Call it Impulsive, Call it Compulsive, Call it Insane

So, if you haven’t yet watched Joy’s new Fat Rant video, go do that now. ‘Cause I want to talk about it.

Ready? Excellent.

I have to admit I cringed a little when “Chelsea” (whose outfit I covet, btw) introduced herself as a compulsive eater, and the video’s central conceit became clear. I mean, I loved it — but I could also instantly see the Fatosphere shitstorm a-comin’, because oh my god, she’s mocking compulsive eaters! There’s been some debate lately about whether those of us banging the HAES drum are neglecting those with eating disorders, and about where people who do overeat fit into the movement. And now there’s this. So I guess it’s time, yet again, for me to weigh in (ha!) on this issue.

First, for those of you just joining us, I have a sister who’s a diagnosed compulsive eater and has done time in eating disorder clinics more than once, plus attended loads of OA meetings, gotten more therapy than most of us will get in a lifetime, tried every antidepressant on the market, and done all the recommended reading on the subject. She’s still fat. Her eating is still not normal. She is not as healthy as she could be, and weight-wise, she is probably above her setpoint range (though I also suspect her natural range is much higher than mine, and much, MUCH higher than what doctors would have us believe is “normal”).

I care about her rights as a human being and a fat woman more than pretty much anyone else’s, so let’s just say I bristle when people accuse me of only giving a shit about the rights and dignity of healthy, stereotype-busting fatties.

And by “bristle,” I mean “throw things.”

However.

Since very little is known at this point about why some people routinely overeat to the point of illness — and I’ve watched someone I love seek “expert” solutions for this problem for 20 years, to no avail — let’s just say I will not be surprised if we eventually learn that our current knowledge about compulsive eating ain’t worth a hill of beans. (Feel free to insert your own joke about eating that entire hill in one sitting — although that would technically be binge eating.) I do not in any way dismiss the existence of a certain group of people who have serious problems with eating more than they need or consciously want; but I also don’t think we have a good metric at this point for distinguishing them from people who just have major hang-ups about food because we live in a culture that damn near pathologizes the act of eating at all. I believe we know too little about compulsive eating — and make too many assumptions based on fat stereotypes, not science — to reliably separate, on this end of the spectrum, an eating disorder from disordered eating behavior.

So, for the purposes of this post, let’s start with what we do know:

  • Eating disorders affect a relatively small percentage of the population.
  • As Joy says in the video, there is no evidence whatsoever that, on average, fat people eat any more or exercise any less than thin people.
  • We are so conditioned to believe that fat is always the result of overeating and a sedentary lifestyle — not to mention taught by the diet industry that “normal” portion sizes are microscopic and a “normal” calorie intake is well under 2,000 a day — many of us assume we must be overeating when, in fact, we’re not.
  • An addiction model for treatment of compulsive eating is clearly limited by the fact that abstinence from food is not an option.
  • “Abstinence” from “trigger foods” is dieting in sheep’s clothing. And has about the same long-term success rate. And encourages the same old pattern of demonizing certain foods and feeling guilty about eating what you crave.
  • Accepting your body and learning to eat intuitively are among the proposed solutions for compulsive eating. And while those things clearly aren’t a magic bullet, nobody seems to have a better idea, so I might as well continue promoting self-acceptance and HAES for everyone – while periodically reminding readers that you do not have to live on kelp and lentils or spend hours at the gym every day or even be basically healthy to be welcome here. HAES is something we at SP think of as a worthy goal in general, not something on which we believe human rights are contingent.

So. In light of all that, let’s talk about how brilliant Joy’s new video is.

No, wait, one more tangent first.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have ADD. (No H in my case, even though technically, ADHD is the only official diagnosis; that’s a whole other soapbox, since girls with ADD are often more spacy than hyperactive, and it goes undiagnosed in a lot of girls — like me, for 23 years — because of that.) As we all know, you can’t bring up AD(H)D these days without somebody going on about how it’s a bullshit wastebasket diagnosis that’s applied willy-nilly, and ZOMG, we’re drugging perfectly normal children! Maybe it’s even you who goes on like that.

This pisses me off for exactly the same reason people claiming fat is caused by eating too much and not exercising enough does: it’s pathetically fucking simplistic, and the person making the claim usually has no clue what he’s talking about.

However.

While I will totally fight anyone who says ADD isn’t a real disorder, and I think the panic over Ritalin (which has been in use for ages and is an extremely safe drug, relative to a lot of drugs people don’t think twice about taking) is highly obnoxious, I actually do think it’s probably overdiagnosed among young boys.

I also think it’s probably underdiagnosed among young girls. And I definitely don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with being “labeled ADD,” since for most people who have the disorder, finding out there’s a label for us other than “lazy,” “spacy,” “stupid,” “irresponsible,” “undisciplined,” and/or “afraid of hard work” comes as a huge fucking relief. But do I think there are boys out there who don’t actually have ADD brains but are getting that label anyway? Honestly, yeah. Probably.

And that’s kind of how I feel about the “compulsive eater” label. It describes a very real disorder that’s incredibly painful for those who suffer from it — but that doesn’t mean everybody labeled a compulsive eater is one. And since we just don’t know much about the causes of compulsive eating, and there don’t seem to be any consistently successful treatments for it yet, I think it’s reasonable to ask if people are getting this label (or giving it to themselves) unnecessarily. Because in this case, the label itself really does cause additional suffering; it further distorts our concept of what “normal” eating actually looks like and further reinforces the stereotype that the average fatty is out of control.

More background. For many, many years, and until very recently, I thought of myself as someone with “compulsive eating tendencies.” I’m pretty sure I’ve referred to myself as such on this blog, which isn’t even that old. It’s obviously in my family, and at different times in my life, I’ve engaged in compulsive eating behaviors to a pretty impressive extent. Not to mention, when I dieted, I was just as compulsive about that (I was the kind of dieter who never “cheated”), and I do have one hardcore addiction (smoking), so I fit the profile. And I just never questioned the profile too much.

Then a couple things shifted for me mentally.

1) The more I ranted about how diets don’t work, the more I thought about how, for my sister, the available eating disorder treatments haven’t ever worked, either. And in fact, I haven’t heard of many people successfully conquering compulsive eating through nutritional reeducation or “abstinence” from trigger foods or psychotherapy for their emotional eating issues for any longer than most people can “conquer” fat by dieting. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the people attempting to treat compulsive overeating are A) taking big ol’ shots in the dark and B) looking at weight loss, not improved mental and physical health, as the end goal of treatment. You’ll note how much a lot of the treatments for this disorder look like dieting. And how much dieting looks like other eating disorders. You do the math.

2) The more I worked at practicing intuitive eating, the more I watched the compulsions disappear. A genuine craving for ice cream or a burger is very different from an irresistible impulse to eat something “naughty” until I’m sick. Once I quit thinking of certain foods as “naughty,” I started seeing that difference quite clearly — and stopped wanting to eat myself sick on food my body didn’t crave.

The other night, Al and I went to a bar and walked past a 7-11 on the way home. He drunkenly decided he NEEDED beef jerky. (Which gets the world’s biggest ewwwwww from me, but to each his own.) In the past, that would have been an automatic trigger for me to suddenly NEED something — chips, candy, ice cream — available at the same 7-11. And in fact, that old mental process started as soon as Al said he was stopping for jerky. I went in with him and walked around the store looking for something, anything that sounded good to me — because if Al was going to have a treat, then I SHOULD HAVE ONE, TOO!

But what I realized was, even drunk, I couldn’t find anything there that appealed to me at all. And the main reason for that (because certainly, at different times, I still find plenty of convenience store food appealing) was that I was full. I did not want to eat. I didn’t just recognize intellectually that I didn’t need food at the time, or that I really didn’t need 7-11 food; I simply did not want to eat at all. Because I was still satisfied from dinner. Because being pleasantly, comfortably full meant — I’m not sure if you caught this part — I did not want to eat.

That’s still a new one on me, it really is. I talk a good game, because I believe fully in the principles behind intuitive eating, and I have absolutely watched it change my eating habits and comfort level regarding food for the better — incrementally, in baby steps. But going to 7-11, drunk, a few hours after dinner, and sincerely having ZERO interest in a bag of chips or peanut M&Ms? Was still a major, surprising milestone for me.

And here’s the big lesson I took from it: the hard part to get over wasn’t the lack of M&Ms. It was knowing that Al was having a treat while I wasn’t. Over the years, I got so conditioned to seek permission from external sources before I ate junk food — or else loathe my guilty, guilty self for going ahead without any permission — I got into the habit of eating the “naughty” foods any time I felt I could get away with it, instead of when I was actually hungry for them. Boyfriend wants jerky? KICKASS! I can have candy and not feel guilty now!

Now, I’ve been practicing intuitive eating long enough that I really can have candy whenever I want without feeling guilty. And lo and behold, that means when I don’t want it… I don’t want it. On any level, conscious or unconscious.

The reverse is also true. When I crave a salad — as I did the other day when Al and a couple of his co-workers said, “Let’s go out for cheeseburgers” — I eat a salad. Cheeseburger didn’t sound good to me; salad did. Period. In the past, all I would have registered was PERMISSION TO EAT CHEESEBURGER GRANTED! — not what my body was actually telling me to eat. Also in the past, there were times when I felt like having a salad at a restaurant but couldn’t bring myself to order one, because I knew I’d mourn the loss of the potential cheeseburger, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. The thought of ordering salad triggered feelings of deprivation — even if it was a huge salad that came with cheese and croutons and bacon and a side of bread. It was salad. Salad was good, and I wanted the baaaaaaad food. Always always always. Every moment I wasn’t eating “bad” food was a moment of deep personal sacrifice.

I exaggerate. But not by much.

For me, that compulsive desire to eat the “bad” foods even when I didn’t want them, and even when they made me physically ill, wasn’t necessarily an indication of a real eating disorder — any more than my dieting indicated anorexia, although the behaviors involved looked awfully similar. It was just an indication of a fucked-up relationship with food — which pretty much everyone in this country has, to some degree. I was never powerless over french fries; I was just damn near powerless over the bone-deep belief that french fries were simultaneously the best thing in the whole, wide world and COMPLETELY FORBIDDEN.

Take away that belief, and french fries become just like any other food: sometimes, they’re what I really want to eat, and sometimes not. *shrug*

Take away a whole series of similar beliefs, and suddenly, I’m not a person with compulsive eating tendencies — I’m a person who has very little desire to eat when I’m not hungry. Like magic! (Slow-moving magic that involved a great deal of conscious effort, granted, but it still feels kinda mystical.) I didn’t have to dig deep and resolve some buried childhood trauma or stop being angry at my mother to overcome those compulsive tendencies; I just had to train myself to really, truly believe that eating is a morally neutral act.

Now, for some people, coming to see eating as a morally neutral act is a more daunting challenge than resolving childhood trauma or forgiving their parents. And for some people, like my sister, there apparently really is something much more serious going on. Furthermore, you could make an argument that I was a legit compulsive eater, and I just conquered the disorder by following the treatment plan some authors and doctors propose.

But that’s not how I see it. I think I was pretty much a normal American woman — one with depression and anxiety (and ADD, for that matter), and one who grew up in a family of self-loathing fatties, which certainly didn’t help. But mostly just a normal American woman brainwashed from birth to believe that eating tasty, fatty food is baaaaad and eating bland, raw vegetables is virtuous. No real in between. (Rather like a normal American woman who grew up in the ’50s was brainwashed to feel about sex.)

Some people respond to a cultural paradigm like that by only ever eating the “good” stuff and annoying the shit out of the rest of us with their self-congratulatory proselytizing about the benefits of an abstemious lifestyle. Others respond by instinctively recognizing the black and white rules as a load of hooey, eating what they want, and doing just fine. But some people respond just as some people respond to any set of rigid rules — by wantonly flouting them, then struggling with massive guilt about it.

I’m totally that last kind of person by nature. The kind of person who instinctively flips authority the bird but then writes authority a letter of apology on nice stationery. The kind of person who fancies myself a rebel while desperately craving approval. The kind of person who can’t stand being told what to do, but also can’t stand myself sometimes because I know the directions I’m refusing to follow might actually be useful to me. The kind of person driven by a genuine independent spirit, but also by a good measure of spite and petulance.

In short, I am exactly the kind of person who would respond to being told that fatty foods are the devil by eating them every chance I got — then spending long hours wondering if I was going to hell for it. If I’d been born in a different era or to a stricter Catholic family, you can bet I would have fucked every guy who said hello to me as soon as I got to college, too. My issue isn’t with food, it’s with rules — specifically, the kind of rules that aren’t entirely arbitrary (living solely on french fries or fucking people indiscriminately will, in fact, tend to cause more health problems than not) but also aren’t remotely proportionate to the real risks that come with breaking them (eating french fries and fucking different people as part of a balanced, self-respecting lifestyle will most likely not cause noteworthy health problems). And when I look at it that way, frankly, it doesn’t seem like much of an “issue” at all. It seems like a pretty logical response to being told I’m supposed to regard natural, pleasurable human behaviors as TERRIFYING WEBS OF DANGER THAT WILL TRAP MY VERY SOUL.

So. This post has spun wildly out of control and in no way resembles the one I thought I was going to write today. (Did I mention I have ADD?) I planned to talk more about those bullet points way back at the beginning — specifically, about how it’s really fucking hard to figure out that you do eat pretty normally when the only models of “healthy” eating we’re told about are restrictive diets, and we’re taught to believe that fat people don’t eat well and thin people do, period. I really believe there are a lot of women out there laboring under the misconception that they eat way too much just because they do eat, and don’t exercise enough because they’re not running marathons — even if they walk most places or chase their kids around the yard every night or do a “wuss” form of exercise like yoga (HA!). I believe there are women who think of themselves as compulsive eaters because they just can’t bring themselves to skip dessert some nights, or “emotional eaters” because yeah, Ben & Jerry’s DOES taste especially good right after a break-up.

