The Grooming of an Eating Disorder

My friend’s sister, Robin, has a 14 year old son, Will, who she thinks is overweight. Perhaps Will has put on a few pounds, but he’s extremely active and athletic. And probably about to grow. He looks fine to me.

Robin has begun policing his food. She’s taken all desserts, treats and junky food out of the house and watches him like a hawk.

Now we hear that Will regularly goes downstairs to his grandparents apartment and binges on all their ice cream and candy and chips. Robin finds all kinds of wrappers and containers and empty bags in his room.

That’s what happens when food gets restricted. That’s what happened with me. I, like Will, wasn’t particularly overweight when we began watching my weight. I was probably 10 or 11 when high-calorie food went off limits.

And so I would go to friend’s houses and park myself in front of their cabinets. They’d want to go out and play or watch tv. I only wanted to eat their junk food. I still cringe when I think about much Chef Boyardee and chocolate pudding I consumed at Liz Wechsler’s over the course of our friendship.

What would have happened to Will and to me if our weights were considered okay and we were left alone?

It’s really concerning to me how many kids get shoved on to the diet cycle when their bodies (and minds) are just fine.

A Question

At last nights VMA awards, the singer Pink sent her daughter Willow a message.
The Grammy-winning singer said her daughter told her recently she felt like she was ugly. Pink responded that many artists, from Jackson to Prince to David Bowie and even herself, were regularly made fun of, but pressed ahead with their art to inspire others.

“We don’t change,” Pink said. “We take the gravel in the shell and make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.”

And in closing, she reminded her daughter: “You my darling are beautiful.”

Now, that’s a mom!

My inclination with blogging is to keep going with the idea of parenting children with confidence and strong self-esteem, no matter what skin they’re in. I want to look at ways to grow happy and healthy girls in all shapes and sizes.

Is that interesting to you?

Running Interference with the Weight Patrol

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my friend, Lisa, who’s daughter, Hope, gets teased about her weight. Each time Hope is teased, she tells her mom that she wants to go on a diet.

Lisa does a great job with Hope and tells her she’s perfect and to pay others no mind.

Yesterday, Lisa’s ex-husband, Phil, asked if they should put Hope (a 10 year old!!!!) on a crash diet for two weeks. He says he doesn’t want the other kids to make fun of her.

Lisa knows that crash dieting is the absolute wrong approach. But it’s a really issue, on a regular basis with her ex

Here’s what Lisa wrote me, “It’s a horrible and ricidulous thing to say and then say it out loud. He is coming from a place of fear for her. I get that. But that is so harmful to her in every way. It hurt me and crushed when he said it. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked and disappointed.”

Then Lisa added that her parents are very concerned about Hope’s weight too.

Lisa run interference ocnstantly – keeping her ex and her parents in check, cradling Grace’s ego – as she puts it, running defense.

The crazy thing is Hope is perfectly healthy, just not particularly thin. She’s active and smart and engaged – a terrific kid.

Why should she be the one to change?

Fact About Kids and Diets

A new study from Common Sense Media made headlines by reporting that 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet. Furthermore, this new research found that more than half of girls and one-third of boys ages six to eight want thinner bodies.

In 1970, the average age a girl began dieting was 14, according to The Eating Disorder Foundation. By 1990, that age had dropped to eight. Twenty-seven years later, the numbers haven’t significantly changed. Each new study on children, dieting, and body image reveals only more appalling details. In 1991, 42% of first-through-third-grade girls reported wanting to be thinner. That same year, a study found that 51% of of nine- and 10-year-old girls felt better about themselves while dieting.

Many studies report a connection between parents’ attitude toward dieting and children’s behavior, and it will come to absolutely no one’s surprise that most kids (even as young as five) hold the same beliefs about food restriction as their mothers. Perhaps more surprising is that the media seems to hold an even greater influence than a child’s family. In nearly all studies regarding children and body image, test subjects list television, film, and video-game characters as the physical standards to which they aspire. It’s easy to see why. Another study, in 2000, surveyed top children’s movies, reporting that “72% associated thinness with positive character traits such as kindness, and three out of four videos equated obesity with undesirable qualities.”

It’s not only this steady stream of subconscious messages that’s steering kids toward restriction and insecurity. The diet industry itself takes advantage of its influence on the younger population. Today, Weight Watchers allows children as young as 10 to join its program. Jenny Craig’s age cutoff is 13, and Nutrisystem’s is 14. Of course, those are only official rules. After all, Weight Watcher didn’t put me on it’s regimen at nine. My mother did.

To me, this is very scary stuff. Is it too late to change it?

The Care and Feeding of Daughters

When I was in my 20s, the scale went up and down 80 pounds – food and my weight ruled my life. Such a miserable mess.

In my late 20s, I’d lost some weight and then got mono, followed by strep. I physically could not eat for quite a while. I lost some more weight. Right after that, all four wisdom teeth came out, got impacted and infected and – I couldn’t eat for quite a while. By the end of that cycle, I’d lost a lot of weight. Temporarily, I was happy. I’d reached my one and only goal. (I didn’t have many other goals. I’d dropped out of college 5 times, was living at home, and waitressing. But I was thin!!!!)

