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Archive for January, 2011

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The Other Woman

by Dr. Deah on Jan.31, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

The all or nothing mentality is nothing new to people that struggle with addictions or eating disorders.  Anyone in a twelve step program whether it be Overeaters Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you that every day is the first day of their commitment not to ‘use,’ binge, or starve themselves.

Every person I’ve encountered who was a Compulsive and or Binge Eater will tell you about the countless Sunday night binges, (that would fall under the All category) before the “Monday Morning New Me Diet” began, (The Or Nothing category)  They will exercise EVERY day…if they miss a day, they hate themselves and stop exercising all together.  All or Nothing.

Other people who are restrictive eaters greet each morning with a new commitment not to eat more than a certain amount of calories of specific foods and sometimes even dictate where and in what order the food will be eaten. If they fail, they become All Bad.

All category for the Workaholic

Every man or woman Work-a-holic I’ve ever encountered had a deep fear that if they stop working they will transform into a prisoner of inertia, lazy, couch bound, giving over to their true personality that they are really complete and total ne’er do wells. Rip Van Winkles never to wake up and be productive again.

Nothing Category for a Workaholic

All or Nothing.

The fear of failure is an underlying fuel to these behaviors.  And of course the more failed attempts at mastering the insatiable beast within, the more hopeless and disgusted one feels about themselves.

Now, when we talk about food as an addiction it is imperative to differentiate that while there are many similarities between addictions to drugs, alcohol and food there are also powerful differences.

The Miraculous Brain

The way the human brain is wired is a miraculous thing.

Some of us are wired in a way that we can have just a little alcohol, or an occasional social cigarette, or imbibe in a passing recreational drug.  Others are not wired that way and while there is a school of thought called  Moderation Management or The  Harm Reduction Approach the most widely used approach in treating addiction is abstinence.

Food of course is trickier.  One has to eat to stay alive which puts us in the position of having to make choices constantly of what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, how and where to eat it, counting points, counting calories, counting cravings, Counting Crows (sorry about that, started free associating).  Despite the enormous body (intended) of research that supports the point of view that Diets Don’t Work.

But in many cases our all or nothing mentality is not restricted to our addiction but is an integral part of our personality.  We often have all or nothing opinions, all or nothing judgments about our bodies and all or nothing goals and objectives in our personal lives.

My Butt

About six months before my son was having his bar mitzvah,  I channeled the Other Woman.  The Queen of Nothing….she entered my body and seemingly effortlessly erased all of my interest in food.  I suppose in retrospect, the thought of all those people looking at my butt as I walked on to the Bima (the “stage” in a temple where the ceremonies take place) was enough to exorcise the woman that usually lived in my body; The Queen of All.  All that was chocolate, All that was butter cream, All that was French fries and her place was taken over by the Other Woman. She stuck around until Jan. 22nd and I was 25 pounds lighter.  I was GOOD. The bar mitzvah happened.  I walked up on to the Bima.   and even though I was the thinnest I had EVER been, I was still thinking that my butt was eclipsing the torah, the rabbi, my son, and the cantor.  Ahhh, all or nothing….I had to have NO tush in order not to hate my tush.  (Insert Aha insight moment here).

The next morning I woke up and began feasting on the leftover knishes, black and white cookies, and challah French toast.

The Other Woman had left my body.  The Queen of Nothing vanished and left in her place was the woman that proceeded to gain back the 25 pounds as easily and as effortlessly as they had been lost.

Now, I was BAD.

That was years ago and the journey since, has had, (like the title of our DVD, Leftovers, the Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater), its Ups and Downs.

But over the years I discovered that there is a third woman that resides within me.  She is the Queen of the Middle Ground.  She is the one that does not focus on the numbers on the scale. She is not the narcissist that thought that everyone coming to celebrate my son’s bar mitzvah was really there to look and comment on the enormity of my butt.  This Other Woman is not feeling Good or Bad based on what she ate that day, and she is not planning her days around food.  Health is important, happiness is important,  accepting diversity and rejecting perfection is very important. There are still some areas of All or Nothing, but THIS OTHER WOMAN, she’s the one in the middle.  “Where’s she at? She’s in the middle.” (A reference to any Mona Love fans out there).

She has lovingly and firmly integrated the two other women into her kind, and self accepting Queendom. She has rolled all of the Other Women into one woman.  And I am a more integrated person because of her.

Because  of ME.

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Call me at Half Time

by Dr. Deah on Jan.30, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

So in the New York Times Sports Section today is an article titled:  “Tipping the Scales Over” by Jere Longman and Rob Reischel.  The subtitle to the article in tiny font is, “As NFL linemen grow even larger, studies question the players’ health risks and find conflicting answers.”