And I believe that’s because we have no real framework for understanding the concept of moderation when it comes to food and exercise. Moderation doesn’t mean being hungry or sore, or feeling deprived or punished. It means being satisfied and comfortable and balanced and healthy. But how many of us have any fucking clue what that would even look like before we stumble into it, if we ever do? And how likely are we to stumble into it if we’re constantly distracted by messages that we are too fat and therefore clearly desire too much — making it nearly impossible to focus on the only really important question when it comes to determining what “moderation” means: How does your body feel?

So I think Joy’s latest video is fucking awesome, because it brilliantly sends up that unnecessary self-flagellation over normal behavior, and the pathologizing of a basic human need. (Also? Hilarious.) Of course there are people who really do routinely overeat to their own chronic detriment, and I neither want to make light of them nor exclude them from the conversation here. But again, they are a small percentage of the population — and fat people are not. Most fat people are not compulsive overeaters any more than most dieters are anorectics. We are mostly pretty normal people living in a culture that tells us eating — EATING — is a perilous, potentially deadly endeavor that the average human being can’t be expected to negotiate successfully without professional assistance.

EATING. EATING FOOD. I mean, seriously, y’all.

127 thoughts on “Call it Impulsive, Call it Compulsive, Call it Insane

  1. Okay so I will possibly have more to say on this later. But for now:

    - Goddamn you rule so fucking hard.
    - If you weren’t so short I’d think we were separated at birth.

  2. - If you weren’t so short I’d think we were separated at birth.

    Maybe you got way more nutrition in the womb and I’m just, like, a highly developed tumor.

  3. Maybe you got way more nutrition in the womb and I’m just, like, a highly developed tumor.

    AHAHAHAAHHAHAHA

    We’re like that guy in Total Recall!

  4. I wonder how amoebas manage to nourish themselves, without any diet programs, college education, or even a brain. They’re also potentially immortal, I hear. That’s what I call a good metabolism.

  5. Great post Kate :)
    I was definitely worried about sending up actual compulsive eaters.. but, like you said, I think there are an even greater number of people who want to pathologize completely normal behavior- and I think that’s ridiculous..
    AND doing a disservice to the real compulsive eaters.
    Long story short.. fat people eat just like thin people.

  6. Hi Kate-
    1st time poster, 3 week reader. What a fantastic post and very timely for me. Today I went to my very first and probably last WW meeting. The leader kept using terms like “cheating” and “bad food” and (this one is what really twisted my knickers) “compulsive eater”. It made me crazy to hear this woman use the term all willy-nilly like that. Who does she think she is??!!
    I totally agree with what you’ve said, totally loved Joy’s rant, and think you totally rock! I’d rater give you the weekly WW meeting $ since you seem to make a lot more sense.
    Keep it up and thanks a bunch!

  7. Wow… quite the post! I do think a lot of what I thought were compulsive eating tendencies were – well pretty much exactly what you said. Although I’m still not at the point where I don’t feel them anymore – I think I just need more time. I think part of it for me is also that I’m just not suited to getting up at 6:30, and so I feel a compulsion to eat when what I really need is sleep. All my body knows is it needs more energy, so it sends out a demand for food. Not really sure what to do about that one.

    Also… I was curious about what you said about girls with ADD being spacey because I am a huge space cadet, and I meet all but one of the “inattention” criteria for ADD on the DSM-IV. Huh.

  8. All my body knows is it needs more energy, so it sends out a demand for food. Not really sure what to do about that one.

    Eat? :)

    You might want to talk to a shrink who knows something about ADD, or just pick up a book on it and see if you go, “OMG, THAT’S ME!” (The specific collection of symptoms is so weird, you pretty much either have that reaction or don’t.) For me, the most important practical application of the diagnosis was being able to reframe my “lazy,” “undisciplined” behavior as just the way my mind works — and either patiently figure out a work-around for how my mind works or just let it go, as the situation warrants. I took Ritalin for a while, liked it, don’t really need it to function normally. By the time you’re an adult with undiagnosed ADD, you’ve developed so many coping skills without knowing it, you may not even need to change much. But most adults are just so relieved to learn they’re not horrible, irresponsible people — they actually have different kinds of brains from the people who seem to effortlessly get their shit together.

  9. The kind of person driven by a genuine independent spirit, but also by a good measure of spite and petulance

    Wow, I can really, really relate to that.

    Every time I come to this blog I wind up squeeing in happiness that I’m not a total abberration after all. Or, at least, if I am, I’m not alone.

  10. Wow, right and wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to start.

    I’ve been officially diagnosed with “compulsive eating” and “non-purging bulimia.” I don’t do it any more and have no craving to. I’m still fat.

    On the right side of things:

    - conventional treatment has no clue.
    - it’s not about the fat.
    - no one agrees about causes or definitions of “overeating” disorder.
    - abstinence is not a helpful model

    On the wrong side of things:

    - “trigger food” is not fake. some food is “drug food” and you don’t need it any more than street drugs. Get current ! read Bart Hoebel’s research where he induces addiction in rats by making them eat like middle school girls (starve all day then blow it with empty carbs at night)

    - drug food changes the brains of susceptible people, which plays in this whole thing. It can lower serotonin (IMPULSE CONTROL) and reduce receptors for the reward biochemicals (LOW SELF ESTEEM). Get current! Read DesMaisons for starters.

    - “eating intuitively” doesn’t work when your satiety switches are broken from drug food. It does work when you’ve had long enough time with nutrition to start repairing things.

    - Many people report ADD symptoms going away when certain foods are eliminated. What kind of design feature is that?

    - Ben and Jerry’s tastes good after a break up because it raises serotonin and beta-endorphin. Artificially high of course. And no one ever connects the “low” later, to the ice cream…. because “it’s just food.”

    - French fries are food of the gods. I eat em. And I also do NOT deny their physical consequences.

    - People are afraid to admit that food can change their brains.

  11. I wonder if what we call ADD is actually not a disorder, but an evolutionary trait that may have been beneficial to some people back when we like… did real work in order to survive. Now, unfortunately, “Work” mostly entails sitting on our ass and concentrating on stuff. I’m sure that’s exactly how our ancestors hunted those wild animals, concentration and ass sitting (not acute awareness of surroundings and high energy levels facilitating their ability to flee from predators.) 3,000 years ago the ability to sit on your ass and concentrate for hours at a time probably wasn’t a highly sought after trait, so I’m not surprised that there are huge sections of our current population that don’t excel at it.

    Though I don’t know that much about ADD, so I could just be stupid.

    I personally suffer from SRGS (Spoiled Rich Girl Syndrome) which causes laziness, entitlement and an inability to manage money, there is unfortunately no medication to treat it as yet. (though many sufferers self medicate)

  12. Many people report ADD symptoms going away when certain foods are eliminated. What kind of design feature is that?

    I’m sorry, did you just come here and say this to me in the same fucking breath you’re telling me I’m not “current” enough on my research into the disorder you have?

    Not to mention the same breath in which you acknowledged that ‘no one agrees about causes or definitions of “overeating” disorder’ — except YOU totally know it’s because of trigger foods?

    Hey, did you know that eliminating wheat gluten will totally make autistic kids normal? JENNY MCCARTHY SAID IT IT’S TRUE!

    In conclusion, get bent!

  13. Good lord Connie, that was a rude post. If you want people to listen to you and take you seriously, I would suggest being more polite.

  14. I apologize. I would not have said it that way if I’d thought my tone would come off the way it obviously did.

    fillyjonk, what would you have me read harder?

    I honestly thought HAES included discussion of the effects of food on brain chemistry and mental health – not in reference to any particular disorder. I apologize that my words shut that down.

  15. And I believe that’s because we have no real framework for understanding the concept of moderation when it comes to food and exercise….

    Excellent post in its entirety (as usual), but this stuck out for me. I’m a regular on a message board full of smart, funny, accomplished women who spend a whole lotta time discussing how “You can have one cookie, because it will satisfy the craving, and then tomorrow just make sure to eat half as much at lunch or something. You know, moderation.”

    And yes, I try to point out that that’s not moderation, and we should all just eat what our bodies want, and we’ll all be much happier. No dice. “That’s great for you, I wish I could eat like that, but I just can’t.”

    Yes, you can. You can has cheezeburger. And salad. And ice cream. And cookies. And sugar-snap peas and brown rice and tomato sauce and sweet sausages and turkey meatballs and bacon. When you’re hungry for them.

  16. Hmmm…so many thoughts triggered by the post and the comments, but I’ll stick with this:

    I worked with a client who thought she was a compulsive eater, but only ate one meal at night. So of course her body was starved of food and all bets were off (I get that way if I’m an hour late for lunch FFS).

  17. Well. I thought I had a brilliant comment.

    I don’t, so I’ll simply say you’re awesome Kate. And now that my brain is full (nothing like food for thought), I’m gonna go find dinner. :-)

  18. (Note: my brain is an absolute mess right now – reeling with some other potential posts not yet posted. So if i’m even more mentally disordered than usual, my apologies. I’m trying to keep it coherent, as best i can right now. *grin* i desperately wish there was some kind of forum or chat where i could be like OMG CHECK THIS OUT before i went all crazy posting about it. So far i’ve just told Ben about it and he’s kinda reeling as well – which tells me no one would get it anyway, and omg i just realized i’m so very TOTALLY tangeting and off-topic. heh. ADD much? *cough*)

    I get the “permission to eat cheeseburgers… GRANTED!” thing. Then i started to realize that salads could be fuckin delicious. The other day, i brought lunch money (whereas i normally bring my lunch) because i was Craving A Salad. When i got to the cafeteria, i saw they’d set up a nacho bar. But yanno? I still wanted a salad. So i got a salad. And it was delicious. So good, i wanted to slap someone, omg. Less than a fortnight before, i’d been confronted with the exact same scenario… and i got nachos. They weren’t satisfying at all. I found that after eating myself full on nachos, i still had some wacky sense of hungry because that salad craving had not been fulfilled.

    I also have ADD. Without the H. Spacey does not beGIN to describe it. Some of my posts may give ample evidence to this. Heh. As far as Ritalin goes? Best sleep aid i ever tried. Knocked my ass out cold.

    I’m still dealing with the whole “treat” factor. When i go shopping, i need a treat for putting up with the teeming masses of ignorant shoppers who suddenly stop for no reason, making me very nearly fall into my cart just trying to not hit them. For me, treat = a drink of some kind. Sometimes a soda, but sometimes carrot juice (if they ever have it, meh). Sometimes it’s healthy, sometimes it isn’t, but there’s still the treat factor. I’m getting better at listening to myself about the “well, treats are all well and good, but i’m not actually thirsty.” Used to be that “treats” were like, a sushi tray or a croissant from the bakery or something.

    It’s not that i’m denying myself these things – if i’m genuinely hungry, i’ll get some food. But now i get the food because i’m hungry, not because of some false sense of treat entitlement.

    I was the kind of child who was deliberately and intensely defiant. My mother’s favorite story about me is when (during one of the many brown-outs that happened in Chicago when i was growing up), my mother said, “Now, Lindsay, don’t stick your finger in the candle.” What did i do? I totally jammed my finger RIGHT smack dab in the middle of the flame, holding it there until i was screaming from pain. It’s nowhere near as destructive an impulse as it used to be, but there’s still a part of me that desperately wants to be contrarian towards anyone who acts like they Know It All.

    I think, as a culture, we’ve lost our sense of moderation. Everything is BiggerBetterFasterMore – you’re not Someone until you’ve made your first million, until you’ve gotten a Real Title at work, until you’ve gotten your secondthirdfourth degree, until you’ve lost that last five pounds, et cetera ad nauseum. We have to have the latest and greatest, we have to have the supercomputers (which most people use only for solitaire, e-mail and browsing the web, yeesh), we have to have the latest iPod (even though we’ve already got one that works just fine)… i can just keep going with this, but ultimately, a society so determined to be bent on consumerism is not a place where moderation can happily live.

  19. “My issue isn’t with food, it’s with rules. . . .”

    !

    Yes! Yes, exactly. Thank you!

    “. . . eating french fries and fucking different people as part of a balanced, self-respecting lifestyle will most likely not cause noteworthy health problems . . . .”

    If I could only get my doctor to say this . . . .

    But seriously. Thank you for this. I’m wrestling with some pretty dysfunctional behavior right now, and while this won’t help me stop doing it, it does shed light on WHY I do it.

  20. Oh yes, eating what you want to eat without sin is a hard lesson to learn, and even harder to keep on doing. Alas, sometimes when I talk about good food vs bad food I forget to add ‘for me’, and that I’m not talking about fats or calories or carbs, but literally about food that make me feel like crap. To me, that’s a bad food, and includes bell peppers and peanuts just as much as it includes wheat and…well, mostly it’s the wheat, but sometimes other grains, too.

    Does that keep me from eating wheat occasionally? Nope. But more frequently I have a desire to eat salad than wheat, to eat cheese instead of Corn Flakes

    It sounds so ridiculously simple, yet can be incredibly difficult to put into practice – especially when you have no support.

  21. The misuse and misdiagnosis of eating disorders, especially compulsive overeating or binge eating, only serve to minimalize and diminish the severity and seriousness of real eating disorders. Although many women display disordered eating (and thinking), only a relatively small portion of the population have an eating disorder. There’s a difference.

    Eating disorders are still very much misunderstood today, and treatment effectiveness is often sketchy. In reference to your #1 point, I think anyone who would advocate dieting for any disorder, whether it be binge eating or anorexia, is acting in an immoral and unethical way. And yes, I’ve had this happen to me. When I was under my university’s health insurance plan, I had a university psychiatrist tell me I had more weight to lose after listening to me confess all about my eating disorder. I left his office, promptly lost another 20 pounds that month via very unhealthy and dangerous means, and never went back for further therapy there again.

