was feeling like crap yesterday. And well, sometimes we all need to acknowledge that too.

Thanks for everyone's support.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday socialization

After my successful night at orientation, I went home, fixed a small dinner, found myself still hungry, and then binged on animal crackers. Why? I think it was mostly from being tired and not really having a clue what I was doing. I find when I've had these occurrences in the past, it's almost like going into a trance-like state. You forget what just happened, then reality suddenly kicks in gear, and then you feel awful about it. This time, well, honestly, I was too freaking tired to think about it and promptly went to sleep.

Of course today (Thursday) rolled around, and I was still tired, remembered the cracker binge, and felt bloated and fat all day. So much for all that positive thinking from my last post. But fear not, I have remembered to try to keep things positive, not berate myself, nor find suitable punishment.

So I'm convincing myself to keep my lunch get together with my former physical therapist. We had planned on this last week, and I was excited to catch up with her. Plus, we're meeting at a Thai restaurant. I have not been to this restaurant, so I have no clue about the food, the place, the cost, etc., but I figure it will all work out. If worse comes to worse, it is only an hour and there is always the possibility of another place.

In the middle of the week, I almost thought about canceling, because a) I was worried about being late.
The last time we got together, I felt horrible for being late, so I am determined not to be this time. I actually timed different routes to see which one was fastest. I know I will have to leave work a little early and am praying that all my clients come on time. And b) I felt too fat to go. Logically, I know she does not care about the latter, it's just one of those things that runs through my head whenever there is any kind of event.

I'm really trying to keep a positive look on this and remind myself it's not about the food, but about socializing despite my not so hot body thoughts rights now. Wish me luck. I'll report back how everything went.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sometimes situations are unpredictable

Let's face it, life is unpredictable at times. I think for many of us, we like familiarity, comfort, predictability. I mean we are humans and considered creatures of habit. However, sometimes, we need this unpredictability--to test out the waters, see what happens, think on our feet. In the end, what matters is how we react to that given situation, and from there, we hopefully learn and grow.

A few days ago, my boss asked me if I would bring my dog, Daphne, to orientation. Orientation is the first class of our dog obedience classes. We require puppy and beginner class attendees to come get an introduction about dog training, learn about the method of training we use, ask questions, etc. This is the one class we do not allow their dogs but instead used "demo" dogs. In the six years that I've been assisting with classes, this is the first time my boss has ever asked me to bring my own dogs. Before it was always my former roommate's dogs, another trainer's dogs, or a client's dogs. I guess there was a sense of "feeling left out." So naturally, I jumped at this chance, wanting to prove something, though I'm not sure what that was exactly.

These types of events, even though I enjoy them, there is always a sense of wanting everything to go perfectly, your dog to be "perfect." Okay, of course I should know by now that situations aren't perfect nor are dogs or humans. But still, there is a sense that "you are the dog trainer" (words I've heard many times before), your dog should be perfect, you should know how to handle every situation, etc. I won't lie, I used to have this notion as well before I really knew a lot about dog behavior. I would think how could another dog trainer's dog not get along with other dogs? It reminded me of the old saying how the "shoemaker's children never get shoes."

Therefore, just like a college student, I crammed obedience cues into Daphne's head, hoping the information would be obtained. The nice thing with dogs is this doesn't take that much amount of time, and they have good long term memory even when they decide to use selective hearing or in Daphne's case just give me this dumbfounded look. Don't get me wrong, Daphne is trained, but we just needed to freshen up a bit. Even dog trainers don't train everyday. ;-P

I admit, I was slightly nervous but for the most part I was relaxed. During the first 45 minutes, Daphne did really well. She did all the behaviors I asked of her with a nice smile on her face. It wasn't until we did an interaction game with the new dog handlers that she got concerned and began barking at several people. I was a little surprised by all this, because I had not seen her do this behavior. There was a moment of definite worry and some embarrassment. However, I reminded myself to stay calm, think about my dog, not the people, and get her re-focused. I was successful with this, and a few minutes later, she did the same exercise with everyone in the group, even the ones she originally barked at. There was a sigh of relief.