OK, I admit it, I’m a sports fan….I read the sports section.  I have a sweatshirt that says, “A woman that loves sports is worth her weight in chips and beer.” I won’t go into how bizarre it is for a member of my family to give a whit about sports…they express amazement when they call during a game and I bark, “ I’ll call you back at half-time.”  Every year they ask me, “Where did YOU come from,” when I go to spring training to watch the Oakland A’s.  But enough about me….I really want to know what people think of this New York Times article, especially the typical person, not involved in the world of Size Acceptance and Eating Disorders Treatment.

After the title: the article goes on to make such quippy comments as calling this year’s super bowl the “Supersize Super Bowl,” and comparing the increased number of 300+ pound players to “supersize meals at fast food restaurants.”

“This year,” Longman explains, “the Green Bay Packers have 13 team members on their roster that weigh 300+ pounds,” quite an increase from past years.  The next banner heading of the article, ”Players Grow Bigger, And Studies Suggest Risks to Their Health. “Now I don’t know about you, but if I were a casual reader I would assume that the phrase, “studies suggest risks to their health” meant that despite the subtitle about “finding conflicting answers” re: a 300 + pound player’s health, that risks were more prevalent than not.  But because I have a doctorate , two masters degrees and am a glutton for punishment, I fought back my desire to start the crossword puzzle (and blocked out Bill Fabrey’s supportive voice in my head saying, “Deah don’t go there  you’ll just get upset!”) and continued to read the article.  A=Article D=Deah

A.  Between the years of 1970-2024 the number of 300+ pound football players in training camp went from 1-532.

D.  O.K. that’s a specific stat I can understand.

A.   “…the largest players are celebrated for their strength, spry, athleticism, and beer-belly physiques that give them an Everyman quality.”

D. To me this is just another way of saying, “awww isn’t it cute, the fat boy can actually do something that we wouldn’t think a fat boy could do.”  And how come women aren’t given the same latitude of beer-belly physiques being an Everywoman quality that is almost considered a positive fat statement in this context?

A.  Then the vague but Very Scary Death Card is played, “The enormousness of many players and the recent deaths of one active lineman, and several relatively young retired linemen have raised questions and brought conflicting answers about potential health risks associated with their size.”

D. OK, I’m ready, give me the Q & A, I have a fresh cup of “cawfee”. 

A.  “Various studies indicate that current NFL players are at greater risk than the general population for high blood pressure and that retired players are more prone to obesity, sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome: conditions like elevated blood pressure, insulin and cholesterol levels and excessive body fat around the waist that together heighten the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Retired linemen have been linked to higher mortality rates than the general public.

D. Ok, I’d love some citations of the studies. I know that if I was an online reader of the New York Times, there would be hyper links to all of the studies (at least I’m hoping). And I am NOT questioning the author’s research or ethics in his research.  But I love the feel of the paper in my hand and the smell of the newsprint….what can I say?  I’m even writing my responses to the article with a pen and paper as I am reading it. So all I have are the words in front of me.  And admittedly I’m no expert in sports medicine, but I would suggest that all NFL players would be at a higher risk than the general population in some of these areas for the simple reason that their life style probably changes exponentially once they are retired.  My hypothesis is they are working out less, under less pressure to perform, and in this particular statement I don’t see that the 300+ NFL players are being singled out from current NFL players in general, so maybe this isn’t a fat thing. I won’t even go in to the possibility of steroids and concussions as intervening variables because I haven’t researched it, but that is one place I would look for more data.

A. “I just can’t see how they can be healthy,” Dr. Charles Yesalis epidemiologist and professor emeritus of health policy at Penn State. “Yes some of it may be 280 pounds of muscle and then they carry 40 pounds of fat. It just overworks your heart. It puts a strain on your joints. You have the whole issue of concussive injuries.”

D.  Ahhh, I knew concussive injuries HAD to play a part, but I just don’t see the connection between fat and concussive injuries.  Football and concussive injuries, you betcha!  And there are scads of thin runners and skaters that have joint problems.

A. “It all adds up to things that are not good for your health, but it makes for a good carnival atmosphere when you see the behemoths out there.” 

D.  Wow, I had to read that sentence twice….2011 and we are still talking about fat people being side show freaks? I’m not sure why this surprises me. People are eating up shows like the Biggest Loser and Heavy as a voyeuristic chance to gawk at the fat freaks. But when I see these statements it just sickens me.  I watch football for football, not to see how the fat lineman can still run in for a post season touchdown!  I almost stopped reading the article at that point but “perseverance furthers” so I continued, the next chunk of the article quotes several studies:

A.  1994 study: Nat’l Inst. For Occupational Safety and Health “found retired players had a lower mortality rate over all than did the general population, but former offensive and defensive linemen had  a 52% higher death rate from cardiovascular disease. Since then the players have only grown larger; the average NFL weight is now 252 pounds.”