    I also have ADD and it has had a significant impact on both my relationships with others and my work and school performances. Finally being diagnosed with it was such a relief, because it put a medical justification on behavior I thought was simply a character flaw. I think it’s interesting to note the connections that are increasingly being found between ADD and eating disorders, especially ones like bulimia and anorexia. I have more on this if anyone is interested.

  22. fillyjonk, what would you have me read harder?

    Take your pick, Connie. Lots of stuff on the site. I was particularly referring to, you know, this post.

    I worked with a client who thought she was a compulsive eater, but only ate one meal at night. So of course her body was starved of food and all bets were off

    Spins, what a perfect example of what Kate and Joy are both talking about. “I feel compelled to eat”… well yeah, it’s hunger.

    Which, again, is not to say that nobody has food compulsions for other reasons, but it’s so difficult to untangle because of our skewed perceptions of what we “should” be eating.

    Oh, and Rachel, I’m interested too — a post on this, perhaps?

  23. Sure thing. I wrote a post about this on National AD/HD Awareness Day last month. You can find it and additional links here.

    What I found most interesting is in the foods binge eaters typically choose to binge on. There’s research which indicates the ADD brain is slower to absorb glucose, which may cause people to crave sweets and carbohydrates. It’s the body’s way of most urgently communicating its need for glucose. And the very act of eating itself can also be very calming and medicating, offering respite to the often overactive and chaotic ADD brain. For more info, check out Wendy Richardson’s book, The Link Between ADD and Addiction.

  24. “it’s really fucking hard to figure out that you do eat pretty normally when the only models of “healthy” eating we’re told about are restrictive diets…”

    Oh, this rings such a huge bell for me today. HUGE. I was reading a thread at a message board I frequent which soon devolved into a festival of butt-rubs for dieters and I was just…astonished at how little these people were eating–and applauding each other for being “healthy”. It got to the point where I had to stop reading or I was going to punch something or cry. I can only imagine that these people would think I should be immobile thanks to the amount of food I eat–but why wouldn’t they, when they’re slapping each other on the back for only eating a “healthy” 700-800 calories a day? It’s so maddening and fucking frustrating as hell.

  25. Listening to all this talk about intuitive eating makes me sad. It sounds like such a good idea. I’m trying to teach it to my boyfriend — he worries way too much about eating “bad” food. But it makes me sad because I can’t do that, or I’ll get sick.

    I’ve been craving cheese for at least a week. Cheddar cheese, pizza, mozzarella sticks, anything so long as it’s cheese. I figure I’m probably missing some important vitamin… but I can’t eat cheese, or I’ll get sick.

    I get sick if I eat cheese, or milk, or chocolate. I get sick if I eat eggs, or oil, or nuts. I get sick if I eat spicy food or greasy food or Chinese food. I get sick if I eat salads. If I eat until I’m full, I get sick. Sometimes my body skips right past “hungry,” straight to “sick.” I’ve narrowed my diet down to mostly vegetable soups, fruit juice, and pasta (I can eat mac’n’cheese from a box so long as I use rice milk. That scares me. What the heck is that orange powder?)

    And yeah, I binge. Because eating like this makes me crazy. I wish I could do the intuitive eating thing.

    Tonight, I had a small plate of chicken fingers and a beer, and bread pudding (with cherries!). Because that’s what sounded good. Now I’m sick.

    (yes, I’ve seen a doctor. According to her, I’m in perfect health.)

  26. Rachel, yeah, that sounds like me. Especially getting very full, and cheese, milk, eggs, nuts, greasy food… okay, especially everything you said. For me it matters what time of day, too. I can eat things for dinner and be okay but if I eat the same things for lunch I feel terrible for the rest of the day. I posted recently to say that so far I’ve been a lot better at “reject feeding” than “demand feeding” — I can’t usually tell what I want, but I’m getting better at knowing in advance what will make me ill. I mean knowing it viscerally, not just intellectually (because if I know intellectually that something will make me sick but I want it, I very well might eat it).

    Anyway, you should get a new doctor, for starters. And don’t despair. Eat the things your body can handle for now, and don’t worry too much about whether they’re “healthy” things, because things that are healthy for others are not working for you right now. And find yourself an ally, a medical professional who will actually work to find out what’s going on with you.

    (I wish I had better advice for you, like “here’s what turned out to be wrong with me and what I did to fix it.” But all I did was a) get better at figuring out what was triggering pain and b) get way too good at ignoring it and powering through. I can’t recommend that. Finding a doctor who will work with you, while exhausting, is a way better way to go. Also possibly low-dose antidepressants — ask me in a week.)

  27. You…leave me…breathless, yah. And I hope Joy’s new rant gets a million hits too. After reading about that damned Scholastic video game, I want to wash my brain out with the kind of powerhose they have at stadiums. You guys are helping infinetely.

    Yeah about ADD. Yeah about depression. And now I’m starting to get inklings I might have some element of Asperger’s too, talk about being some psychiatric pile of cliches. But maybe that’s why I don’t feel the urgency to get skinny that most fat women have. I have no sense that doing so would make me anything close to “normal.” (I called my “musical entity” Normal Fauna for a reason, y’know.)

    I feel so sad when I see these women (and it IS mostly women) who think they must avoid even the tiniest speck of flour or sugar of any kind or they will become out of control binge monsters. I don’t know what to tell them, honestly, because probably their worst fear is that they’ll wake up one day looking like me, so it’s not like anything I tell them about the joy of intuitive eating is going to make that much of an impact. About all I can tell them is that I’ve experienced far worse things than being fat, and almost all of them were when I was much thinner.

  28. I’d really like to know more about ADD. I’ve never seriously considered it because of the “hyperactive” part. After reading this post and the comments, I feel like I really, really need to know more about it, sans “hyperactivity”. I’ll stop writing now, I’m starting to get spacey. But just know, this comment was gonna be so much longer and crazier. I’ve typed and retyped it several times. Okay, that’s it then.

  29. rachel, please, try to find another dr, perhaps one that specialises in gastrointestinal medicine, or an allergist maybe. i’m no expert, but if yr listening to yr body, and it’s rebelling, that’s never a good sign.

    anyway, kate, you are amazing. i’ve been fat-positive/anti-dieting for quite some time now, but never really thought about the whole ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods or ‘permission to eat’ thing until i started reading this, and that’s definitely something i need to work on. realising i could eat pretty much whatever i wanted and not get fatter, cos my body would either respond positively and keep up the good work or alert me to any negativity was an important step, but clearly i’m not all the way there yet. baby steps grasshopper, baby steps.

    i have ADD no H as well, diagnosed with it halfway thru highschool, and yeah, same deal, still working on realising i’m not horrible, just different; i completely fit the spacey girl profile, but it was written off as depression or creativity. oh life.

    interestingly, about two weeks after i dumped my clingy abusive boyfriend and was the happiest i’d been in a while despite the occasional annoying ‘i hate you yr a fucking cunt/i love you don’t break up with me’ phone calls from him, i had a random ‘wait i broke up with someone i really loved, why haven’t i like eaten tons of ice cream or whatever’ thought. so i got a pint of ben and jerry’s, ate it, enjoyed it cos it was ice cream and that shit’s good but it was nothing terribly special, and have basically been vegan ever since (my body likes them plants, yes it does)

  30. I have experienced “trigger foods” from anything with refined sugar, that is, candy (sugar with fat, like in chocolate or pastry doesn’t do it for my body). It’s for sure not from restricting it, since I have never dieted and I only stopped desiring it when I decided I was sick of the way it made me felt and stopped.
    I eat one piece of candy, and woosh, I’m gone, I desire nothing more than to get MORE candy and finish 1, 2, 3 bags. I don’t know if it affected my weight, but the intense desire for sugar that I get from a bite is NOT fun. So I decided I never wanted again after this situation replayed itself over and over, I finally got sick of it. It’s been a few years and I’ll occasionally have sugar in candy-free form (dark chocolate or something), but I am very happy with getting my sugar from fresh fruit. But I don’t have candy ever and I don’t feel deprived because it was a rule that evolved naturally to keep me sane.

    I understand how deprivation can induce binges chemically, but that doesn’t mean trigger foods don’t exist–I can physically feel the “sugar high” and I hate the up-down roller coaster that went away when I left my trigger. Trigger foods are real, separate from the deprivation-induced overeating, and should be recognized for people who want HAES that experience this (research or no).

  31. Rachel, have you been tested for celiac? If you haven’t been, you need to be. If it’s been going on for awhile, it can get to the point where absolutely everything you eat, gluten-containing or otherwise, makes you sick. It also frequently comes with a casein (milk protein) allergy… about 50% of the time. Around the time that I hit maximum sickness, I would (I kid you not) wake up up in the middle of the night, walk to the fridge as if compelled, gulp milk directly from the carton, and get violently ill at, like, 3:00 in the morning. I think the gluten was making me so sick my brain was trying to get rid of it any way it could figure out.

    Kate, the thing with Jenny McCarthy? A lot of kids with sensory integration disorder and autism and that whole spectrum are having awesome results with the GFCF diet. She’s probably a good mom. :) That said? Anyone with AERD/Triad Asthma should throw his/her Feingold Diet book in the trashcan and save him/herself the time. I imagine ADD is the same. Most torturous, most vitamin-poor diet ever and it doesn’t even help. (Connie, that’s the diet people with ADD are reporting helps. I think they just want it to… It’s based on the elimination of salicylates, which, if you really research it, is kind of a whackjobby premise, even for those of us they’re systematically killing, because they aren’t the same salicylates.)

    As for compulsive eating, I just don’t know. I’d like to hope anyone offended by Joy can shrug it off. I mean, the video itself implies in the narrative that there is an actual pathology identified as compulsive overeating based on the questions the group facilitator asks her about “how much” and so forth. They don’t dismiss her claim out of hand. Still… an eating disorder is an eating disorder. And I’m not sure someone with one can ever really intuitively eat so much as force themself to mimic normal eating in spite of a disorder. “Normal people eat potato chips, so I’m going to ignore the voice in my head that’s telling me to slit my wrists for eating them/to eat 15 bags of these/to throw them up, and eat them anyway like a normal person. Look what I did! I ate chips! I’m normal! (And I’m not going to think about any of the bad things that I’m totally thinking about.)” In my experience, it’s always just play-acting some version of normal, but I’m sure others will disagree. And. Wow. I’m sure I just pissed off 52 people. In which case, I’m sorry. My experiences are mine and I can only speak for myself.

  32. Jane, the lists of what people eat must be so infuriating to read. I’ve been keeping a food journal for the last two months because I was diagnosed with a gut disorder. On almost any day during which I come home and think “Man I feel exhausted and cranky,” I can look at my food journal and see from its length alone that I haven’t eaten enough! It still surprises me that it’s that simple. Which particular items I eat affect how my digestive system copes on a given day–but on a day when I feel overall rundown and gross, it’s almost always the *number* of things I’ve eaten that is striking. And when I think of the fact that I’m not dieting and this is happening to me, it makes me very sad for people who are currently dieting.

    Kate, this is a brilliant post as usual. Also, ew on beef jerky. One of my classmates brought in *vegetarian* beef jerky the other day and caused quite a stir in the TA office. It was, by all accounts, horrifying.

  33. Rachel,

    What sort of sick?

    When I was younger, practically everything I ate made me “sick” at some point. Finally one night during a bad episode (after years of being told I was OK and/or drug-seeking), I went to the emergency room with my pain/nausea and soon after lost my gall bladder. It turns out my “perfectly fine” was actually “suffering for the last 10 years with a condition that left me with a vast amount of internal scarring”. Who knew?

    I just bring that up because the reference to fatty foods in particular catches my eye.

  34. Rachel, here’s some more unsolicited medical advice: have you been tested for helicobacter? Many doctors believe that ulcers are the only relevant symptoms caused by HB, but there’s some evidence that dyspeptic symptoms like yours, that were always believed to be psychosomatic, can be significantly reduced by HP eradication.

    Reminds me of this comment I read in a medical journal: “Prescribe HP eradication carefully! HP might even be good for us. Patients gained an average of 20 pounds after HP eradication in study XY.”
    Maybe because they could finally eat, asshat??

  35. I’m a fatty from a family of fatties and married to a fatty, but I only know one person that I can say with any certainty is compulsive about food. And it’s not compulsive eating, necessarily, although she sometimes does that, too; it’s that she has to have food (as much as she can store or carry) with her wherever she is. I don’t think it’s a “drug food” issue because she doesn’t even eat all (maybe not even most of) the snacks she keeps on hand. In fact, she’s always forgetting what she has and then throwing out the things that have gone moldy or stale or rotten and buying new ones… There’s more going on here than just wanting to binge.

  36. Great post–I’ve been learning to distinguish between eating what I want, and eating because I want to do what I bloody well please. Guess which one leads to an upset stomach. My motto is “My gut should have a vote–and sometimes it gets a veto.”

    Rachel, have you tried goat cheese? This is tentatively offered, but I find its a lot easier to digest than anything made from cow’s milk.

  37. Fantastic post, as ever, and this:

    “some people respond just as some people respond to any set of rigid rules — by wantonly flouting them, then struggling with massive guilt about it.”

    and this:
    “The kind of person driven by a genuine independent spirit, but also by a good measure of spite and petulance.”

    make me think that you might just be living in my head.

    I’ve been trying to do the intuitive eating thing for some time now and while I think it’s very obviously the way forward, I have some issues with it, namely:
    a) what if I just don’t know what I want to eat? I am often incredibly hungry, having not eaten for hours and getting a bit shaky, but I’m paralysed in front of the fridge/in the supermarket/wherever because I just can’t work out what I want. This takes up a lot of my time!
    b) when I’m pissed off and I open the cupboard and realise I don’t actually fancy eating those biscuits, or anything else in there, after all, what the fuck do I do with all that pissed-offedness if I can’t smother it with butter and jam!?

