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74 Responses

  1. Sara
    Sara August 16, 2006 at 3:18 pm |

    Do not allow your friends to tear themselves down in your presence.

    I could never be said to have an eating disorder, but I do struggle with a lot of issues about my body and my weight and the food I eat. My husband has had the bad fortune of being close to that, and when in the past year or so I decided to proactively get over my body issues, I began to appreciate the way that he has never allowed me to get him caught up in my self-hatred. I remember getting really angry at him for not agreeing that I was fat or that I need to lose some weight or that it’s bad to weigh x amount of pounds. He told me straight out that he wasn’t about to agree with my self-hating propaganda, and would eventually leave the room no matter how insistent and upset I got. It was a strong thing to do in some ways, and I am very thankful he was able to.

  2. If I wanted your opinion, I'd ask
    If I wanted your opinion, I'd ask August 16, 2006 at 3:41 pm |

    Some of the pressure is coming from men too, so model good behavior for your male friends. If you’re hanging out with the guys, and they start to talk about a woman’s weight, let them know it’s not acceptable. A guy I know at work told me I should get liposuction on my ass and questions me whenever I don’t eat something healthy enough for him; he thinks he’s being a helpfully honest friend rather than a completely out of line asshole.

  3. DAS
    DAS August 16, 2006 at 3:47 pm |

    I ordered something greasy. She ordered a salad, and proceded to tell me how much trouble she had losing weight.

    I’ve often had this experience eating out with women, (only) some of whom could stand to loose some weight for health reasons (FWIW, I too thought those “fat” women looked about right or even on the thin side: was the Details person making a pathetic attempt at being ironic?).

    The problem is two-fold: many women have no idea how heavy they are or even what weight would be ideal for their frame and height (a good female friend of mine is convinced that she is fat and I am thinner than she, even though we are actually, proportional to our height and frame, of the same thin-ness/fatness), so they think they should loose weight when, if anything, they may even need to gain more muscle.

    The other problem is a lack of nutritional savvy among many people. The women who do, for health reasons, need to loose a bit of weight and order the salad oftentimes end up getting as many calaries from their meal as I do ordering the fried food. Why? E.g., the drown their salad in high fat dressings. So they eat unfilling salads, are always hungry and wonder why they cannot loose weight?

    There is a problem with obesity in our society (and what is the significance of people getting fatter even as society’s image of an “ideal” woman gets thinner — why the dissonance and the increasing un-attainability of the ideal?), and a large part of the problem is that people are woefully unsavvy about nutrional issues.

  4. Arya
    Arya August 16, 2006 at 3:53 pm |

    I really, really appreciate this post. I am going through problems with a friend of mine at the moment. She has always had a relationship with food that is not the best but it’s gotten a LOT worse in the past few months. At one point she lost a dramatic amount of weight in a month, that amounted to more than a pound a day… and thought it was the BEST THING EVER to happen to her. She goes whole days without eating more than a handful of food and obsesses over every bite that goes into her mouth. If she eats half a cookie she’ll punish herself by refusing to eat for the rest of the day. I’ve just been at my wits end for what to do even though I know there isn’t really anything I can do. When she blabbers on, reciting every bite of food that went in her mouth that day, and talks about how much weight she’s lost and so on, it just makes me so unreasoningly furious, and it’s really hard. I don’t know why I get so mad. I guess the fact that she thinks it’s awesome and great that she’s doing this unhealthy stuff and can now fit into a size whatever, and she also seems to think that makes her better than me – that doesn’t help. I’m not trying to make this “all about me” either because my friend is the one with the problem, at least the much bigger problem, and I want to help her, but I just… can’t. Well, I mean that I can’t make her eat. And I know that. I’ll try your suggestions. Change the subject when she starts running herself down. I guess also when she starts reciting what she ate that day or bragging about being a size X? It’s hard, because when she gets in an obsessive frame of mind she tends not to take attempts at redirection well… it’s just hard, I wish I could do more, because she’s my friend and I love her, but I can’t.