D.  So is the assumption that the death rate is higher because the weights of the players are higher?  Could there be any other contributing variables to the cardiovascular disease that is associated with offensive and defensive linemen positions and consequences of retirement? Are there even data that support this statement?

A.  2005 study:  Conducted by University of North Carolina found, “more than a quarter of the N.F.L. players fit the category of Class II Obesity, which is between moderate and morbidly obese.”

D.  And….?  So…?  Were they playing football?  Were they fulfilling their job requirements?  Perhaps more than a quarter of the NFL players were also in the category of far sighted, or had bad senses of humor.  The topic of Obesity is so complex that to just make a diagnostic statement like this is not really informative.

I Love Football

A.  2006 study:  Scripps Howard newspapers study found, “that out of 3,850 pro football players over the last century the heaviest players were more than twice as likely as lighter players to have died before 50.  (The NFL disputed the methodologies used in this study”).

D.  Ok, even if the methodologies were disputed, if the point of THIS article is whether or not there are health risks for 300+ pound football players, what numbers were associated with heaviest versus lighter?

A.  2009 study:  Funded by the NFL and published in JAMA “504 active players were studied during their careers and findings indicated that during their careers, players, on the whole, did not appear to be at a greater risk of heart disease than other men their age.  The study said that NFL players had similar cholesterol levels and healthier blood-sugar levels and were less likely to smoke than the general population. Black players did not show higher cardiovascular risk than white players. The study did find, though, a higher likelihood over all of elevated blood pressure and borderline hypertension.”

D.  Now this seems to be leading to the other side of the coin.  I’m glad I kept reading, although I think separating out the variables of active players and retired players would make for a better analysis.  The life of an active player is really not the same as a retired player.  And what do Black and White players have to do with this article at all?

A.  “The question is, if you are an elite athlete, can you be healthy at 300 or 350 pounds?” said Dr. Robert A. Vogel, a cardiologist and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a co-chairman of the NFL’s subcommittee on cardiovascular health. “The simple answer is, being physically active is unquestionably a deterrent to the problems associated with weight. Having said that, are you at higher risk being a 350-pound lineman than a 210-pound quarterback? Yes.”

D.  Whoa, now we are talking quarterbacks???  Til now we’ver been talking about offensive and defensive linemen….Whole Different Animal!!!  Mixing Apples and Oranges.  How about keeping the comparison to a 350 pound lineman and a 210 pound lineman, that’s what the article has been about so far….Does anyone know a 350 pound quarterback?

A.  2009 study:  University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that “retired N.F.L. players had significantly lower occurrences of diabetes, hypertension, sedentary lifestyles and metabolic syndrome than did non-athletes.”  Dr. Alice Chang’s (the head of the study) statement that accompanied the study was quoted, ‘Despite their larger body size, retired N.F.L. players do not have a greater prevalence of heart disease risk factors when compared to the general population.’

D.  Finally!!!  Another point of view but sadly the  last study cited in the article!  The rest of the article was more of a qualitative collection of data. Statements from players that bemoaned their inability to lose weight once they were done playing, others that said it gave them a fighting edge in the game, one player that underwent lap band surgery when his weight rose to a height that frightened him. They did mention the performance enhancing drugs as a contributor, (two points for me, but who’s counting?)  (Me)   It was the typical see saw debate that often accompanies articles that appear as if they are raising the question of Can Fat People Be Healthy? But the prevalent point of view, despite quotes from a study like the one by Dr. Chang, is ultimately, fat is bad and lighter is better.  The examples given of players collapsing from heart failure in these articles always cite the fat athletes and forget about those that were tall lanky basketball players that also freakishly and tragically collapsed on the court years before their time.

The fact that this article ends with a quote from Jerry Kramer all pro guard from the Packers in the 1960’s fuels my curiosity as to what people reading this article come away with.  Here is the quote,

“… give me an offensive guard who’s in great shape at 270 or 275 and understands leverage and positioning and I’ll bet he’ll whip the fat guy every time.”