    I’m still struggling with the “eating is morally neutral” issue, too – but it takes time, I guess.

  38. Kate in England –

    Regarding point A., I’ve got 2 responses.

    1) I eat something relatively small that sounds acceptable to me, even if I’m not wild about it at the moment — yogurt, granola bar, chocolate, banana, piece of toast — to kill the immediate hunger, which clears the way to ask myself what I’m really hungry for, and take my time preparing/obtaining that.

    2) I’ve had to train myself to eat when I’m hungry just as much as I’ve had to train myself to recognize when I’m full. I didn’t really realize how much I ignored hunger signals over the course of an ordinary day, which of course led to that “OMG I’M STARVING NEED FOOD ANY FOOD” panic, which makes it impossible to figure out what your body actually wants. Now, when my stomach rumbles a little, I get off my ass and eat, period. If I can’t get excited about any particular food, I go to one of the things mentioned above, just to get the job done. That zany idea of actually eating when I’m hungry has reduced my fridge/supermarket paralysis substantially.

    what the fuck do I do with all that pissed-offedness if I can’t smother it with butter and jam!?

    Start a blog? :)

  39. Kate in England, I’m the same way on point 1. My endocrinologist suggests things with a balance of protein and carbs for those times when I’ve forgotten to eat long enough that I no longer want anything (the protein part is a PCOS thing, but it does give you sustained energy, so it would probably work for everyone). Toast and peanut butter was her suggestion; I prefer hummus and carrots or pita, or apple slices and peanut butter. The peanut butter makes me pretty sick if I overdo it but it’s soooooo gooooood (if anyone has a lower-fat suggestion, let me know — maybe almond butter would be better for my particular idiosyncrasies). Like Kate, I’ve tried to figure out a couple of go-to snacks and keep them in the house. (We’re out of hummus right now and it’s making me a little uneasy.) Crackers, grapes, or pretzels used to be my “just fucking eat something” food, and that works too.

    What I do at work, though, when I don’t have those go-to snacks, is pretty much just freak out a little bit. I’ve tried to come up with go-to lunches, because I’m rarely inclined to eat at lunchtime but if I don’t I’ll eat the house when I get home, but then I have days like yesterday when it’s 4:00 and I just got back from the gym so I’m not hungry but I haven’t eaten anything but I know I gotta. Other, smarter people keep nuts or granola bars at their desk (nuts unfortunately don’t treat me very well, see above). If I need lunch and I don’t want it, though, I usually force myself to do a sort of lunch walkabout, and visit the places in the building that vend food until I find something that appeals. Time consuming? You betcha. But sometimes as soon as I’m on my way to get food, the issue clarifies itself.

  40. We are so conditioned to believe that fat is always the result of overeating and a sedentary lifestyle — not to mention taught by the diet industry that “normal” portion sizes are microscopic and a “normal” calorie intake is well under 2,000 a day — many of us assume we must be overeating when, in fact, we’re not.

    There was a really interesting article in The New York Times earlier this week that I think starts to get us to how it is that society has come to believe these crazy things. Here’s a link to the article. It’s pretty interesting … and scary.

    Sorry for getting so off the ADD topic, but I thought this idea of “cascades” bringing about the “consensus” about fat, eating and health was pretty interesting (and new to me, anyway).

  41. I’m finding that eating more intuitively is helping me too, particularly with the not eating past full and the learning to recognize and enjoy the feeling of being satisfied.

    It is a hard road and there are a lot of things that get in the way. English!Kate, I find that sometimes I’m not craving anything either, or craving something I can’t get. When I’m hungry but not craving, I grab something quick and easy that won’t make me feel crappy (ie no dairy or fried food or other things that upset my stomach). I try to figure there’s no particular nutrient I’m craving, just sustenance and isn’t life about more than what I am going to eat anyway.

    It’s also hard to reconcile the fact that sometimes I have dinner plans in half an hour but am hungry NOW. Or really want Chinese but am meeting people for Italian. I guess in those cases removing the moral component helps.

    I think for me the key is getting emotion and morality out of the kitchen. And remembering that sometimes life gets in the way of intuitive eating (but not as much as it does with dieting). But that’s because life is about a hell of a lot more than eating.

    On the days I can think this way, I seem to have much less trouble knowing when to eat, knowing when to stop, feeling happy with those decisions and then moving on to more important things (like peeing and sleeping and breathing. okay, also work and friends and the myriad things in this world way more important than calories).

    I am curious, though, what classifies the difference between a compulsive eater and a binger. I’ve never really been either, just someone who on rare occasions eats to the point of pain for other reasons (ie too drunk to tell I’m full now or a REALLY nice meal).

  42. Well, I don’t know if I was officially a compulsive eater or a binge eater or what. I know that, unless I was on a diet, I ate past full almost every day. I often ate whole cakes or bags of candy or cookies. I went to OA and became even more obsessed over what I ate. I tried cutting out my trigger foods (I didn’t eat sugar for 6 years). I just found a new trigger food. For me, it was all tied up in learning to cope by using food, giving food moral value, hating myself and the like.

    What worked for me was Overcoming Overeating. I had to get beyond the fear of food and quit thinking that if I was only skinnier life would be better. Now, it didn’t help with my weight — I gained 5 sizes (but I’m not usual since sickness and grad school were involved). However, I seldom eat past full these days. When I do, its much less than it used to be (2 cookies instead of the bag). It was well worth it considering the peace of mind and love of my body I’ve found.

    I’m working my way towards a HAES plan of eating at this point, but I still fall back on the OO way of looking at things if I catch myself getting into diet head or obsessing about food.

  43. Ah, another Rachel has entered the building. I’ll have to revise my moniker.

    A note about ADD. I’ve been going to a shrink the past three weeks while we review how the medication is working and if the dosages need to be increased. I’m taking Adderall which is an amphetamine, kind of like legalized crack, so she can only write 30-day prescriptions for it.

    She’s been providing me with a wealth of info on the subject. Some of the same symptoms of ADD are also that of depression, and sometimes the two can be misdiagnosed as the other. Or they can coexist. Unfortunately, there is no sure test to diagnose ADD. There are some available, but they’re not definitive. My shrink says she prefers to speak with the person and get a complete background history before she diagnoses it as ADD.

  44. I am curious, though, what classifies the difference between a compulsive eater and a binger.

    Well, increasingly, they’re not making the distinction, because “Binge Eating Disorder” is the official diagnosis for any overeating disorder. But as I understand it, the old distinction is, a binge eater will eat a massive amount of food in a short amount of time, while a compulsive eater sorta spreads it out more — eating too much (i.e., well past the point of fullness) on a regular basis, sometimes several times a day, but not usually eating as much as a binge eater would in one sitting.

  45. Unfortunately, there is no sure test to diagnose ADD. There are some available, but they’re not definitive. My shrink says she prefers to speak with the person and get a complete background history before she diagnoses it as ADD.

    Yeah, that’s what my shrink did almost 10 years ago. I actually went to her for depression, but she did a bunch of personality tests as part of her normal “getting to know you” phase, and those flagged ADD characteristics, so I went through the other, non-definitive tests, which confirmed a “high probability of ADD.” Then we got my parents to dig up my old report cards, and lo and behold, from KINDERGARTEN on — well before I had any trouble with grades or homework — there are notes about how disorganized and spacy I was. The funny thing is, both my parents and I only remembered that I got good grades until middle school and my teachers always liked me — which was true. But the comments about my “daydreaminess” and lack of organization were there from day freakin’ one.

    So at that point (after much more discussion), we were about as sure as we could be, but I still had to go to a psychiatrist and go through the whole story again to get a confirmed diagnosis and drugs. For me, the depression and anxiety were still separate issues, as it turned out, though learning that there was a reason for my chronic underachieving was a gigantic emotional relief.

    I certainly wasn’t suggesting that anyone self-diagnose and expect treatment just from that when I recommended picking up a book above. But I do think that, “OMG, you’re describing ME” feeling is the first step for a lot of people who don’t realize that ADD involves a disparate collection of symptoms most people wouldn’t even connect in their minds — not just hyperactivity and impulsivity.

    My favorite question on Hallowell and Ratey’s self-diagnosis checklist is the one where they talk about a patient who presented with a cocaine habit, compulsive masturbating, and an addiction to crossword puzzles. Question was something like, “Even if you don’t share these symptoms, can you relate to this guy?” Yep. Heh.

  46. This is yet another reason I need to get a shrink… I almost certainly have ADD, and talked a school counselor into giving me pills once, which helped, but then another friend convinced me that I needed antidepressants instead. (They helped too, though not with the same stuff.) So I kind of forgot about the ADD diagnosis, which was mostly my idea anyway, and went back to self-recrimination. Brains are stupid.

  47. zOMG. I want this post tattooed on my forehead (except no one would ever be able to read it because it’d be in size 0.2 font).

    I had (have) control issues. Not as bad as my dad, from whom I get them, mostly because I acknowledge I have mine and thus can tell them to STFU when they get out of control. But they’re there, and for most of my teens and early twenties, I channeled them into my diet because it was about the only thing I had complete control over. Besides, it was an easy way to feel virtuous and accomplished. “I subsisted entirely on apples and chammomile tea today! I am a STRONG WOMAN!”

    …Yeah. Except not.

    It took me a long time to realize that “accomplishing” 800 calories in one day is no accomplishment at all. Nobody gives a shit if I’m starving myself. I don’t get a medal if I lose more weight, and I can’t trade in all those “saved” calories toward anything I REALLY want, like a Ph.D. or a convertible. Or even a deviled egg, for that matter.

    And I LOL’ed at “The kind of person driven by a genuine independent spirit, but also by a good measure of spite and petulance.” Y halo thar, mirror!

  48. Kate is right about the official difference between binge eating and compulsive overeating. I’ve had binge eating disorder for years and it’s been very interesting to unravel the different elements that cause it. First of all, yes, there was a dieting component. Dieting always ended up putting the binge eating into overdrive, and some dieters probably call themselves binge eaters when they are in fact suffering from the side effects of dieting. That was adding to my problem. When I stopped dieting and allowed myself to eat anything without guilt, even the massive amounts involved in bingeing, it helped. The bingeing didn’t stop, but it got smaller.

    Interestingly, it was also completely cured for a year and a half by taking an anti-convulsant, Topomax, known to help binge eating disorder in people with bipolar disorder (that ‘s me). It was fascinating to watch myself be completely uninterested in food. It also had horrible side effects so I eventually stopped taking it and was right back where I started, but with an understanding that it really is my brain sending out wacky signals.

    Finally, I think I might have solved the problem from a completely different angle. I’ve been eating gluten-free for a month now, and I’m still waiting to see if it’s just a placebo effect, but it seems to have helped the bingeing greatly. The idea is that if you are sensitive to gluten, your body doesn’t absorb food correctly. The brain can interpret that as starvation and sends out strong signals to eat foods high in fat and sugar (bingo!). Since binge eating disorder is often co-morbid with bipolar disorder, in my case the end result is massive bingeing. In some else it might look completely different (traditional presentation for celiac disease is weight loss). Also, this would explain why I am apparently the only fat person in my family (the product of two separately inherited disorders) although my youngest sister looks like she might have the same tendencies as me (which makes sense, she’s got the same genetic heritage).

    Anyway, to sum up a long post, I am glad to see eating disorders addressed sensitively here even though I know it’s not your primary mandate. Thank you for that. I think that fatphobia gets in the way of a lot of important research, because instead of investigating why some people overeat (or undereat, or get sick from certain foods) and hopefully finding solutions, the answer is just “lose weight by eating less” which is completely wrong for most people.

    And finally, Rachel (and others in the same boat), I hope you find a good doctor who will help you figure out what is making you sick, because it sounds to me like there is something physically wrong with you, like a bad food sensitivity or something. Good luck!

  49. About the issue about fat people eating poorly and thin people eating good. I have decided that instead of first explaining about HAES and fat rights, to say something like “You know the Obesity crises doesn’t just harm fat people, there are alot of thin people out there eating junk right now that could kill them”

    The idea is that if you turn the tables, that thin people are being mislead into thinking, just by virtue of being thin, they can eat all the junk they want as long as they don’t get fat, isn’t a good message to send either. Thin or fat, you eat too much junk you will end up in a hospital.

    By junk, I mean eating unhealthy foods alot. I don’t mean in the sense of junk foods, although that’s kind of around what I’m saying. Like, no foods should be forbidden is fine. However, if you can find a healthier alternative for a craving it’s better. Like, if you want chocolate cake having Vegan chocolate cake instead or something. Or even having one of those 100 calorie Hershey bars.

    Is it buying into the idea that people need to constantly calorie count? Perhaps, however pre-portioned sweets might be what people need to control what they think they’re craving for, fat or thin. I

    t’s like, I do want to combat the Obesity stigma out there, yet I also hate to admit it, but it did get me to eat healthier. I think though if you just focused on the risks of diabetes, cholesterol, and the like alone, that would scare people into wanting to eat healthier.

    AsI said at the beginning of this post, saying fat people are bad and thin people are virtually invincible and can eat whatever they want, whenever they want isn’t good for anyone. Perhaps that might be the key to getting people to understand how damaging the Obesity crises really is. Especially since it seems now that thin people think they’re better than fat people, they might only listen to an issue when it pertains to their risk.

  50. I think that fatphobia gets in the way of a lot of important research, because instead of investigating why some people overeat (or undereat, or get sick from certain foods) and hopefully finding solutions, the answer is just “lose weight by eating less” which is completely wrong for most people.

    Oh, AMEN, Artemis.

  51. Kate, this is such wonderful timing for me because I just realised last night how well intuitive eating is working for me and was about to blog about it, and it feels wonderful seeing someone else ‘get’ it, and basically say, “this is real; it can work”.