  5. marie b.
    marie b. August 16, 2006 at 3:55 pm |

    “Shut the fuck up about your own body issues.” I wish I could say this to some of my friends. I really, really do.

    I have body dysmorphic disorder and haven’t seen the sun for almost a month because of it. I cry when forced to go outside, I’m putting off registration for Fall because of the fear and I rarely even answer the door.

    Long story short: I think I’m hideous — Hideous with a capital H — so it kills me to see my 110lb friends kvetch about their “extra 5lbs” or “flabby thighs”. I don’t ream them for it, because they may have their own deep, dark secrets, but their lack of compassion and tact galls me sometimes.

  6. Sara
    Sara August 16, 2006 at 4:58 pm |

    piny, I we must be siblings, because that’s exactly how my father acts. My dad has a lot of really screwed-up ideas about food and weight, and I don’t think it would be a stretch to call him anorexic. I’m sure I outweigh him by 30 or 40 pounds, and he is incredibly obsessive about his food and exercise. My dad goes so far as to believe that women in general are just fat and lazy, and say as much. Even setting aside how offensive that is, it’s really bizarre, too. It’s no wonder I turned out like I did.

  7. Hestia
    Hestia August 16, 2006 at 4:58 pm |

    The other problem is a lack of nutritional savvy among many people.

    I just can’t see how it could possibly be a good idea to tell others, “You know, what you’re eating isn’t healthy for you,” or telling them that salad dressing has a lot of calories (as if most people don’t already know that!), or giving them “Nutrition for Dummies” as a birthday gift.

    Maybe you mean that people should have access (through health insurance, for instance) to classes and counselors who can help them plan/choose healthy meals, and that schools should teach children how to prepare healthy food for themselves. That I can agree with. But frowning at them because they decide (horrors!) to eat a salad with dressing on it or a cheeseburger — without being privy to their health information, and without knowing what their everyday diet is like — strikes me as unhelpful at best.

  8. gloria
    gloria August 16, 2006 at 5:04 pm |

    I don’t have an eating disorder by definition, but I struggle from time to time with disordered eating. Food, eating, and pleasure all go hand-in-hand and unfortunately the message gets sent to us that pleasure is bad (look at how sex is demonized in our society.) I wish we didn’t think it was necessary to meet some Spartan expectation of bodily perfection and internalize the myth that self-control = morally superior.

  9. jonk
    jonk August 16, 2006 at 5:17 pm |

    i find much of what DAS writes to be emlematic of the “problems” around body size:

    I’ve often had this experience eating out with women, (only) some of whom could stand to loose some weight for health reasons (FWIW, I too thought those “fat” women looked about right or even on the thin side

    so DAS knows what health means for all people, apparently. how people value. these people that “could stand to lose some weight” – health is simply code for correct body (size or ability) according to whoever makes the claim. and bravo for the generous assessement that these women “looked about right” – what would it mean for these women to not look right? is it your place to make such a statement? what about if they felt right?

    DAS continues:

    The problem is two-fold: many women have no idea how heavy they are or even what weight would be ideal for their frame and height

    indeed! so women have no ideal what is ideal for their frame – please, DAS, do tell! i suspect the we can rest assured that the medical community can tell us what we should be (see below).

    DAS’s healthism continues:

    The other problem is a lack of nutritional savvy among many people. The women who do, for health reasons, need to loose a bit of weight

    again, what “nutrition” should i be consuming for what ends? what is this weight i need to be at for this thing you call “health”? what kind of judgements are built into the idea of ‘nutritional savvy’? who’s values are being reified? i suspect this, as with other rhetoric around health, is normed by the “fit/thin”, white, wealthy, male and (barbie-companion) female.