As a person who despises size discrimination of any kind it was paradoxically refreshing to hear a 270-275 pound man not referred to as the “fat guy.” Conversely, I bet the 300 pound offensive guard would like to be called an offensive guard as well, and not just swept into the carnival freak show category of behemoth less effective fat guy (BLEFG).  It also leaves me with the lingering impression  that even when there is a tiny little corner of the world (well the size of a football field) where fat people can be successful and respected it is under attack and an open target for disrespectful language, analogies and negative judgment. In any event, I am looking forward to great game next Sunday, where everyone’s focus will NOT be on the size of the players but on how well the game is being played.  (And to my sisters and Dad…please don’tncall me until half time!).

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Prepare to be Aware!

by Dr. Deah on Jan.29, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

February 20-26th is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

I know that’s a month away, but I want to give people a chance to be aware that an awareness week is coming up.

I have an insatiable appetite for awareness.  One week is a good start.  In January we had Healthy Weight Awareness Week.

People in the Healthy At Every Size (HAES sm) community: nutritionists, researchers, physicians, fat activists, and specialists in eating disorders joined together to spread the word that people of all sizes, shapes, and weights could be healthy or not healthy.

Weight Hate

I ingested article after article.  I learned a great deal. What I gleaned most, however, from my voracious binge reading, was that one of the unhealthiest things about focusing on ones’ weight is hating oneself because of what one weighs.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.      It may have started off as Breast Cancer Awareness Week and grew into the whole month.  This is a good thing.  A month of doing good deeds in pink.  Baseball players wearing pink shoes and gloves. Some yogurt has pink foil lids; during the month of October when you mail them in, the company donates money to the cause of battling Breast Cancer.  It’s a wonderful campaign…although…I’m not sure what happens on November 1st if you still have those lids…I actually still have several pink lidded yogurts in my fridge from October. I’m sure the yogurt is still good, not past its expiration date.   I bought it on sale.  I don’t eat yogurt very often.  But the ads promised me I’d be eating red velvet cake or cherry cheesecake. I tried each one, carefully peeling off the lid to send in to the donation address (which was microscopically written on the back of the lid). With each new flavor  I hoped that I would be transported to that place of bliss that a good slice of cheesecake or homemade red velvet cake can take you to.  Eyes closed….mindfully eating spoonful by spoonful…swirling the yogurt in my mouth….

But in the end, it was strawberry yogurt.  Not the first or the last of life’s disappointments.  But now I have all of these pink lids in my refrigerator and I’m wondering if they still count because it’s January.  I did buy a pair of pink reading glasses in October (every month is Reading Glasses LACK of Awareness Month for me). I felt good that some of the money went to Breast Cancer Research. (They also helped seeing the address on the inside of the lid). One of my dearest friends from college is a breast cancer survivor.  Thin as a rail her whole life. Gorgeous, blond, thin, I…red haired, freckled, round; she got breast cancer when she was about 47.  Being thin didn’t make her healthier than I. She’s a survivor though.  For Dee, every month is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Dee and I were inseparable in college. We did everything together. There was no territory off limits between us.  Every day, however, was “Deah is Jealous That She’s not as Thin as Dee Awareness Day.”  How unfair it was that she was thin…just born thin…stayed thin…lived thin.  We were so much alike, and yet the difference in our size got her all of the juicy attention. And when she would go off with someone for the night; that was her territory. Not shared with me, hers alone. She never flaunted it.  She accepted her body as her birthright and insisted that I do the same.  She was way ahead of MY time…it would be years before I could embrace my body as MY body and not chastise it for not being Dee’s body, or Twiggy’s body or Wilma Flintstone’s Body.

For God’s sake, I was jealous of a freaking cartoon character!!!!

Anyway, there is a day for this, a day for that.  A month for this, a month for that.  Sheesh, I’m going to start singing “Turn Turn Turn” any minute now!  (Too Late Humming it NOW).

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

I understand the need to bring focus to a certain event, cause, influential person.  It is a societal need because people are so busy and wrapped up in surviving that it’s difficult to stay aware of things that don’t directly affect them.  February is Black History Month, May 7-13th is National Teacher’s Awareness Week and my two personal favorites:  March 7-13 National Sleep Awareness Week and April is National Stress Awareness Month, (who knew?) I for one would like to see National Sleep Awareness Week be a month and Stress Awareness be a day…I’m already Way Too Aware of my stress…but that’s just me.

When we send out a Call for Awareness there is hope that the awareness will result in money for research, increased access to information and comfort in knowing that others are sharing your concern, even for a fleeting moment.  There is also comfort in knowing you are not alone.  That is one of the major tenets of the Eating Disorders/Size Acceptance DVD/Workbook Set Leftovers (shameless plug to my website but still pertinent).

My friends tease me because my idea of being on time is being fifteen minutes early.  I don’t know why I’m like that I just am.  It’s genetics, like my body…I accept it…so you’ll forgive me for sending out this Call To Awareness, a Month Early.