    “A genuine craving for ice cream or a burger is very different from an irresistible impulse to eat something “naughty” until I’m sick. Once I quit thinking of certain foods as “naughty,” I started seeing that difference quite clearly — and stopped wanting to eat myself sick on food my body didn’t crave.”

    Exactly! I grew up in a house that labelled food as ‘bad’, ‘good’, ‘naughty’, ‘virtuous’. My mother, as a fat woman who has been hassled for it her whole life despite being fit and healthy, was desperate for me NOT to experience that and in her eagerness to educate me about food, her views of it, which are inherently self-loathing, rubbed off on me.

    I used to binge eat on chocolate long before I became anorexic. The binge eating was because the food was “naughty” so I craved it even more. The anorexia was about control in a crazy world with crazy thoughts in my head.

    In the past year or so, I’d gone back to binge eating. I kept saying, “Eat as much of the ‘bad’ food now because tomorrow/Monday/next week you’re going on an ultra-strict diet”, and so I’d gorge until I felt sick. Then I’d be so restrictive with my diet, feeling so deprived and bored with food, that I’d end up binging again after a few days because I’d “cheated” so why not have a proper blow out?

    Since I made the conscious decision maybe 2 weeks ago NOT to label food, I feel so much better. It’s such a RELIEF. There’s this removal of expectations and pressure about what I put in my mouth and, as a result, I feel like I’ve been making healthier choices.

    Yesterday I opened the cupboard to grab something and felt genuinely shocked when I noticed that there was still a whole bag of chocolate in there. A whole bag of chocolate I’d been aware of for weeks. It was STILL THERE. Not so long ago, I would have been eating so much of it whilst stuck in my cycle of binge/deprivation that most of it would have been gone by now. But now that I’ve stopped obsessing about ‘naughty’ foods, I’ve been quite content to ignore it and only grab a bar when the mood genuinely strikes.

    I feel lighter as a result and I don’t care if it’s a psychological lightness or a physical one. I feel leaner and healthier, and I am avoiding the temptation to weigh myself or get out the tape measure (both items I have rejected and refuse to use from now on, though it is difficult some days) because it doesn’t matter if I lose weight or not. What matters is removing all this junk in my head that makes my attitude to food so fucked up and self-destructive.

    Honestly, I’d rather these feelings continue now and never lose a lb, than lose the weight I keep being told I “should” or “need” to lose and go back to a self-loathing attitude.

  52. Wow, Kate, you could be describing me with your reaction to rules and authority, especially:

    The kind of person who can’t stand being told what to do, but also can’t stand myself sometimes because I know the directions I’m refusing to follow might actually be useful to me.

    I have this awful habit of responding (both in my head and verbally) to my husband making any criticism of me–whether valid and constructive and polite or not–by panicking and freaking out and going “Well, if you can’t stand that about me then you’re going to have to leave me!” I realize this is, to say the least, an unproductive way of discussing whatever concern he brought up. But I find what I see as other people putting strictures on my behavior, or telling me to do x, y, or z, so scary that I can’t view the issue as other than black and white. It’s like I absolutely loathe them trying to do that to me, at the same time as I am petrified that I won’t be able to handle whatever it is, so if it’s a dealbreaker then the relationship is over. When really usually he isn’t even mad, he’s just sort of like “Hey, I’ve emptied the dishwasher the last 5 times, can you do it more often?” I can feel my rebellion against the “rules” turning self-destructive but I can’t stand to give in to whoever is “trying to control me.” Wow, in reading that I am reminded how weird and childish I am sometimes.

    I have looked at a couple of ADD symptom quizzes and I have to say, my longtime suspicion that I might tend that way is getting stronger. They really sound like me and in particular I have HUGE issues in my life with my work ethic and beating myself up over being lazy, but feeling unable to change or concentrate on my work or whatever, and being afraid that if I ever lost my husband I would be out on the street because I don’t feel competent to keep simple stuff like bills and household tasks under control. At the same time the hyperfocus is there too. When my back is to the wall (usually because I put the task off for so long that I have no choice but to do it) my husband says he could never focus the way I do for hours on end. I want to at least look into it further because I am getting ready to change careers (hmm) and if I have a systematic problem with disorganization, distraction, underestimating time to do tasks, etc. that could carry over into my next job (which I think is probably the case) then I want to either get treated for it if it’s ADD, or either way learn strategies for how to work more effectively. #1 would probably be giving up blogs cold turkey but I’ve never been able to do that for more than like a day. I also feel guilty because I feel like the answer is “just buckle down and stop being so lazy” but telling myself that hasn’t seemed to help so far, so…

  53. Artemis, just this morning I was talking on an email list about how going gluten-free got rid of my binging. I did not have “binging disorder” but every so often I used to eat uncontrollably until my stomach hurt. I thought it was stress, I thought it was PMS (because yeah, I did it more when stressed or PMSing). Then for years I thought it was sugar and went on a wild goose chase trying to cut that out of my diet. All the time it was gluten. I went gluten free for other reasons (classic celiac symptoms except I’m fat) but the binging being gone was a happy side effect. I’ve been gluten free since March of this year and no binges in all that time.

    There’s also decades of dieting, the bad vs good food shit and all that mental/social crap going on, but for me, there was also the underlying physical problem of eating food that was screwing up my digestion without me knowing it.

    I don’t think gluten made me fat though (had to disagree with a fellow gluten intolerant on that point this morning). If that was the case, wouldn’t I have magically shrunk since going gluten free? Because I don’t binge at all now and I’m not as hungry all the time as I used to be. I’m just fat. And I’m gluten-intolerant. Seperate things :) (though IMO, being fat helps you when you have this problem – I was not in as bad shape as the people who can’t hold on weight and waste away to nothing).

  54. I was diagnosed with a Binge-Eating Disorder in college. I went to a counselor after my husband found sitting in the empty bathtub crying because I’d just eaten myself sick on tacos, and I hated myself for it.

    Two things helped me get it under control to the point that if and when I do binge, it almost NEVER gets to that point anymore:

    1. I quit spending a lot of time with my mother. We have a toxic relationship. She spent my teens telling me I should lose weight, then going out and buying all my favorite treats when I finally caved and said I was going on a diet so I could “build up my willpower.” When I reached a point where I saw her only once every 8 months or so, I dropped about 15 pounds because being near her was always one of my big binge triggers.

    2. The binge-eating always had an emotional trigger for me, and going to counseling to try to fix those issues did wonders for it.

  55. Wow, ShannonCC, that is a really interesting point about how your weight might actually have protected you before you got your digestive issues more under control. (Kind of like the HIV patients who are now being shamed for not wasting away and dying as quickly as they used to.) Of course you would never hear any obesity-crisis “spokesperson” admit that because it might make people think they have permission to get fat, or some such nonsense, and obviously that would be the worst thing ever.

  56. Thanks Kate (The Original) and fillyjonk for your suggestions…

    I guess I worry that eating something small that doesn’t particularly appeal will take away my appetite and then I won’t get to eat something nice!

    fillyjonk, I have PCOS too and the protein thing is definitely important, but so often I just get BORED of protein offerings and want pure unadulterated carbs… I find peanut butter a bit indigestibl – almond butter is better – and I also feel very queasy if I eat nuts too often. It’s the out-of-home snacks that are so very difficult – anything sweet when I’m hungry makes me feel sick, and there isn’t much else in the way of grab-and-go available (apart from crisps/chips) in our shops. I’ve been working with cheese/apple/crackers combos, but getting a little tired of those too. Yogurt on an empty stomach also doesn’t work for me, although cottage cheese + fruit does and has a much higher protein content anyway.

    Anyway, enough – I’m HUNGRY! Must go EAT!

  57. ShannonCC, it’s interesting to hear from someone who is several months down the line from where I am. I’m really glad to hear that going gluten-free got rid of your bingeing. I’m hoping it will be the same for me!

    I’ve managed to figure out most of the other issues (8 years of therapy will do that – worth every penny!) so for me thisreally looks like the last piece of the puzzle.

    I agree that being fat or not can be a completely separate issue. I think we’ve got on the one hand a strong genetic influence to be a certain weight (fat, thin or inbetween), and then for people who are celiacs the way our bodies respond to that stress (making us fatter, making us thinner, making us plain miserable). Personally, I am rather in awe of how hard my body was working to get me the nutrition I needed, and am very grateful to it instead of hating it like I used to. Radical acceptance is my motto!

  58. I guess I worry that eating something small that doesn’t particularly appeal will take away my appetite and then I won’t get to eat something nice!

    I usually figure that if I’m having the “what do I want to eat” panic, I don’t really have an appetite — I just have hunger. The first demands a particular type of nice food; the second is just a physical issue. And, in fact, often a physical issue that gets in the way of rational thought about things like, say, what you want to eat. :) So eating something small knocks that out, and perhaps actually gives you the chance to have an appetite.

    Anywhere that has chips probably has pretzels… how do those treat you?

    I’m going to get some almond butter. I find peanut butter indigestible too, but such a tasty way to get some protein… almond butter sounds expensive but awesome.

  59. I guess I worry that eating something small that doesn’t particularly appeal will take away my appetite and then I won’t get to eat something nice!

    KiE, I second FJ’s comments and would also add: Remember that any given meal is almost certainly not your last. Not getting to eat something nice right now doesn’t mean you’ll never eat anything nice again.

    It sounds stupid when I say it like that, but that was honestly a big hurdle for me to overcome.

  60. Not getting to eat something nice right now doesn’t mean you’ll never eat anything nice again.

    Ooooooh that’s a really good point. So easy to forget that.

  61. I was waiting for someone to catch that, retsub. :) I think it took just about as long as it took somebody to mention The Police in the “On Any Other Day” thread.

  62. Oh, I figured everyone was getting the song stuck in their head every time they looked at the post thanks a lot Kate.

  63. Not getting to eat something nice right now doesn’t mean you’ll never eat anything nice again.

    It sounds stupid when I say it like that, but that was honestly a big hurdle for me to overcome.

    I’m still working on this one. Kate, your post hit SO close to home for me, especially the part about “he’s having a treat so I can have a treat!!!” Growing up in my parents’ house was definitely about “good foods” and “bad foods.” I don’t remember a time when I didn’t drink skim milk and Diet Coke; if my mom was on a diet, then so were the rest of us.

    So, of course, whenever I was outside the house, I would go a little nuts with my eating, especially with sweets. Part of it was a reaction to my mom’s bland, low-fat cooking (she’s a good cook when she wants to be, but most of the time it’s bare chicken breasts and kale or something. GOD I hate kale). But another part of it was me rebelling against the rules of good foods versus bad foods. Like, my subconscious was going, “Screw you, Mom, I’ll eat all the brownies I want and you can’t stop me!!!one!” In hindsight I wish I’d gotten some piercings and dated some bad boys instead. :)

    Anyway, thanks for talking about the distinction between “eating disorders” and “disordered eating.” I don’t think I’ve ever had an eating disorder, but pinning down exactly what about my eating habits is disordered seems like a more difficult task. The intuitive eating thing is appealing, but I definitely have that “fear of devouring the world” that you’ve talked about. Still, I’m getting better at it. Learning how to cook vegetables in appetizing ways is helping (and I don’t even have to sneak them into my husband’s food because he actually likes veggies too!).

  64. Re. alternatives to peanut butter. How about hummus? Or roasted chic peas? Or, fresh fava beans* with pepper and some of the good olive oil for dipping?

    *Enough with the slurpy noises. They’re a perfectly reasonable, unjustly maligned food stuff. Although they really are good with a nice chianti. And, they look so damn obscene you can spend hours just making jokes about them.

  65. …GOD I hate kale…

    Now, now. It’s a perfectly reasonable, unjustly maligned food stuff, especially when you chop it up, pan fry it with some green onion, and mix it with mashed potatoes, whole milk, salt, pepper and generous amounts of butter. (Once again, the Irish save civilization!)

  66. Artemis: I was prescribed Topamax several years ago as a mood stabilizer in conjunction with Welbutrin. I finally went off it simply because I was even more spacey and disconnected. There’s a reason some people call it Dopamax.

    Topamax was originally created to help with seizures, but because it’s been shown to reduce appetite, many doctors are now casually prescribing it for patients who just want to lose weight. This is made even more disturbing by the fact that one of the side effects of Topamax is anorexia.

    Spacedcowgirl: I’m very lucky also in that my husband is super-organized in regards to monthly bills. He has absolute perfect credit. Me, I always forgot to pay the phone bill and then I would pay three months of it at a time because they threatened to turn it off.

    When my back is to the wall (usually because I put the task off for so long that I have no choice but to do it) my husband says he could never focus the way I do for hours on end.

    This is common in ADD; I think they call it hyper-focusing. I can only do it if it’s something I like. I can get into digital design or designing a website, and totally lose track of time and reality.

  67. I may be the last comment on here and may not get a response, but I’m wondering…

    I am fat. I do overeat (sometimes junk food) and lead a sedentary lifestyle.

    Does that mean I’m not allowed to be part of the movement? I may my very own self be causing my fatness and not following a strict HAES model… am I going to have to start my own club?

    (let’s not, for the sake of this question, go into my actual personal history of dieting and regaining, nor my PCOS, nor any other factor that may contribute — let’s stick only to my choices of food and inactivity)

  68. To Anon:

    * How are you defining “overeating”? Specifics. How much per week/day. For how many years?

    * Any “overeating” that is interrupted by periods of being “good,” or dieting does not count, since we’ve no way to determine whether you weight gain is a result of dieting or “overeating.”

    * If you’ve been at your current (fat) weight for more than five years, why are you assuming it’s an abnormal weight, and not just your normal weight level?

    * If you “believe you are causing your own fatness,” are you saying you believe permanent weight loss is possible? If so, where’s your proof? (Hard data only, please.)