    DAS closes with the requitite nod to “the obesity epidemic”:

    There is a problem with obesity in our society

    so DAS, what is this problem? perhaps it would be useful to gain some perspective of this rhetoric by reading eric oliver’s
    ‘fat politics’ which makes a very compelling case that this ‘epidemic’ is the creation of weigh-loss researchers, big pharma, and the weight loss industry. as the epidemic was named, and the requirements to be labeled as ‘obese’ were relaxed, michael jordan was suddenly one fo the 60 million (i think was the number) that were now obese – get real!

    there is a conference coming up in the fall (oct 12-13) that will deal with issues of size as well as other healthist ideas, check it out: against health.

  10. jonk
    jonk August 16, 2006 at 5:25 pm |

    really, what gloria said.

  11. ilyka
    ilyka August 16, 2006 at 5:40 pm |

    Thanks for this, piny; I’ll print it out to keep handy. I have never known what to do, what to say, how to act, or whether to do/say/model anything at all with my friends who have been body dysmorphic, because I have never been able to get past my outrage: “How can you call yourself disgusting and gross? How can you do it with me sitting right here at the same table with you, knowing I’m larger than you are? How can you be so crazy? How can you hate food?” I don’t say any of those things, but that has been more or less the internal monologue.

    I think between your suggestions and Arya’s frustrations, so similar to my own, I’ll be better able to distinguish between the disease and the sufferer and won’t get caught up in my anger so much. I won’t feel so helpless, if that makes any sense. It’s nice to know what’s appropriate and potentially helpful and what is not.

  12. Starfoxy
    Starfoxy August 16, 2006 at 5:42 pm |

    When I was a teenager my mom said both of these things to me within a week:

    “You’re so skinny! It’s like you’re wasting away!”

    “Are you going to suck your tummy in, or just let it stick out like that?”

    In all honesty, after growing up with messages like that it’s suprising that I *don’t* have an eating disorder.

  13. Barbiturate Cat
    Barbiturate Cat August 16, 2006 at 5:43 pm |

    Do not scrutinize their portions or their leftovers. Do not harangue them about starving themselves, or make passive-aggressive comments about how they eat like birds. Normal women are humiliated by this treatment; women with full-blown eating disorders live for it.

    You have no idea how grateful I am that you have said that.

    I am constantly being told, by family, friends, complete strangers that I do not eat enough. That there is “something wrong” with me, that I am “unhealthy”, “anorexic”, or “underweight”. I dread family dinners or social arrangements where food might be present, because I know my weight or eating habits will end up being the topic of conversation. It does not matter that my weight is healthy, that I know my own hunger cues and stop eating when I’m full – it’s embarassing to know that refusing second helpings at dinner will result in a 20 minute conversation about how little I apparently eat.

    It is so incredibly hard to explain to people how hurtful, humiliating and degrading these comments are. I have struggled with body image issues since a very young age, had problems with disordered eating [not a full-fledged eating disorder, however] and I am hyper-sensitive about how my food intake is percieved by people around me.

    I don’t comment on other people’s eating habits or weight. And it’s really difficult to let them know that it’s NOT okay to comment on mine. [I constantly get the reply that I “should be flattered” at what they say. Uh…no. It’s rude, inappropriate and very hurtful.]

  14. Clare
    Clare August 16, 2006 at 5:46 pm |

    A moratorium on criticising what other people eat would be a good start. Openly inquiring, “… shouldn’t you be eating a salad instead of that burrito…” or “you’re not going to have a dessert are you?” is guaranteed to make the person in question agonize more over how and what they eat. These comments, which are excused on the grounds of advocating health, only emphasize the fact that eating is, in the end, about control — the idea that tortures sufferers from eating disorders every hour of every day. Anybody who’s said such things, or feels tempted to do would be better advised to keep quiet.

  15. jt
    jt August 16, 2006 at 6:03 pm |

    Quoth DAS:

    I’ve often had this experience eating out with women, (only) some of whom could stand to loose some weight for health reasons … The other problem is a lack of nutritional savvy among many people.

    I think one needs to make distinctions here between generally healthy folk who have some concerns/insecurity about weight or body image, and anorexics. Anorexia goes far beyond simply feeling a twinge of guilt over getting a burger; it’s a full-on mental disorder and involves some deeper cognitive dysfunction. Nutritional savvy is not really the issue there.