For some people Every Day is Eating Disorder Awareness Day, it is a struggle and a courageous battle.  Others need to prepare to be aware…because awareness can lead to Action and Activism and we need to make room for the yogurts.

February 20-26th is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week it’s a start!

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It’s The Magic Number

by Dr. Deah on Jan.27, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

On January 25, 2011 I had the privilege of participating in a teleconference organized by Golda Poretsky a Certified Holistic Health Counselor that featured her live interview with Dr. Anita Johnston.  For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Johnston’s work she is a Clinical Psychologist and author of Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling and works with clients that have eating disorders and body dissatisfaction issues.  Dr. Johnston also incorporates the use of myths and metaphors in her work.  M&M’s as I like to call them, (primarily because I am a huge fan of those little edible chocolate treats…the new coconut flavored are my favorites). Myths and Metaphors are powerful and effective therapeutic tools for facilitating a client’s insight into their behaviors and assisting them to embark on the road of exploring different choices to replace those behaviors.  As someone trained in Expressive Arts Therapy I am an avid fan of using metaphors as a treatment modality.  

As I listened to the interview I felt myself riding the on the rising swell of a familiar wave. I paddled out and was lifted by the excitement of knowing that other people were out there promoting the idea that size acceptance/diversity is:

  1. Not a horrible thing.
  2. Not a cover for denial.
  3. Not a hidden permission slip to eat all of the M&M’s  ones’ insatiable mouth desires.

(Why is it adjectives and examples tend to come in 3’s? I digress). 

There were about 200 other phone participants in this event, listening to Dr. Johnston’s brilliant clinical examples of her work. Somehow feeling the presence of that many like minded participants was comforting, stimulating, and hopeful. (O.M.G. I just did it again…3 adjectives! I promise I didn’t plan that!)

At the peak of the wave, Anita, because by then she had become a voice for all of us and I felt that I could call her Anita, told an intricate and engaging story. Briefly paraphrased, she used the image of a log that starts off as a swimmer’s life saving device in a rapidly rushing river. Once the frantic swimmer is in calmer waters, the log, however, weighs her down and keeps her from being able to swim to shore.  Getting rid of the log is imperative if she is to make it to shore. Dr. Johnston’s (o.k. I’m too shy to really call her Anita) work is clearly helping people sever their complete dependence on the log and figure out how to safely swim to shore.  In my opinion, her patients are extraordinarily fortunate to have a therapist that is so masterful in the art of using:

  1. poignant
  2. applicable and
  3. illustrative stories of how frequently food is used as a positive coping mechanism;

and can then continue to demonstrate through story and myths that as we change this mechanism becomes:

  1. useless
  2. superfluous and sometimes
  3. self-destructive when the food is transformed into an enemy.
  4. (Why fight it…the 3 thing? Am I the ONLY one thinking of School House Rock at this point? Remember that song, 3 Is The Magic Number? 

The conversation led to disordered eating being part of “disordered living,” and part of a larger personality profile.  Dr. Johnston invited us to look at someone who restricts food and see if they also showed restriction in their, “intimacy, relationships, and activities.” And if they were binge eaters did they also binge on relationships, work, or shopping?”  I am not making this up she really did give 3 examples for each one!  I was on cloud 9.  (HA take that 3!!!!)

Dr. Johnston has been doing this work for a long time. I became aware of her work in the 80’s when I began my work in the field of: Eating Disorders, Body Dissatisfaction and Size Acceptance (Good comeback 3!)  So as Dr. Johnston continued, to no fault of her own, I felt myself begin to plummet down the other side of the wave. Decades later she and I (and 200 other people) were having the same conversation many of us had back then. Had anything changed?

I felt like I was playing a game of Twister.

I had my left foot in the fat activist circle, my right foot in the cynical circle, and my left hand in the exhausted circle.  My right hand was holding the cell phone listening to Golda and Anita discussing myths of women eating and how there were negative consequences usually associated with the scandalous act of putting something in their mouths!  Again Anita wove a luscious and pertinent story of Persephone eating 3 (I’m not kidding…3!) pomegranate seeds!

The interview ended and there was an invitation for listeners to ask questions or comment. One caller was incredulous about the fact that in some parts of America, a student’s Body Mass Index (BMI) number was put on their report cards as a way to alert the parents that their child was failing the mandatory class of “Health 101.” A passing grade for this class is based solely on the student’s weight and BMI. Dr. Johnston responded brilliantly, I believe her exact words were, “This is the insanity we have come to.”