  69. Anon, of course you can still be part of the movement. HAES is a tool for people who want to improve their health without trying to force themselves to lose weight. But it’s just a tool. It’s not an arbitrer of whether you’re a good person, and it’s not a pre-requisite for being in the fat acceptance movement.

  70. Re. alternatives to peanut butter. How about hummus? Or roasted chic peas? Or, fresh fava beans* with pepper and some of the good olive oil for dipping?

    Not on apples! That’s gross!

  71. This is made even more disturbing by the fact that one of the side effects of Topamax is anorexia

    I think people misunderstand this. When the side effect of a medication is anorexia, it is NOT anorexia nervosa. It’s just lack of hunger. That’s part of the reason people lose weight on Topamax, is the anorexia (=no hunger) side effect.

  72. However, Anon, if you want to be “in the movement” you will be subjected to discussions with people who are living HAES, who don’t believe it’s easy or common for people to “make themselves fat,” and who do not assume all “overeaters” are fat or all fat people are “overeaters.” Can you be “part of the movement”? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends upon the goal or the particular group.

    Will you be surrounded by people who will validate your belief that “you’re making yourself fat.” No, you won’t. Some of us, like me, read from the existing data that “overeating” cannot make people fat, except for very short periods of time, and with drastic physcial consequences (i.e. liver failure.) And, since dieting causes “overeating” and weight gain, blaiming overeating for what is a dieting-induced problem is not valid. (But, Anon, you’ve decided to “ignore” your dieting history, even though it’s far more likely to be impacting your weight permanently than any “overeating” — perceiving or real — that may be going on. Makes it pretty hard to have an informed conversation, when you’re making rules that forbid bringing up the most important factors.)

    Will you feel “safe” and “comfortable”? Probably not, if for no other reason than that we’re focusing on the majority of fat people, fat people who eat just like thin people do and who are reasonably active, and who know that exercise doesn’t change body weight by more than five pounds anyway.

    So, if you want to be challenged, to get a better understanding of fatness, sure, hang around. If you want to feel safe and validated and never encounter a new idea, I recommend Weight Watchers.

  73. RachelR… thanks very much for sharing your experiences… It is really interesting that we have had some similar approaches and responses to various situations.

    ADD or no, I think I really need to examine my behavior and thinking patterns beyond “I’m just lazy” which is my default “explanation” whenever I don’t do something as well as I would like. I mean, not that I’m maybe not lazy after all, but looking at it that way doesn’t seem to be helping me improve the situation.

  74. Hey Kell, I realize everyone’s different and the plural of “anecdote” is not “data” but speaking for myself only, I lose and gain weight pretty easily. I am by no means a perfect HAES practitioner (if you have read my comments elsewhere you probably know just how imperfect and how much I struggle with my relationship with food, so thanks in advance for bearing with me). :)

    I’m not saying your interpretation of the preponderance of data is wrong, but when I’m stuffing myself (like when I was doing Overcoming Overeating without realizing how my particular mindset might be sabotaging me) I gain a lot of weight. When I eat less I lose. I mean, I don’t get thin, but I lose. I’m sure my metabolism wouldn’t function this way indefinitely if I gained and lost many times, but for now that’s how it seems to work. Note, I don’t believe this is necessarily how it works for the majority of fat people.

    I certainly don’t think there is a need to encourage or condone people beating themselves up and looking for validation for their self-hating belief that they “did this to themselves.” But it’s possible Anon is kind of like me and her weight really is responding to overeating.

    I think this is all somewhat beside the point of whether someone “can” be in the “movement”… in the movement people are working toward equal rights and respect for fat people, including decent health care and non-discrimination and the government not taking people’s children away, right? So it seems to me as discussed in recent posts that one’s personal experiences are not necessarily germane to that; there are a few large goals and everyone should be working towards those and not sucking energy out of the movement by demanding validation for personal choices, regardless of what they are, and thus making it all about ME ME ME. Not that I’m not pretty good at that myself.

    IMO it is really important to point out the evidence-based facts about “overeating” and fat people’s food intake and activity vis-a-vis thin people’s and all of that as being true in the preponderance of cases, because so few people really know or understand these facts, but they don’t have to be true for every fat person and I think it can damage the message a little to insist that they must be. Again, we are all different and I think that’s an important thing to highlight too… it is important to me that other people not lay claim to my body by telling me that my own experiences with it can’t be true. But it is also incumbent on me not to get into this specific discussion that I’m getting in right now in the context of the movement too often unless it serves some kind of purpose, or else I fall into that me me me trap again.

  75. Fillyjonk: Thanks for the clarification. It should be noted though, the physiological effects malnutrition does to the body. We’ve seen from both the early Jamestown settlement and the Minnesota Starvation Study during WWII, that those who are malnourished develop behaviors very much in attune with that of anorexia nervosa. And these people weren’t even consciously dieting. While there isn’t a pill that will make you develop an eating disorder, the effects of Topamax can lead one dangerously close to developing AN-like symptoms. So, for one who is already actively dieting, this may be the tipping point between disordered eating and an eating disorder.

    Anon: You don’t have to be thin or a “good” fat person to expect to be treated as a human being. And there’s no movement dictator who determines who does and who doesn’t get the privilege of becoming a fat acceptance card-carrying member.

    As Kell notes, it depends on the goal of the group. Luckily for you, the blog you’ve posted on, Shapely Prose, has the reputation of being a welcoming community of diverse people and lifestyles. Other communities aren’t so open-minded. What I do is patronize those communities I feel best empower me, and avoid those who don’t.

  76. Gluten – I definitely think being fat is a plus when you are gluten intolerant but I should point out this is just my opinion. There’s so damn little research on all this so not much is really known. So many doctors still believe it’s rare (hah!) or that you simply can’t have it unless you’re stick thin and still losing (I’ve met one person and run into more online who had doctors refuse to test them for it because they were fat). Basically not a lot is known about celiacs or gluten intolerance in general, let alone the differences between those of us who have no trouble holding on weight vs those who do (and by the way, it was still no walk in the park – stomach aches, gas, diarrhea, etc – I still think I fared better than those who end up underweight).

    Artemis – good luck and I’m interested in hearing what you have to say on your journey :D

  77. RachelR – I completely agree with the Dopamax moniker. I couldn’t even concentrate enough to read, among other things. But after being in the throes of severe depression, anxiety, and bingeing, it was such a relief to not have to think about food for a while. It really allowed me to separate the biological issues from the psychological ones. So in that respect I am glad I tried it (in conjunction with other mood stabilizers and anti-depressants).

    I think it’s extremely sad that people are so unhappy with their bodies that they will put up with the many side effects of Topamax just to possibly lose some weight (I guess you can partly count me as having been one of those people). I hope that spreading the word about HAES will help with this.

    Anon for this topic – I accept you just as you are, whatever your size and eating habits and lifestyle and doubts. You can make whatever choices you please – and some of those choices are less under our conscious control than we’d like to believe. None of these food or exercise choices make you or anyone else a bad person. I love what Kate once said – “health is not a moral imperative.”

  78. Anon – I was trying to figure out what to say but I’ll just say “what Artemis said”. (and if I knew how to quote here I’d do that :D )

  79. I’ve put up a “permanent” version of my answer to the “Can I Be in the Movement…” question at my blog. Like Pattie Thomas, I have things I’m tired of discussing and this is one of them.

    Another version: I’m tired of talking about all the exceptions, and leaving the majority of fat people on the outside looking in. The overwhelming majority of fat people eat moderately. The overwhelming majority of fat people are not lazy couch potatoes. The overwhelming majority of fat people do not have eating disorders. To paraphrase Toby Keith, I wanna talk about me for a while. If that means the people who are still dealing with one or another food obsessions, or who see themselves as lazy, or who don’t think their fat body is the “real” them get bored, or feel “unwelcome,” or are stuck having to deal with information that challenges their preconceptions, tough. If it’s fat acceptance, it’s not an ED support group. It it’s fat acceptance, it’s not a weight loss group. If it’s fat acceptance, many, perhaps most, newcomers are going to spend their first year on campus feeling strange and threatened and unsure and confused, because fat acceptance is about change, and pointing out where the status quo is wrong. We’re not about making people feel safe, and we’re sure as hell not about being predictable.

    “Can I be in The Movement if…?”

    Only if you’ve got the guts.

  80. Yeah, I basically agree with and don’t so much mind your blanket philosophy on FA and your understanding of the data, and I can understand where the question of “can I be in the movement” for x, y, and z reasons that have usually all been done to death before, and which are often just straw men to try and get you to admit that fat people are lazy gluttons and suck, easily becomes distracting and tiresome for a movement “veteran” to go over and over ad nauseam. So I really do try to restrain myself from getting into my personal experiences (or perhaps a better way to say that is I try to shut up and learn) since I gained a better understanding of the movement as a concept. I don’t always do so well but I do try.

    What I don’t really care for, and this is beside the discussion of the “movement” per se, is when you (as in Kell) more or less tell people (if the subject of their personal experience does come up) that they can’t be experiencing what they say they are experiencing.

    Now in the spirit of not derailing the comments any further… I will put “shut up and learn” into practice on this particular topic.

  81. Note above, “don’t so much mind” sounds patronizing and I didn’t mean it to be. I meant “the aforementioned is not what I am taking issue with,” no value judgment implied.

  82. A couple of thoughts:

    First, I didn’t hear it as Joy mocking compulsive eaters AT ALL, but rather mocking the mindset that assumes that people who need to eat and happen to be fat must be compulsive eaters.

    Second, I’m “ADD”. Not to be dismissive of your experience, but my own perspective is quite different in that I do not consider my “ADD” a disorder. I do have a genuine neurological disorder (OCD) so maybe that gives me some credibility in being able to distinguish between what is or is not a disorder for myself. In any case, what is interesting to me is that my growing acceptance of that has gone hand in hand with my growing acceptance of my body type. In the same way that I look at my fat as being a problem only given certain cultural expectations and not *inherently* so, so I now look at my “ADD” traits as being a problem only given certain cultural expectations and not inherently so. Sitting at a school or office desk all day and doing unimportant busywork at someone else’s command was difficult and painful for me. Not because there was anything wrong with me, but because that environment was wrong for me. The same is true with the difficulty and pain I’ve experienced in being a fat person trying to manage to create a pleasing life in this culture. For myself, taking speed to change the way I engage with the world would be no more of an answer than dieting.

  83. No offense taken, Linda. What treatment one decides is best for them, isn’t necessarily best for everyone. For myself, I view dieting as a harmful, disordered activity that negatively impairs both my physical and mental health. By contrast, I view taking “speed” to alleviate ADD-related symptoms on a vastly different plane. ADD has significantly impacted my relationships with others, and my academic and work performance. Taking medication to help my brain work more optimally is the same as a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, or someone with high blood pressure taking medication, or someone with depression taking anti-depressants. You’re helping your body work more efficiently, whereas dieting is all about fighting your body.

    And, I do think AD/HD is a neurological disorder.

    And a side note: ADD isn’t entirely bad, and can actually be advantageous. Read here for more on this.

  84. Thank you for your various replies. I suppose, Kell, that I didn’t really mean the question in the way you took it. I was not looking to analyze my statements/my caveats. Nor was I looking for permission to join an exclusive club.

    I do believe that there are a lot of factors — most of them unknown — that are “causes” of my fatness. I wasn’t looking to engage in that conversation. I have a therapist and talk about those issues a lot. :-) I also read a lot, and know the science that is posted here on a regular basis. I’m on board. I get it.

    I was looking specifically for a response to – Is someone like me included in the general discussion of FA if I am not actively pursuing HAES and I eat a lot and I don’t exercise. I would never use such perjorative language to describe myself, but for the sake of argument I am the lazy fat person to which so many point.

    I wonder if I am doing a disservice to that movement by being who I am. Is it hard to have me advocating for FA?

    And on a separate note, it is hard as a newcomer to these blogs (though not to the movement nor the sentiment) to read that people are “tired of discussing” these things.

  85. Anon, I just wrote a post that hopefully will address some of your questions — it’s not directed at you specifically but it might help!

    And on a separate note, it is hard as a newcomer to these blogs (though not to the movement nor the sentiment) to read that people are “tired of discussing” these things.

    I think both sides have to be a little accommodating here. It cannot possibly be news to Kell that some of these questions will be rehashed time and again. Personally, I’m always prepared to have the conversation again when there seems to be critical mass asking for it, because that’s just the nature of the beast. But Anon, I hope you can also be sensitive to the fact that we’ve already rehashed this one many, many times. That doesn’t make any of your questions presumptuous, unfair, or wrong; it just explains why you may get the sense that people are rolling their eyes. It’s not about you, it’s simply about the repetition.

    If you read back far enough, I bet you’ll find plenty of info to answer your questions.

  86. Ack, so much to say, so many thoughts bouncing around in my head. eek. Here’s my attempt at expressing some of them, organized by topic:

    (for FJ and others) Nut Butter Alternatives (let’s get the easy one out of the way): Have you tried sunflower seed butter? It’s not lower in fat, AFAIK, but I’ve been told by a few people that those with nut issues often do better with sunflower seed butter (and it’s really, really yummy). You can get it at Trader Joe’s, if you have one, and I assume other health/natural food-ish places, but I’m not sure.

    Good Food/Bad Food/Guilt: I just need to say flat out that I feel like my whole mindset about so many things has been struck by a tornado (a good, tornado, really! –let’s just pretend that’s possible, k?) since I’ve been reading this blog and others. There are so many things I never even realized I was thinking that were demoralizing and making me feel bad about myself that are just going up in little puffs of smoke as I read each post.