I remember convalescing on my mother’s couch during that time and hanging out with one of her piano students, Casey. Casey’s weight fluctuated up and down over 100 pounds. Casey was a wonderful, beautiful woman with an exquisite soprano, but like me, all she cared about was food and her weight.

One day, sitting on that couch in my mom’s living room, Casey and I discussed. whether we wanted kids. “No”, we decided with assurance, “we’d ruin them”.

“I’d starve my children”, Casey said. “I couldn’t bear for them to be fat and tortured like I was”.

“Me too,” I cried, half-laughing, but fully knowing that I would have no idea how to feed a child, particularly a girl.

We knew we were too dangerous to be trusted. Neither of us had children.

However, I have many friends with food and body image disorders who do have daughters, and they seem to be doing great jobs.

I wonder how to feed and care for a daughter, as I talked about in my last post. No matter her size, how do we help build a confident woman?

Does anyone have any thoughts? Do your daughters want to diet? Do they complain about their bodies? Do they compare themselves to their peers?

What do you do? How do you answer? How DO we raise confident young woman, comfortable in whatever bodies God gave them?

The ‘Fat’ Kid – What to Do?

My friend Lisa’s daughter, Hope,doesn’t want to go back to school. Turns out a couple of boys who called her ‘fat’ last year are going to be in her class. And as Lisa said, Hope looks the same this year as she did last – she’s not thin, but not fat. I guess she’s a little chubby? But perfectly healthy and generally happy.

Lisa is filled with anxiety – it’s a complicated story. She hates that her daughter is subjected to cruel comments – and we all know how awful ‘fat’ is to hear about ourselves. She wants to support her daughter but without encouraging dieting.

Lisa doesn’t want to hurt Hope’s self-image. As I said, Hope (like Lisa before her) isn’t a skinny kid. Lisa, though, became a compulsive eater, eventually weighing in at 300 pounds. She knows all about the cruelty aimed at overweight people. Lisa ended up having gastric bypass surgery and is now a normal weight and really healthy, physical, mentally and spiritually. But she’s desperate that her daughter doesn’t follow her own path.

She’s terrified of triggering disordered eating in Hope. She’s miserable that her daughter will probably be teased again this year, but she’s not sure exactly what to do. For now, I really think she’s doing her best, focusing on Hope’s many talents and leaving weight loss out of the equation. Let’s pray for the best.

It’s a fine line parents walk, isn’t it?


A dear friend got bad news from her doctor on Monday. Since I heard, nothing much else has bothered me. Everything seems small, almost petty, in comparison.

I had a bad cold and bad cramps this week, but they hardly rated. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed to go to work, but I knew my friend was heading to her desk, no matter how she felt. Who was I to complain?

Life has been stressful on different levels – job, finances, relationships – but still, my stressors can be fixed or at least get better. My friend’s can not.

I haven’t had much to write about – I’m certainly not worried about weight. I’m trying to be kinder, work harder, demonstrate more patience and be more grateful. (I fail a lot!)

Mostly, I want to spend as much time with my friend as she wants to spend with me. Friends are forever.

On Hate and My Judaism

I don’t much think of myself as Jewish, but I am a Jew. Growing up in the Northeast, being Jewish isn’t such a big deal. In grammar school, a few kids did accuse me of killing Jesus. But having been raised with zero religious education, I had no idea what they were talking about. I’m not even sure I knew who Jesus was at that point, actually.

I know it’s different to be Jewish in other parts of the country and in other countries. (It can be scary to be Christian, Jewish, Asian, Muslim…)

When I went to The University of Michigan, there were kids from the North who’d never met a Jewish person before. One guy told me he didn’t expect me to look like him. I assume he was expecting horns?

In recent years, I’ve read a lot about the Holocaust and what happened to the Jewish people. (I know many, many, many others were also killed. I mourn equally the excruciating suffering of all who were tortured or murdered or hurt in any way.) It’s horrifying beyond understanding.

But mostly, it makes no sense. What is hate? Why do we hate? Why do we want to destroy, destruct, kill, humiliate, maim, shame? Just because someone is Jewish, Muslim, Black, White, Yellow or a martian? (And though I am a non-practicing Jew, of course that would mean nothing to someone who wants to annihilate the race.)

I can, of course, extrapolate out — why do we hate/humiliate fat people, unattractive people, old people or just about anyone who is ‘other’?

I know there are reasons and histories and a lot fear, but hurting others just makes no sense. How can I feel better when someone else suffers? Why would I feel like more when someone else has less?

We humans are very strange.

And while I believe everyone has the right to march peaceably, I still don’t get the hate.

More on Our Weird World

And another thing, how come when we’re sick, we can’t just stay home and sleep until we feel better?

I am coughing and I’m achy. I’m also at my desk. It would take a lot more than that to allow me to hang home. I work for a small company – no one stays home unless it’s dire.

Besides, it’s like a crazy badge of honor to work when you don’t feel well. And you practically get a merit badge if you work many, many hours or multiple jobs. We have such a silly work obsession in this country. The more exhausted you are, the higher your morals. Or something like that.

Once again, why did we create this incredibly difficult world?