The magic number of weight and BMI has the power to effect mood, self-esteem and negative judgment towards self and others. How many of us have a great morning if our scale shows us our “Magic Number,” the goal weight and or BMI that labels us “good!”  Not healthy, but “good!”  Or our dress size….women strive to be a size 3.

Just as I thought I would come to the nadir of the wonderful wave I had been riding and leave the teleconference wet, bedraggled, and saturated with despair, Golda and Anita proclaimed, “This is what we are up against folks! We NEED ALL of you revolutionaries out there who are listening.”

The call ended. I put down my cell phone. I stretched my right hand as far as I could and planted it into the circle of Hope, Action, and…there is no number 3

There is NO magic number.

Please join Golda for her next teleconference. Click on her name for the link to her site.

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Dead Girl Walking…

by Dr. Deah on Jan.26, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

….And the School Nurse says, “Next…” and you are walking the last mile.  Unlike the walk to the “chamber” or the “chair” there was no “last meal request.”  In fact, you haven’t eaten since noon the previous day when the principal announced over the P.A. that, “Tomorrow is Weight Day.”

That morning, I tried every trick in the book to get out of going to school, but my mother had to work, my father was already at work, and I didn’t have the pre-requisites for staying home.

  • Fever over 100 and or
  • white spots in my throat, and or
  • Having been up all night puking.

I put on my lightest weight clothing.  Even though it was winter and I was in Far Rockaway, New York.  Girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school yet so I knew I would be cold no matter what.  I might as well go ALL OUT!

I went to the back of the closet where my summer clothes were hanging and pulled out the tulle princess skirt and the light cotton blouse. “Perfect,” I murmured, the combined weight of the clothing would be less than my warm wonderful woolen skirt, woolen knee socks and thick hand knitted favorite gray sweater.  That would be good for at least a two pound difference.

I covered it all up with my heavy winter coat, so my mom wouldn’t yell at me to change into something warmer. I threw the Cream of Wheat cereal in the garbage, and made it past her X-ray eyes.

I had a higher purpose in mind.  I was battling the enemy that day.  It was me versus the Dark Lord, The Sith, The School Scale.  I was six years old.

The Last Mile

I couldn’t understand it.  Why was it so public?  Why did they put the scale on the stage of the auditorium and have every person in the school there to hear the nurse announce the NUMBER for all to hear.  It was like the Salem Witch Burnings! Why did the boys, except for Michael O. (name changed) NOT seem to care?  Why were there other girls wearing crepe paper to school that day instead of clothing???

Why? Why? Why?

I never knew there was anything wrong with my body until they started weighing me at school.  I played kickball, flipped baseball cards, jumped Double Dutch and was NO slouch at Freeze Tag.  One of the gang, until I met up with Scale-a-tor, who zapped away my self- esteem in one defining moment.

“Next!”  The Nurse called again, impatiently. There were so many more people to humiliate and time was ticking away.  I took off my shoes and socks.  (Years later I would also take off my rings and watch, but I was still a novice).

“Step On.”  In retrospect I wonder, what would have happened if I had said, “No.” and just curtsied and walked off the stage?

But I was obedient and stepped up.  She moved the little weight bit by bit and then raised her eyebrows.  She had to move the BIG weight…the one that brings you into another decade of the scale…the ten pound weight.  I was bad.

I was BAD!!

She proclaimed my weight for all to hear. I grabbed my saddle shoes and socks and ran off the stage.  (Ironic, years later I would be on the stage performing in Leftovers, a play about self and size acceptance).  But in that moment I had walked the Last Mile, got zapped and a part of me died.

Today Childhood Obesity is being proclaimed the new epidemic. You cannot open a newspaper or watch the news without reading about the topic. My hope is that people stay informed on the subject.  That nurses, nutritionists, therapists, moms dads, focus on other SCALES to measure a child’s health. Eating Disorders among kids are running rampant and self-loathing is a co-morbid condition anytime a child is measured just by BMI and weight alone.  Montana is introducing a new health focused plan for kids, that may be a better model. Linda Bacon and  Lucy Aphramor are presenting pertinent research for a paradigm shift.  And Leftovers To Go is committed to providing tools for therapists and educators to help their clients by using humor and the arts to heal from their time on “Death Row.”

Happy and Healthy and No Scale in Sight!

Happy and Healthy and NO SCALE in Sight!

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News Flash! Did You Hear The Beatles Broke Up?

by Dr. Deah on Jan.24, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

The brain is a mysterious, complex and marvelous thing.

No News there.

The ability to selectively remember some things and conveniently forget other things is astounding!

No News there.

When one rules out any organic etiology/causes for forgetfulness e.g. dementia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), etc., the puzzle of what people remember and what they don’t becomes even more intriguing.