    The whole good food/bad food/guilt thing, yeah. I tend to think of myself as having a relatively good relationship with food for a fat person, somehow having managed to avoid most of the diet culture (I’ve actually never been on an actual “diet”, somehow, I feel very lucky), so I was surprised to realize just how much I was still thinking like that, even if I don’t act on it much. So yeah, puff of smoke number 342: Food is food. Food is not good or bad except as relates to MY body’s reaction to it. And um, managing to “make it” to, oh, two o’clock in the afternoon before eating anything: uh, NOT GOOD. Not virtuous. That whole little thrill of “ooh, I ate less” thing? NO. This is not a good way to treat my body. If I happen not to be hungry, fine, I won’t necessarily force myself to eat anyway, but there really are no “good fatty” (societal-perspective-based) points to be gained by putting off eating.

    Oh yeah, and and poof 343: This morning at the gym I walked by a table where they are advertising their new “weight management” program and instead of thinking something like “argh. shut up. leave me alone, I know you’re trying to target me, but I don’t feel like giving you even more money (that I don’t have), and frankly I don’t like people telling me what to do. . .” all the while feeling slightly guilty . . . I simply thought “Oh, what a silly program. It’s a good thing that’s not why I come to the gym.” Really different effect on my emotional state/thought patterns. (ya think?)

    ADD/”Disorder”/”Disabilities” Versus Individualized Experience of the World: So I have been diagnosed with ADD in the past (bet you never could have guessed, right?), on Ritalin, off Ritalin, etc. More recently I’ve been told I’mm not ADD, in favor of some unspecified learning “disorder”. Whatever it’s called it is very clear that my brain does not work in the way that traditional liberal arts schooling expects it to. But I also refuse to think of myself as having a disorder, my brain just works how it works and it’s only a problem when there’s a mismatch with something I’m trying to do.

    I just this year finished my undergrad degree having been out of school for a few years, after leaving my first school after realizing that I was finding school “torturous and unfulfilling” and this was entangled with relatively bad depression to make me pretty much miserable. Yeah, so I left. When I went back to school two years ago, I specifically chose a school with a less straight-liberal-arts orientation and which has a program for non-traditional age students (of which I was certainly one of the youngest — I’m 26– but it still made a big difference to be in an environment that is used to recognizing that people’s life experiences vary and affect their school experience, and that people have all sorts of different strengths).

    Well, it turned out that this school also happened to have the best “disability services” person I’ve ever encountered, and really the only person I’ve worked with (in high school or any of three colleges I’ve been to) who I felt actually understood anything of what I was trying to say about my experience of school and my brain, etc. and actually had anything helpful to say about how to get me through school. The best thing he ever said to me was in our first meeting when I said I prefer to refer to what I “have” as learning differences, when I must use some label, and don’t believe I have a “disorder”, my brain just doesn’t work how school expects it to. His response: he said he actually doesn’t believe in the concept of disability at all, be it mental or physical. He said he believes that every person has a different experience of the world and sometimes it is a better or worse match with something we are trying to do, making that thing harder or easier, and sometimes we have to find ways of making changes in ourselves or the thing we’re trying to do (or both) to bring them into better alignment. That’s it. He said it happens that the language of disability is the tool we have available right now (legally) to make this possible in certain kinds of situations, so he’ll use it where it helps get people what they need, but that’s all it’s good for. It was totally mind blowing for me to hear this from him, as it meshed so well with what I was already thinking (and even took my thinking further) and yeah, we worked together just fine. I definitely don’t think I would have been able to finish school without his help. I count myself very lucky.

    um, yeah, I guess I’m done now. Sorry for the novel. This is half the reason I don’t comment more often, here and other places: I don’t trust myself to be able to produce something that is at all a reasonable length to expect other people to read. Sometimes I can’t hold it in anymore, though, and I just have to write it all out, and even if no one reads it (all) I’ve still said my piece and all the bouncy balls can get out of my head (for now).

  87. Oh, I meant to make clear in in the part of my very long post about how I think about my brain function, perspectives on “disability” etc. that I totally get that others have different experiences from me and may fundamentally disagree with what I’ve said. This is really just my thoughts and opinions and I don’t at all mean to be implying that others need to share them.

  88. BTW, kate, I’ve also had that song in my head since yesterday. I think you’ve probably done it to all of us.

    Pavlov’s dog, indeed.

  89. First, you are once more amazing. Much love.

    Second, the whole idea of mental illness (disorder? what’s the term du jour?) is something I’ve thought about a lot. One really good phych person once told me that there were two important qualification for an actual “disorder” independent of symptoms: distress and dysfunction. A person may display behaviors that technically classify them as “manic”, but if they’re functional and not in distress, there is no problem, and thus, no diagnosis. I knew a guy my sophomore year of college who had bipolar disorder. They treated his depressive cycles, but never really got the manic phases under control.

    Which was just how he wanted it, since being able to simultaneously write three programs at once without getting tired is a distinct advantage for a CompSci major. He was never dangerous in his manic phases–just kind of looney and unbelieveably productive and creative.

    Technically both states were a mood disorder, but only one caused distress or dysfunction. The distress/dysfunction thing is, I think, missing in a lot of discussions of weight, diet, exercise, and health. A person may be fat, but happy and functional, but they are classified as disordered and encouraged to change. Another person may be slender, but their whole world revolves around the ethics of peanut butter consumption, but they are classified as normal and encouraged to continue their behaviors.

    I suppose this gets back to the whole discussion of “health”. (Eternal youth or “when nothing hurts very much”?)

  90. Rachel, yeah, no argument here on the effects of malnutrition. I think it’s pretty irresponsible to prescribe someone a drug because it has the side effect of making you disinclined to eat. Goes right back to the subject of this post — eating, in and of itself, is not a disease to be cured.

    I just wanted to clarify that the drug won’t make you lose weight and also potentially give you anorexia nervosa as an extra danger. It makes you lose weight because of anorexia, as in not wanting to eat — which is dangerous enough. Certainly for some people that could trigger disordered eating or even an eating disorder.

  91. Totally think the prescribing of Topamax for weight loss alone is nuts. That said, one can get a bit “baby with the bathwater” about Topamax. It is a migraine godsend. I went from debilitating daily migraines that were unresponsible to prescription drugs to about one headache per month. It’s also one one of the best seizure treatments going and it’s working really well for alcohol detox, apparently.

    In the experience of my mother and I, both of us nutso about food, the anorexia wears off after a couple of months. Sadly, the blocked word recall and inability-to-do-math side effects do not, so much. Just, I’d hate for anyone with a real disorder not to consider it because of the anorexia. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the pain was. (Frankly, it’s a lot worse when you’re doing the snapping and pointing and going, “The word that means… you know… like water, but that you feel,” and the word turns out to be “placid.”)

  92. spacedcowgirl said:
    “IMO it is really important to point out the evidence-based facts about ‘overeating’ and fat people’s food intake and activity vis-a-vis thin people’s and all of that as being true in the preponderance of cases, because so few people really know or understand these facts, but they don’t have to be true for every fat person and I think it can damage the message a little to insist that they must be. Again, we are all different and I think that’s an important thing to highlight too…”

    Hey, spacedcowgirl. First off, I wanted to say I always look for your comments because I like what you have to say and we have two things in common. One, I have not mastered the food portion of HAES in the least. Two, I have OCD.

    But, learning that fat people don’t become that way by overeating and underexercising is a revelation for me. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt good about myself with regard to my size. Because even after being exposed to fat acceptance principles for the past several months, I still felt that deep-down it was all my fault.

    Now I’m wondering if I’m the exception to the rule.

    Unfortunately, I think that the message that “not all fat people are fat because of overeating and underexercising — but some are” could be extremely damaging to fat rights. Because I’ve seen fat bigots over and over again latch on to the “exception” to the rule *every time* they come in contact with a fat person. *Every* fat person they see, to them, is the “exception” to the idea that fat and thin people eat and exercise the same amounts and for the same reasons — even giving the benefit of the doubt that they believe that’s possible in the first place.

    (I understand you’re concerned about the message to fat people, and I’m talking about the message being sent to fat haters.)

    Also, how do you define “overeating”? How do you know if you’re overeating unless you keep track of what you do eat? And how do any of us know what years of dieting have done to how and why we eat/overeat?

  93. Thank you for the advice. Regarding getting a new doctor, I don’t have a choice in that — my doctor is leaving town soon. I’ll miss her. She is a good doctor.

    I haven’t been tested for anything because I’m afraid that even if I can afford the tests, I won’t be able to afford the treatments. If I have celiac disease, I’ll starve; bread is one of the few things that never makes me sick, even when I eat a lot of it. My doctor told me to get more water, fiber, and exercise, and that helped.

    Regarding goat cheese: All the love. :) It doesn’t make me sick nearly as fast as most cheese, and it’s delicious.

  94. RachelF, one of my favorite gluten free bloggers talks about how, just before she was finally diagnosed with celiacs, she was down to being able to nibble on nothing but crackers (gluten) chicken noodle soup (gluten) and soft bread (gluten). She cut out all gluten, came alive and now writes the most delicous blog full of gluten-free food. The body works in mysterious ways ;)

    But gluten isn’t the problem for everyone and there’s other foods you might be intolerant of or allergic to that are messing up your digestion. Or like someone else said it might be something else and not food related. As much as you like your doctor, she hasn’t done her job. It’s really a good thing she’s leaving and you’ll have to find a new one even though you like her. Really. Good luck to you! I hope you find your answer soon.

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  96. (Wearing medical language specialist’s hat for a moment) Yes, “anorexia,” without the “nervosa,” is a medical term that simply means “lack of appetite” or “inability to eat.” There are many possible non-psychiatric reasons for this to occur. (It’s quite common in the elderly.)

    And drugs that are known to be appetite suppressants (either as a primary or secondary characteristic) are known to medical practitioners as “anorexiants.” ADD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, for example, are typed as “anorexiants.” It doesn’t mean you’ll get anorexia nervosa from them.

  97. Kate, your post just rang so true for me. As a child, teenager and in my 20s I was first denied the food I wanted to eat by my mother and then continued to do so for myself. I dieted and didn’t eat the things I wanted, because they were “bad” or did eat them even though they were “bad” and then beat myself up about it.

    I was obsessed by food, I continually thought about when I was going to eat next. I would sneak candy into the house when my mother wasn’t looking and eat it in secret in my room. If I went to a restaurant I would chose the meal with what looked like the biggest portion because I was always hungry and always craving food.

    Something changed in my mid-20s. It could very well have been meeting my now husband who loves me the way I am and thinks that fat girls are very sexy, so I felt I didn’t need to try and diet to get a partner because I had a partner who loved me as I was. Anyway, I decided, to hell with it I would eat whatever I wanted. And I found that I didn’t actually want cakes or endless slices of bread and butter or huge amounts of junk food which is what I had feared. Instead, because I know I can have whatever I want and I don’t have to deny myself, I actually find that I don’t really want to eat all the time

    I now buy cookies, eat one and the rest of the packet goes stale. I buy bars of chocolate, eat a couple of squares and then the rest mouders in the back of the cupboard. When people get a mid morning snack at work, I don’t generally want one because I ate a decent breakfast and I’m not hungry. If my husband has something to eat, I don’t necessarily join him in it unless I’m hungry. I sometimes don’t want to cook and eat dinner and just have a sandwich or nothing.

    The relief about not being completely obsessed with food anymore is overwhelming. Because I know I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it, it’s almost like I actually don’t want anything apart from the fuel I need to run my body. Which of course is still fat, but I think is slightly better adjusted to listening to its needs than it used to be.

    The only exception to this rule is McDonalds. Out of principle I try and avoid McDonalds restaurants as I have a thing about multinational companies etc. And so of course I find myself craving McDonalds burgers. Maybe if I give myself permission for burgers, I would get over this craving too!

  98. “But some people respond just as some people respond to any set of rigid rules — by wantonly flouting them, then struggling with massive guilt about it.”

    I can’t believe how perfectly you have just nailed my issue! I figured out a few years ago (embarrassingly late in life, given that I’m in my mid-forties) that one of my huge issues with dieting is an authority issue: I just really hate being told what to do. I’m an innately cautious person, so I’ve never taken huge risks around things like sex, drugs, or fast driving. But, given that I eat every day, it’s hard for me to see food as a hugely risky thing–and the forbiddenness factor certainly makes it more appealing. So, fuck authority, I eat. And sometimes I eat just to say fuck you to authority. It’s so nice to know that I haven’t been alone in that.

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  100. Though I have been reading your posts very regularly and have ready many of the old ones. I had missed this one!
    And found it just in tiem because I wanted to ask you in that FAQ post if FA advocates make a distinction between acceptance of people who do have unhealthy lifestyles and are therefore fat.
    Well that is what I feel about me. But then again this is self diagnosis. I have never been to a doctor. I mean I have not fallen ill majorly even once after I gained a lot of weight five years ago (54 kgs to 65 kgs that would be 118 lbs to 150 lbs at 5 feet 3 inches) so in my mind i have become FAR FAR healthier than i was thin!
    ummm….i mean when i was thin, i used to dislike food or ratehr was bored by it , i only ate varations of potato (indian food!) or junk! and i was thin, thin, thin. suddenly i discovered vegetables, meats and all kind of magical things called food. and this well balanced nutrition (still eat a lot of junk but…) made me fat.
    the soon fat shaming and guilt started and on one level i felt beautiful for the FIRST time in my life (never when i was THIN) and on the other hand people were telling me i was unattractive, unhealthy, stubborn…

    now i wouldn’t know where i stand.
    I know i CAN and SHOULD excercise more, i have a desk job. I eat out a lot. And i love fried variety of junk food, i eat as much as i want too…though have cravings sometime…
    i am sick of being told by them or by others that people who don’t like food are healthier people!

    okay in case if this rant is irrelevant to this post, please delete it. But i just wanted to make a point that perhaps the definitions of compulsive eating might be wrong…ummm…that IS the point of the video, isn;t it?

    and also as an aside, the unhealthy lifestyle people (fat or thin) are DEFINITELY going to benefit from this movement taht you guys are a part of.