  16. car
    car August 16, 2006 at 6:04 pm |

    What about people who are really close to you, and you know that something else is wrong? Speaking from my own experience here; I developed a full-blown eating disorder during a very difficult time in my life, but it was overeating only, not binging or being anorexic (at the time, I wished I could be anorexic. I thought they had all the luck). I gained 70 pounds in less than three years, and I was at the high end of normal anyway before it started. My husband never said a word about it. I know that he was trying to be supportive by not making rude comments about my weight, but come on. It took me a few years after that to really assess the damage I’d done to myself, to see how deeply I’d fallen into a lot of badness that expressed itself through eating. I wish he had said something, anything, at any point that could have brought a glimmer of sanity to me about my situation. I still resent him horribly for not ever expressing concern, for not trying to ask what was wrong, what was happening.

  17. Arya
    Arya August 16, 2006 at 6:07 pm |

    It’s not any easier to sit still for than it would be if your friend were an alcoholic. It’s infuriating.

    You’re right… thank you for saying this, it is kind of like that, and I feel bad about being so angry because I know it’s not her fault, but I am because… it’s so bad for her and she’s so unhappy and I can’t DO anything.

    Another piece of it that makes me so furious is how the whole world tells her that it’s great that she does this. Not any particular person (that I know of, although likely there’s been someone) but just all the messages we get. She asked me to go shopping with her because she needed new clothes, all hers were too big after the month of dramatic weight loss. We went into this store in the mall that was a HUGE store filled with clothes, and not a one of them was anything that would fit me (and I’m really not that huge). She was just delighted that they fit her, so excited and happy, and wanted to buy clothes two sizes too small because she figured she would be losing more weight. And I just got madder and madder that the very existence of this store was … set up to tell her that what she was doing to herself was a GOOD thing (and, by contrast, I was… well… essentially not worthy of existence, or at least not clothed existence). She was really sad that day and I thought buying clothes would make her feel better so I tried not to show how upset I was by the whole thing but as it went on I just couldn’t help it.

    Well… thanks.

  18. DAS
    DAS August 16, 2006 at 6:13 pm |

    I just can’t see how it could possibly be a good idea to tell others […]

    Maybe you mean that people should have access […], and that schools should teach children how to prepare healthy food for themselves. – Hestia

    Obviously it would be a horrible idea to be so obnoxious. And your second paragraph is exactly what I mean!

    But frowning at them because they decide (horrors!) to eat a salad with dressing on it or a cheeseburger — without being privy to their health information, and without knowing what their everyday diet is like — strikes me as unhelpful at best.

    Call me a moralizing pig, but there is something odd when someone not only complains about their weight, acts jeolous of how I can eat such greasy food and not gain weight and then explains ordering a salad (as if an explanation was even asked for) by saying “I need to loose weight, so I’ll get a salad”.

  19. DAS
    DAS August 16, 2006 at 6:31 pm |

    i suspect this, as with other rhetoric around health, is normed by the “fit/thin”, white, wealthy, male and (barbie-companion) female. – jonk

    You are making some interesting assumptions about me and what I consider normative. If you actually knew me, you’d think differently …

    the requirements to be labeled as ‘obese’ were relaxed, michael jordan was suddenly one fo the 60 million (i think was the number) that were now obese – get real!

    Umm … how can it be healthy to have a large excess of fat? I would not deny that the standards for what constitutes obesity are mis-focused: any definition of obesity which has Michael Jordan obese (as some definitions do) is ridiculous, in part because such a definition likely ignores muscle mass. and possibly body frame. But given a person is of a normal frame and has a typical amount of muscle mass, to be carrying around too much fat cannot be healthy.