For people interested in what makes people tick….Definitely

No News there.

And yet, the mechanism in the human brain that causes it to act like the old toy Etch a Sketch tm continues to bewilder me!  A shake of the head and a promise is forgotten, a boundary gets mushy, and an understanding unravels.

Case in point:

the brain as an etch a sketch-type scr

Many of us who embarked upon the personal journey of self/size acceptance and chose to embrace the Healthy AT Every Size (HAESsm) approach, at some point had to “come out” to our families and friends.  There was a moment for many of us when we declared we will not engage in negative fat talk, negative body talk, or the interminable conversations about how great so and so would be if only they would lose weight or gain weight or get their nose fixed.  The assumption that appearance was the proof of someone’s success was flawed and off the table for discussion.


And yet, family gatherings and reunions with friends inevitably begin with the predictable sequence:

Hug, kiss, you look… (Fill in the blank).

The conversation quickly morphs into some strange and mysterious version of the financial page of the local newspaper.  It is a veritable “Dow Jones” check list of losses, gains, highs, lows, and initial public offerings of new diets, reinvestment in old diets, and insider secrets of which diet pill will be on the market next.  The fervor of these exchanges rivals the trading floor of the NYSE.

But this is so old it can’t possibly be


Etch a Sketch tm brains…they have all forgotten that you are not investing in this hedge fund; the gab-about-flab-fest goes on without you.

But eventually the need to re-establish boundaries and above all else, CHANGE the subject becomes so over-powering something must be said. Something that can illustrate how old and tedious and unimportant the conversation is.  Something that will bring the conversation back to WHAT people are doing and what is NEW in their lives NOT just their bodies.

My favorite interjection is, “So I’ve got news….”

News Flash!

Friends/family turn to me expectantly…they have forgotten of course that I am not one of them…Time has passed; they shook their cerebral red screen with the two white knobs of their memory…

Did you hear the Beatles broke up?

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Spare Change? A True Story:

by Dr. Deah on Jan.22, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Spare Change?

When I was the Director of the Expressive Arts Therapy Department at a Psychiatric Hospital in the Bay Area, there were many ways we categorized our patients.  One way was to separate the voluntary admissions from the involuntary admissions.  Along with the label voluntary admit, came an assumption that this patient was ready to change.  Conversely, the involuntary admits, were being forced to change.  In both cases, change was an elusive goal. In both cases resistance was a formidable barrier to actualizing change.  Even the voluntary patients with the internal desire to change bumped up against the walls of resistance.

Change is hard.  Think about it… Paper money is squishable, foldable, and malleable.  Change?  Metal, un-yielding, rigid.

The only thing easy about change is not changing.

When a person embarks on the road of size-acceptance which may or may not include changing their ways of eating or their relationship with food, it is often as a result of external pressure to be different from what they are.  They are being told over and over to change. “Change your diet. Change your body. Change your behavior. Change your appearance.”  The over-riding message is, “You are not ok.”

I worked with a patient once who told me, “If I ever kill myself tell people it was because I couldn’t stand facing another day looking in the mirror and starting the day off hating myself.” She felt like a failure, every morning, because she couldn’t change herself in the way that others wanted her to change.  The only definition of change she could articulate or imagine was to change the way she looked to please her family.

We worked on re-defining her criteria for change.  We looked at why others had the authority to prescribe her Change Menu. We looked at what she would change about herself if no one else had a say and she could just change what she wanted.  We explored her resistance to change, inside and out.

One day in our Drama Therapy group she announced that she was doing a scene about the two things she wanted to change about herself more than anything.

The group waited….would it be her butt? Her thighs?  Her upper arms?

Her scene was enthralling, powerful, humorous, and poignant. As the scene ended, she was in a restaurant.  She ordered her selections from the Change Menu, “For my main course, I’ll have the not giving my power of self-acceptance away to my family.  And for dessert, I’ll have the learning to speak Spanish fluently please.”

It’s been a while since I’ve heard from this patient. But from time to time I like to think of her sitting in a restaurant in Barcelona, speaking perfect Spanish and loving herself as she is. 

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Pattie Thomas…”Our” Rachel Maddow? Check this out!

by Dr. Deah on Jan.20, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Pattie Thomas has just been given the chance to speak for so many people as a blogger for Psychology Today.