Upon thinking about the whole situation some more, I realized what concerned her. For one, she had never been in a room with 25+ people. She actually handled that okay, it was just when they moved, that she became worried. One woman whom she barked at took off her scarf which alarmed her. We wound up letting her see the scarf, put it on her, etc. She accepted this, and eventually stopped barking at the woman who did nicely be continuously smiling at her.

What this experience reminded me of was the unpredictability factor. Since I had not seen Daphne bark at other people like that, I had no reason to believe she would behave that way. What was important, however, was that I did not allow myself to get flustered and stressed, something I've been known to do when something is not going as planned. I made it a point to keep myself calm which allowed Daphne to settle as well. I thought through what I needed to do as well as how the other people should react. In the end, it was a successful night, and we were both worn out.

Now that I know Daphne may react like this when there is a crowd of people, it's something to work on. I know this setting was a little stressful for her, but I still managed to set her up for success. And in dog training, we don't see this enough with dog handlers which only results in dogs feeling frustrated, upset, and stressed.

I think this is something we should try to remember for ourselves when we are in situations of unpredictability. Our life is dependent on our reactions. It's not always an easy thing to remember, especially when in a state of worry, fear, anger, panic, but trying to focus on the positive, on the success of that situation, is what will help us learn, gain perspective, and feel confident.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's official: history has been made!

As everyone knows by now, today was Election Day. People across the nation casted their vote for the next President of the United States.

As of 11 PM EST, the headline reads:

Obama defeats McCain, wins presidential election

Democrat Barack Obama.(AP)
AP photo

Today most certainly is a day where history has been made. I hope for the country's sake, change will indeed occur.

Another look at SAD: possible genetic mutations

Well, we're now officially off daylight saving's time, so the days are now shortened with less light. I must admit even though this time comes around every year, the first few days definitely leave me a bit jolted. During the spring and summer, I got heavily used to running in the evenings, so with less light at this time, I have to readjust my body to afternoon running (I rarely run in the morning) when I find myself the most tired. I also have to be aware with less light, there is the issue of possible mild depression which many people experience in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Awhile back, I posted about brain imaging studies and SAD individuals. Recently, an interesting study in the Journal of Affective Disorders looked at SAD and a possible genetic mutation in the eye, involving the gene melanopsin. Melanopsin is a photopigment in the retina which regulates circadian rhythms, hormones, and sleep.

In inidviduals who may have a melanopsin mutation, sensitivity to light is more pronounced. Therefore, more light is required to continue normal functioning during the winter months.

This study found that out of 220 individuals (130 had SAD, 90 no mental illness), 7 participants had two copies of the melanopsin mutation. All belonged to the SAD group. This gives evidence that those who carry a single copy of this genetic mutation may have a predisposition to SAD, while others who have two copies, have a strong likelihood to be afflicted with SAD.

In the end, understanding the genetics behind these illnesses can only lead to improved screening and testing which is the hope for those who may suffer.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I recently wrote about my bridge in my mouth coming out after eating Nips. Earlier in the week, I went to see my dentist and had the bridge glued back into my mouth. Putting the bridge back in was not as easy as it would seem, because my teeth had apparently shifted in 36 hours. Who knew that your teeth can move in as little as 24 hours? My dentist was able to grind the bridge down to the appropriate fit, however, the bad news is that there is a hole and a piece of porcelain is missing. I knew about the porcelain, but since it was not visible, I didn't worry about it.

This essentially means that I need to get a new bridge for this side of my upper mouth, so I was a good girl and set up an appointment for this week. Well, after thinking about it some more, I called the office and canceled the appointment. My main rationale was the expense. Even after my insurance covered a measly part of the cost, I would still owe over $2,300. I just paid off the left side bridge earlier in the year which wound up having to be removed anyway. Therefore, I really didn't want to have another expense, especially with the busy month I had and the holidays coming up.