    OTOH, your point about class in the first quoted part is very important. It is true that our perceptions of an “ideal weight” are very much shaped by what the wealthy people weigh. In the old days, when calories were scarce, what we today would consider obese was considered to be an ideal weight, because to have such a weight was a sign of wealth. Nowadays, calories are not generally scarce in this country, but while the rich can afford gym memberships and healthy food, the structure of food stamp programs has long denied the poor access to balanced meals and many poor people also are too busy trying to stay above water financially to have time to obtain proper exercise.

    I would agree that it is ridiculous the extent to which what in no way can be considered an unhealthy body weight is considered “fat” (as evidenced by the Details article calling such thin women fat), but just because the standard for obesity is mis-calibrated doesn’t mean that there is no problem in our society with obesity. And just because the poor are more often victims of poor nutrition than the rich doesn’t mean one should put one’s head in the sand and say “obesity is not a problem because our standards for an ‘ideal’ body are determined by rich folk with plenty of time to exercize on their hands.” The false conclusion does not follow from the true premise. If the poor are victimized the most by lack of access to healthy food and knowledge about such, perhaps, rather than saying everything is ok with the results of this lack of access, maybe we should be pushing for better access to quality food and education about nutrition for the poor.

  20. DAS
    DAS August 16, 2006 at 6:40 pm |

    bravo for the generous assessement that these women “looked about right” – […] what about if they felt right? – jonk

    What if they didn’t? That’s the problem, ain’t it? There is such a thing as being too heavy for your health — I reckon I disagree with you there, although I guess I should read the book you recommend — and I don’t think we should have our heads in the sand about that. But I would agree with you that too many people who think they are obese (and even many people who “are obese” according to skewed definitions) are not.

    I’m not talking about having an eating disorder or full blown dysmorphia. But how do you respond to a friend who thinks she ought to be better about sticking to a diet because she thinks she’s fat?

  21. jonk
    jonk August 16, 2006 at 7:04 pm |

    I think one needs to make distinctions here between generally healthy folk who have some concerns/insecurity about weight or body image, and anorexics. Anorexia goes far beyond simply feeling a twinge of guilt over getting a burger; it’s a full-on mental disorder and involves some deeper cognitive dysfunction. Nutritional savvy is not really the issue there.

    Right. “Eating disorder” and “eating-disordered behavior” fits into a spectrum of unhealthy and self-destructive fixation, not any particular diet or level of devotion to health.

    i think what is important is to question what it means to label things as “disorders”, “cognitive dysfuntion”, “unhealthy” or “self-destructive” – who is it that makes these claims? how are these claims justified? whose interests are served? what implications are there for social in/exclusion for people to have access to certain things? if an individual feels “unhealthy” i am all for them making changes that would make them feel “healthy”, but i do think it is worthwhile to question where these feelings of unhealthiness are coming from. this obviously maps perfectly onto claims of female inferiority, racial inferiority, cognitive inferiority, etc., where those making the claims are merely reifying status quo values of sexism, racism,

    DAS replies:

    Umm … how can it be healthy to have a large excess of fat? I would not deny that the standards for what constitutes obesity are mis-focused: any definition of obesity which has Michael Jordan obese (as some definitions do) is ridiculous, in part because such a definition likely ignores muscle mass. and possibly body frame. But given a person is of a normal frame and has a typical amount of muscle mass, to be carrying around too much fat cannot be healthy.

    missing the point. as above, i am raising the question of what it means to call something healthy. DAS is engaging in circular logic – fat=unhealthy because unhealthy=fat. fine, but what is your point?

    the folks that have michael jordan as obese are the ones that count – the U.S. government through the Center for Disease Control which uses the BMI (body mass index) to fix labels. the BMI gained authority when insurance companies started using the measure (previously merely the population’s average) as a normative measurement that also made the insurance companies money. as oliver observes in his book, this movement has much in common with the eugenics movement grown out of the social scientific fixation to measure, categorize, and stigmatize.

  22. Barbiturate Cat
    Barbiturate Cat August 16, 2006 at 7:12 pm |

    They were probably trying to get me to let up already, but it wasn’t exactly helpful. And just in general: I could fit into more clothes, and I got a lot more attention from strangers about my appearance.