The timing of Pattie’s first blog is especially meaningful considering the December, 2024 issue of Psychology Today has a bikini clad model with boxing gloves on the cover and the editor’s comments talk about how it’s the biological markers of appearance that fuel our obsession about appearance.” Kaja Perina, editor, admits,” PT may come under fire” for focusing on beauty.” She said, “We’re superficial not because we’re brainwashed but because genetic clues to health and fitness really are skin deep.”  She continues to say, “The way we talk and think about appearances could use a a radical makeover.”  Why then, if the focus of the magazine is to underscore that the articles are not focusing on the “How of beauty” but the “Why of beauty” did they have a super model on the front cover, half of her head edited out and a layout that would make an innocent browser think it was the latest issue of Maxim?

Because I don’t know at what point people are “getting to know me,” I always feel compelled to reiterate that I am NOT a size-ist.  Some of my best friends are….(fill in the blank, I go both ways).  I just believe in the spirit of fair and equal representation, for people of all shapes and sizes and self-and cultural acceptance for all shapes and sizes.

Pattie is offering a voice that rarely gets heard in the mainstream media.  Right now in my opinion, she is the Rachel Maddow of the Size Diversity Movement

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My Scale is NOT the Boss of Me!

by Dr. Deah on Jan.18, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Mommy Hood

I was 8 months pregnant and had gained 55 pounds so far.
I went for my check up and my doctor, said to me, “Deah, WE don’t have 50 pound weight gains in THIS practice.”
I looked at him, half defiantly, half ashamed and said, YOU do now Doc.”
When I gave birth to my son on January 24, 1992, I had gained just under 65 pounds during my pregnancy….notice how I didn’t say just over 63. Even now it is ingrained in me when talking about weight to emphasize the “lower than, or under than, or less than” reference as being the more preferable comparison.
My son weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces, no over or under there, exact weight known and used.
My Aunt said to me, “Deah, you gained all that weight and your baby is only 6 pounds 9 ounces?”
I looked at her, (over the phone, she was in New York), stunned. Here I was with a redheaded baby boy all happy and healthy and her only comment was about my weight in comparison to his.
I said to her, half defiantly and half ashamed, “It was a helluva placenta Auntie.”

I’m going through menopause now. My son away in the Netherlands on an internship, loss is a huge issue for me right now. I’m losing everything, my keys, my glasses, my rapid word retrieval, my eyesight, my fertility, and to some extent, my child. What I am not losing, is weight.
I went to my new Ob/Gyn. My doctor of the 65 pound weight gain practice retired. She examined me and asked me how I was?
I started to cry, not unusual these days. I told her I cried all the time, and felt uber hormonal. She asked me if I had gained weight, and I confessed that I’d gained about 12 and ½ pounds in the past few years, since I turned 50. We both looked at each other, knowingly. There was no “about” about it. It was exactly 12 and ½ pounds.
I had all of the affect of someone who knew EXACTLY how much she weighed at EVERY point in her life.
She looked at me and said, “Some of it is genetic.”
This I know. I grew up knowing this. My first cousin was Mama Cass.
The rest of us, less famous members of the family came in varying degrees of fatness, but when left to our natural habits and inclinations we were a genetic load of fat.
I nodded to the doctor.
She added, “And some of it is your age, this just happens.”
I nodded again, and added half defiant and half ashamed, “But you are older than I am and you are thin, does genetics make THAT much of a difference?”
The doctor took off her glasses, looked at me with the wisdom of having probably had this conversation with hundreds of menopausal women struggling with self-acceptance based on the scale’s accusations of failure and said, paradoxically quite kindly,
“And you have to be a little mean.”
I got it immediately. The ability to be mean to myself. Refusing myself, denigrating myself until or unless I weighed a certain amount even though I walk the 3.2 mile trail around Lake Merritt EVERY DAY.
My eyes welled up with tears and I replied, “I don’t have a mean bone in my body.”
She put her glasses on and half defiantly and half ashamed, shrugged her shoulders and said, “There it is then.”
Be kind, be defiant, and don’t let your scale be the boss of you!!!

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My Beef With Yo Yo Dieting

by Dr. Deah on Jan.17, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Many of us could write our autobiographies based on how much we weighed at certain times of our lives as opposed to how old we were or what we were doing. My biggest beef is whether we are 155 or 250 or back down to 155, we tend to assign values of better person or worse person based on our weight at a given time. The one dimensional criteria (weight) for feeling good about ourselves and judging others is so limited. And unlike other personal characteristics that we as people are comprised of, weight, is generalized to our whole selves. It’s like saying that my entire self is better when my hair is red than when my hair is blond. It is one aspect of my total self. On my good days I embrace myself as a whole person, not a person broken up into components: weight, height, age, humor, intelligence, artistic ability…like those butcher maps…loins, haunches, steaks…o.k., no “cow” jokes here please, you get my point. We are more than the sum of our parts and NOT definable by any single part.

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