  101. ““Abstinence” from “trigger foods” is dieting in sheep’s clothing. And has about the same long-term success rate. And encourages the same old pattern of demonizing certain foods and feeling guilty about eating what you crave.”

    Honestly, I have to disagree with you here. I don’t have BED/COED and never have (I came closest to anorexia, frankly – though of course without the longed-after low weight and only the start of amenhorrea), but I DO have an eating disorder, and if I can stave off a binge/purge cycle by sticking to foods that won’t cause me to literally have a panic attack by consuming them, why are you telling me I shouldn’t?

    The rest of the post was great, but this part really got my hackles up, because I am fucking SCARED of losing weight and noticing and falling back into my eating disorder. I’m also fucking SCARED of foods that make me feel so upset and panicky and anxious and.. well, like purging. If you don’t have an eating disorder, Kate, WHY are you telling me how I have to deal with it in order to be a “good” FA activist?

    Look, different tactics work for different people. To a lot of people, those with eating disorders seem like they’re all the same – neurotic, stupid, privileged, insane, too childish to deal with life, etc. The thing is, we’re not, and a treatment that will work for one person will not work for another. For me, avoiding foods that will make me flip out is a GOOD THING.

    And I think you’re really off by telling me that I’m “dieting” when I WANT TO RECOVER and furthermore, I AM TRYING TO.

    And you know what? IT’S WORKING!

  102. Sorry, I just somehow missed the part that said that you actually have had an eating disorder. Please forgive me for being thick. My other points still stand, however: what works for one person may not work for others; that for me, it works; and that it’s a bit off for you to imply that if I avoid the foods that trigger my binge/purge impulse (or even sometimes purge impulse), I’m not a “good enough” fat acceptance activist.

  103. it’s a bit off for you to imply that if I avoid the foods that trigger my binge/purge impulse (or even sometimes purge impulse), I’m not a “good enough” fat acceptance activist.

    Well, it’s a good thing I wasn’t implying that, then.

    I was talking solely about BED/COED in this post. I realize there’s overlap with bulimia, and I realize that different things work for different people. There’s already been discussion of that on this thread, in fact. But there is simply no such thing as “abstinence” from food, and I think trying to bend reality so that an addiction model fits overeating can be really dangerous.

  104. First comment here, so I’m very nervous about it.

    Unfortunately, there is no sure test to diagnose ADD.

    I understood– perhaps incorrectly?– from my psychiatrist that if there was no neurochemical issue present, then taking Adderall would cause you to react like you were on speed.

    While I suppose that’s not really a sure test for AD(H)D in particular, it seemed like a good enough marker for me. Also, it’s been one of the things I cite at people who dismiss ADD out of hand, or *my* AD(H)D in particular. So I hate to let go of it, but if I’m mistaken, I do want to know.

    Regarding the potential (H), I’ve considered it as something that manifests for me mentally, rather than physically. I am aware that girls are much less frequently diagnosed, and often (at least anecdotally) don’t display the typical hyperactivity– but I think that, for some of us, it may just be a less visible (or invisible) manifestation of that behavior.

    I’m terrified of giving offense here; so please let me know if I’ve phrased anything poorly. I’m thrilled to finally be discovering this community.

  105. Lume, I’ve heard that too… no idea about the truth of it, because doesn’t it sound a little homeopathic? I think one of the people I heard it from was a school health services doctor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. :)

    The idea of invisible hyperactivity makes a lot of sense… the hyperactivity is, as far as I know, just another manifestation of inability to focus at will. Just a matter of whether you’re jumping around looking at everything in the 3-D world or jumping around looking at everything inside your head.

  106. But there is simply no such thing as “abstinence” from food, and I think trying to bend reality so that an addiction model fits overeating can be really dangerous.

    It’s been a while since I’ve disagreed here. Wait a minute; I have to stretch.

    Here’s what I’m wondering, especially in the face of the related AD(H)D discussion.

    I’ve seen and heard of people having neurotransmitter swings from sodium nitrite, BHT, alcohol, and nicotine.

    I’ve felt myself have them from either mainlining or accidentally consuming refined white sugar (without sufficient protein/fat to cushion the blow).

    [Alcoholism has popped up on both sides of my family, and alcohol does apparently end metabolize as sugar -- interestingly enough, the alcohol, nicotine, and sugar swings all have a tendency to hang on the same dopamine, seratonin, and B-receptors -- so I thought it best to understand my personal biochemicalisms as early as I could. ]

    In order to make the argument, one must, of course, concede the assumption that “white refined sugar” does, in fact, constitute food.

    (I’d also like to respectfully add that, for this commenter, there are parts of OA that suck. How obsessing more about what you put in your mouth constitutes alleviation of food addiction, I’m not sure, and I really hated that and some other parts of the program during the time I attended.)

    Now this may be a “”radical v. moderate activist POV” type of issue, and if so, so be it.

    But for the aforementioned reasons, I don’t really see that one can’t apply the verb “to abstain from” to certain types of food (like white sugar). I don’t really see it as that different from a food allergy, since food breaks down to chemicals.

    (By saying that, I am NOT excusing those who refuse dessert for “dieting” reasons as “I’m allergic to tiramisu”. I DO, however, know some people — e.g., my size 2 godmother — who swell up and you have to take them to the hospital if you accidentally feed them chocolate.)

    I also, for the aforementioned reasons, don’t believe “abstaining from food/a chemical substance with which your body chemistry disagrees” is synonymous with “bending reality”.

    I am also highly suspicious, as many commenters here know, of the chemicals the commercial “food” industry pumps into edibles these days that our bodies have no idea what to do with. I don’t think, though, that that automatically makes me an orthorexic.

    I DO understand — or I think I do — that the notion that “OA works for some people” is fodder for the arguments of non-critical thinkers that believe that “all nondieters overeat”.

    I believe that there are tenets of the AA model that don’t neatly fit the situation of someone who’s struggling with an eating disorder.

    I agree that a philosophy that characterizes “overeating” as “bad” is “dangerous” to FA activists’ efforts to get lunkheads to perceive all people as people.

    I also think a lot of this hinges on how one defines an “addiction model”.

    But I DON’T believe that there’s “no such thing” as abstinence from A food (or foods) that screws with your body chemically.

    I also don’t believe that abstinence from that food is REQUIRED to be characterized as “not ‘overeating’ to the point that you are dieting”.

    As far as the “for us or against us” model goes, it really almost reads as simplistically as “all skinny women are bitches”.

    And as one who also struggles a bit with neurotransmitter regulation — some of the best specialists on the East Coast have yet to agree on whether it’s AD(H)D or just an “overly” high IQ with the “requisite” social maladjustment, since I’m a girl and all — I find it hard to believe that that’s what you meant, KH.

  107. Regarding the potential (H), I’ve considered it as something that manifests for me mentally, rather than physically. I am aware that girls are much less frequently diagnosed, and often (at least anecdotally) don’t display the typical hyperactivity– but I think that, for some of us, it may just be a less visible (or invisible) manifestation of that behavior.

    oh hai Lume :D

    Kalm ur nrvs. Teh owenurs r nyce heer.

    Girls daydream. Some of us ruminate. (Anecdote does not equal data, but I’ve observed the combination of “inactive AD(H)D” and mild OCD with a dash of depression in mah familee. Gud tymes. Yeh.)

    (We’re also actively and aggressively socialized to be “ladylike” and not shout and run around and “be disruptive”, but that’s slightly tangential in this context.)

    For years AD(H)D has been under-diagnosed in girls — even those of us who got Satisfactory Plus Plus in every other area of the report card with a “Unsatisfactory Minus” in desk organization for, like, six straight years in primary school — because they, unlike their boy counterparts, were not smashing desks, starting fights with the other kids, and jumping out of windows.

    Also, even for breast cancer , the majority of medical research has been done on male instead of female cadavers. As a result, to paraphrase that guy talking about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything”.

    Is anyone else feeling like a non-person because we’re carrying the XX as opposed to the XY chromosomal marker these days? ‘Cause between the Governor, the Administration, and the medical research, I’m feeling like life is teh suk.

    Also, anyone else thinking DMSV writers are being “prudently cautious”? Or, like me, think they’re a bunch of risk-averse dolts who are revoltingly slow on the uptake when they could be HELPING some people?

    Whoa, long comments. I wil atmpt to furthurr reestrayne mah thawts todaye. thx

  108. Ok this is an old post, so it might be weird i’m still commenting on it. I was just catching up on older posts.

    I just reached two comments I simply had to respond to (my apologies if other commenters addressed it too and i missed it) -

    1. Bobette – just my 2 cents: i know for myself that wild swings in blood sugar are not a good thing. i also know that all that means is for me it’s better (usually) not to eat something sugary on an empty stomach, especially if it isn’t mixes with anything that would slow the digestion down (which i think fat does but the fat/sugar combo in a candy bar doesn’t work for me on an empty stomach, i need more than what’s in there to slow down the absorption of the sugar). The solution is simply to eat a little bit of something else first, or together with the sugary thing. That goes for fruit for me as well – esp grapes.
    And, shockingly, when i listen to my body i don’t even WANT anything sugary on an empty stomach. I always feel a bit queasy at the thought of anything sweet when my stomach is empty. Funny how that works. The only reason I ever ate sweets on an empty stomach is before I became an intuitive eater. If I had some “permission”, or something was available and i felt i could “get away with it”, i’d eat it. Candy or cake at work or something, when I happen to have an empty stomach, but if I don’t eat it now who knows when i will have cake or candy again so i have to eat it now!!! Of course with intuitive eating that goes away. I know that if/when I want it i will have it.

    2. The jenny mccarthy thing pissed me off so much, the way she went on that show and stirred up the bullshit unscientific paranoia about childhood vaccinations and autism.
    Her answer to the science was smiling beautifically at the camera and saying “My science is at home, and his name is…” whatever his name is. That’s the stupidest fucking NON-answer i ever heard. And sadly, too many americans have little or no understanding of or concern with science and how it describes and affects our lives. That’s exactly how everyone gets so misinformed about “obesity”.

    Secretly – i’m not arguing with what u said about the gluten-free diet helping people with this problem because i havent read anything about it.

    And you might be right that she is a good mother but i didnt get that feeling at all. I always thought she was a lovely person but after this I wanted to slap her. And when she talked about how she reached a point where she felt she needed to focus less on dating and more on her child, i thought, what the fuck? This came to you just recently? You mean you didn’t realize he should be your focus when he was BORN? Or maybe when he was diagnosed?

    That was so much fucking hollywood spin; I only heard HER side of it and still it sounded she was more concerned with a million other things than her own son. And when she presumably decided to focus less on dating and more on her son, that manifested itself in dating Jim Carrey.

    She can take her “mommy instinct” and shove it. All she did was stir up hysteria, paranoia and heaps of self-blame for parents.

    I don’t usually judge so harshly but she asked for it by going on about if for an hour on oprah.

    Whew sorry for the rant… It seems off topic maybe, but as Kate probably realized when she commented on Jenny in the first place – it’s the same bullshit thinking that makes people believe in the dangers of obesity and the effectiveness of certain diets, which we all know is false.

  109. (oh when i said that goes for fruit – i meant that fruit, esp something like grapes, spikes my blood sugar. u think i’d ever give up the “trigger” of fruit? i think not. and all this business about refined or not refined… glucose is glucose.)

  110. Wow, what you said about permission to eat “bad” foods, and to have a treat b/c somebody ELSE is having one, really resonates. I’ve kind of had that kicking around in my subconscious for a while, but hadn’t gotten to the point of articulating it that clearly. Thanks so much for putting it into words.

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  113. I must be Kate Nash- or else you came a stole the thoughts out of my head with some sort of baby-flavoured donut brain-drain machine. I have had so many of the same experiences that you have- minus the depression and ADD, add raging anxiety (Lexapro is da bomb! My mother claims it made me put on the weight, but I was doing fine until I went off to law school and HATED it and saw my dreams dissolve during the four months I saw on the couch eating and being sad, not doing much else than going to the store to buy more food or junk I didn’t need. But yeah, no, its gotta be the Lexapro). Its weird. Its like, I had to do everything wrong, and hate myself for it, and then do everything wrong and not care about it, and then do something right and notice it. (Chicken fingers give me dihareeha and upset stomach! So do jalepeno poppers and onion rings! And woah, you don’t even want to know what happens when I eat fried chicken! Dude, I don’t think those are worth eating very often, certainly not as much as I had been eating them!) And then, it clicked. Its been surprisingly unemotional so far, because I realized food was just food a few years ago. I had a theory that my body wasn’t stupid or passive, it would tell me what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop eating it. It would also tell me when to get off of my lazyass and do something. I just didn’t know how to listen, and my eating was all over the place. Now I know, or at least I know a lot more about what my body wants and needs and I’m working with it. I think thats the BIGGEST difference between diets and lifestyle changes and Demand/Intuitive Eating: dieting is working against your body. Demand eating is working with your body. And so far, I am very happy knowing I’ve avoided a lot of stomachaches and headaches (by not drinking). And plus I’ve lost 11 pounds. But the crazy thing was: I WASN’T TRYING TO. I was just trying not to feel like crap. And while I am still fine tuning my list of foods that give me an upset tummy or gas or maybe when I should eat more fiber and my weaknesses of just grabbing some cereal for breakfast because it won’t hold me until lunch and a whole host of other things on my Demand Eating to do list, My body is telling me I don’t feel like crap, and I’m telling my body I don’t feel like crap about it.

  114. Tagentially related… I, too, am ADD. and after a lifetime of being considered teh family Space Cadet, it was a relief to have a name for it. I don’t consider it in my case a disorder, exactly, but a quality I possess that I need to accomodate.

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