    A few years ago I went through a very serious depression/breakdown that resulted in some very rapid and dangerous weight-loss. I didn’t notice it myself because I was so out of touch with reality, but it was apparent to everyone around me.

    The one thing that made me open my eyes and take notice was my husband’s grandmother remarking “Honey, you’ve lost *so much* weight, in such a short time. We’re all very worried about you.” It kind of snapped my eyes open and made me look at what was happening to me. It made me realize “this behaviour right here, what I am doing, this is unhealthy.”

    I know the situations are different, but that’s the comment people need to think of making. Not “Oh you don’t need to lose more weight, you look great!” If you’re worried about someone, tell them. Don’t sugar-coat it in a compliment, because that’s just reinforcing negative behaviours. “If I look great now, I’d look even better if I lost more weight!”.

  23. Lizard
    Lizard August 16, 2006 at 7:27 pm |

    Piny, thanks for your thoughtful list; it’s right on the money. I might add one bit of advice that may sound odd, unsympathetic, or contradictory, but I’ll give it a little context.

    I think my own eating disorder (anorexia, ~17 years ago) was a semi-calculated “plan B”–a way to make myself interesting to people when I felt I wasn’t succeeding in doing so academically, artistically, or personally. I hated myself and felt like a failure, but my response wasn’t just an unconscious course of self-denial, or an innocent diet that got out of control. I didn’t want to be invisible; I wanted to be anorexic, because at some level I figured that my teachers and friends would find me fascinating and profound. It worked. Indeed, I was a Byronic hero for most of my senior year in high school.

    I’m exceedingly grateful that they were so concerned and generous, and I don’t mean to seem contemptuous of their efforts–god knows they were doing everything they could to keep me alive. But in retrospect, I wish that my anorexic self hadn’t been made to feel so special, so romantic a victim, so intriguing a symbol. I wish someone had looked me in the eye and said “You must know this is bullshit, right? Just for the record, I love you even when you’re sick, but I’ll like you better when you’re back to your old self.”

    Not everybody’s cup of tea, but I think it would have given me a kick in the right direction. As it was, I gained the weight back within a couple of years, but it took me the better part of a decade to stop feeling that anorexia might just be the most noteworthy thing I’d ever accomplished.

  24. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz August 16, 2006 at 7:39 pm |

    Piny, I really wish I’d seen this post a few years ago! When I was in college, my roommate had a severe eating disorder (she’d already taken a leave of absence from school for several months of in-patient treatment) and one night my other roommate and I had to take her to the emergency room. After that incident, we went to student counseling services to get some advice on how to be supportive, how to express our concerns without freaking her out, etc.

    They couldn’t understand why we were there. We weren’t depressed or suffering from eating disorders ourselves and when we asked for resources on supporting friends and roommates with EDs, they had nothing. I’m so glad to see this. Thank you.

  25. jonk
    jonk August 16, 2006 at 7:46 pm |

    piny Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 7:07 pm
    No. Really. Stop having this discussion here, okay?

    i don’t understand why you would say this. i think your initial post is excellent for many reasons and i feel that what i offer is merely a different way to think of the advice you offer – modeling comfortable eating, calming down, overcompensating for self-hatred, not allowing friends to put themselves down, and not chiming in with one’s own body issues. i would agree with what you say because i think about health and body image in this way. this allows me to be comfortable with my eating and self-image, not commenting on the eating habits of others, and being supportive of the difficulties others have with body image.

    i’m not sure if your problem with my input has been because i am not necessarily dealing with the “emaciated” end of spectrum – either way, i think we saying very complimentary things. i want people, no matter size, to be accepted and comfortable. i don’t want to create or perpetuate shame based on size – big or small. i also want to offer ways to deal with how it is we can think and talk about these issues, seemingly as you do.