I did not say this to the receptionist, but she was not too happy with the cancellation. Actually, I felt quite peeved at her tone of judgment. She ended with the words, "good luck, I hope the temporary stays." In my head, I thought, "well, I'm taking that risk."

Later, I spoke briefly with my mom about the bridge. She felt I should go ahead and get it done, because it needed to be done. I reiterated my thoughts about the financial issue at hand and ended the conversation again with the words that I was taking the risk.

So with that last thought, it reminded me about the concept of risk taking. You think about it, everything in life is a risk. Each action we do is some form of a risk. Some risks seem minimal while others are dangerous and cause us harm.

It's ironic, because throughout my eating disorder years, I was willing to risk my health in a variety of ways--restricting, purging, overexercising, depriving myself of sleep, overworking, overdosing on caffeine, etc., but yet, a risk such as moving, changing jobs, applying to school, taking a test, etc. felt like such a higher risk And these latter risks all had the potential to be positive whereas all the ED risks turned out negative.

I know I'm certainly not the only one in the same boat. I've seen people who fight tooth and nail for a job, an award, a research grant proposal, a coveted internship, etc., but yet, when it came to their health and well being, it took a back seat--that risk wasn't seen as important. Or I should say it was not given as high a priority.

I think at some point or another, many of us have fallen into this trap. It's not an easy one to come out of either. How do we decide what and when to risk? Why is risking so hard, albeit whether its a positive or negative thing?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fun post: Quirks

Tagged by Kyla wanting to know quirks about me.

Here are the rules:
1.Link to the person who tagged you

2.Mention the rules on your blog

3.Tell 6 unspectacular quirks about you

4.Tag 6 following bloggers by linking to them

5.Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged.

Quirk 1:
I have a knack for finding four leaf clovers.
When I was very obsessed about finding them, I would pluck them from the ground, press them, and then give them away to people. I lost count after finding 80-something of them. I no longer actively look for them, but still find them easily. Either, I'm a lucky girl or I'm just really good at finding the "needle in the haystack."
image: fourleafclover

Quirk 2:
I have a sixth sacral vertebrae.
I never even knew this fact until I was in my mid-teens and had x-rays for a stress fracture.
image: 3dscience

Quirk 3:
I have a strange tendency to be able to hear thunder and ambulances before other people. I will literally hear a roar and think, "that sounds like thunder or think an ambulance is coming" And what do you know, there really is one. So it's not all just in my head. I'm not really hearing weird things from out of the blue.
image: howstuffworks

Quirk 4:
I work with dogs all the time, however, I really can't stand drool or slobber.
This is despite the fact that I have my own drooly, slobbery dog. (no, the pic isn't him, this is Hooch or at least a look-alike from the movie Turner and Hooch) I wouldn't change it for the world, but whenever I get anything resembling drool on my hands or some other body part, yep, I'm there to find the closest sink. This is one reason why I always carry some form of a rag, or paper towel with me. You should see the puppies. They just love to grab it!
image: flickr

Quirk 5:
I'm not very musically inclined. However, in high school, I used to played the trombone and violin. The trombone wasn't really my first choice for an instrument, but it was one I was capable of holding. That, and I could actually produce noise from the mouthpiece which some couldn't do.
image: wikimedia

The violin is a different story. I really liked the violin, but had a hard time holding the bow and keeping my arm in that contorted position. I honestly don't see how those pros hold their arms like that forever.
image: wikimedia

Quirk 6:
I'm not a big holiday type person. I find them stressful and chaotic. But one thing I do love is gift wrapping!
I can seriously sit for hours and wrap gifts. I like to make the gifts look beautiful and give personalization to each of them. Look for photos of those this year.
image: stock.xchng

Ai Lu
Gaining Back My Life

And of course anyone else that wants to join in!