  26. Alexandra Lynch
    Alexandra Lynch August 16, 2006 at 8:14 pm |

    A lot of the recovery of work from eating disorders is slow and not the kind of thing people see. I had active bulemia when I married, and it took me a couple years to wake up to the fact that this is not exactly a healthy way to manage emotion, that I am now in a situation in which I can find better ways to manage emotion, and to start to do the careful work of unravelling the habitual responses. And in this world, it’s tough to do. Somewhere in there my thyroid gave out, which meant I looked at food on television and gained a pound. This didn’t help at all.

    But I said to my husband the other day, “I think I’m better. I ordered a salad for lunch because I wanted the salad. Not because fat women eating in public shouldn’t eat double cheeseburgers, not because I’m trying to lose weight, not because I’m trying to appear good and going home to eat everything in sight…I’m having a salad because that looked good and I want one.” And it only took me eleven years to get there.

  27. Ellie
    Ellie August 16, 2006 at 9:50 pm |

    I’m going to agree with the “calm down” sentiment, mostly due to the fact that some people get very riled up when they think someone has an eating disorder … when the individual doesn’t have one. I’ve been dealing with ulcerative colitis for a while now, and it has caused me to drop a significant amount of weight and to alter my eating habits in a significant way as well. At home I can eat what I want (since if I get sick, I’m right there), but when I eat out, I’m there for everyone to pick on as I cautiously select items and pick at them just enough … and oftentimes run to the bathroom ASAP afterward.

    I’m aware of how it looks, and so are other people (it’s made me very self-conscious). Even those who “know” what I’ve been going through feel it’s within their rights to criticize or imply that I’m not eating right. I’m pushed to eat this or drink that. My own family is a culprit in this (they should know better, but my mom still refuses to believe anything I say about the disease I’m living with–she just believes what she reads online), and my friends give me crap, trying to guilt me into eating more.

    Of course, when everyone around you assumes you’re puking up everything or purposely starving yourself, it’s hard to get them to believe that when you eat at home or close to home (or order take-out, etc.) that you eat a lot more. Being nasty, criticizing me all the time, giving me “the look” … I can’t imagine how it would make me feel if I had actual body issues. It’s bad enough when my own mom shoves cakes and candy and fatty foods on me to get me to “gain weight.”

    Yeah, sorry to ramble. I’m just so annoyed, and especially so since I’m still in school and once I graduate and can get a job I know I won’t be able to eat as well as I am now (since I’m home a lot right now). I just can’t eat when I’m more than about 10 minutes from home (with stops on the way), so I’m afraid I’m going to lose another 5 pounds or something and everyone will “tsk tsk” me again.

  28. A. Monkey
    A. Monkey August 16, 2006 at 9:51 pm |

    I agree with the bulk of your list. I wish I had been able to articulate this a couple of years ago. I am (mostly) in recovery from bulimia and when I am struggling with it I tend to do the best when I am eating with my friends who are the most comfortable with themselves and their food. The healthy modeling is key for me.

    The only part that didn’t ring true with my experiences was your comment about people with eating disorders living for other people’s scrutiny of their eating. I am always paranoid that people are judging my eating – too much, too little, the right food, the wrong … I am ashamed of my struggles. I just want to pass as normal, even when I am in the middle of it, I just want it to go unseen and definitely not mentioned.

  29. zuzu
    zuzu August 16, 2006 at 10:08 pm |

    I’d like to add one to the list of things you can model: When someone gives you a compliment, TAKE IT.

    Don’t defer, don’t diminish yourself, just say “thank you,” and leave it there. That was a skill I had to learn the hard way, and seeing other women not do that, “Oh, I look awful/I’m so fat/I’m hideous” thing really helped.

  30. Sapphique
    Sapphique August 16, 2006 at 10:22 pm |

    I think your “how to” talk to potentially eating-disordered people (and yes, they are primarily – but not always – women) is a refreshing list to offer people. As somebody who has swerved in and out of disordered eating all my life, it is a relief when people I know act normally around food and eating. I haven’t purged in many years now, and my weight is now stabilizing at the lower end, thanks to great therapy. But I’ve veered dangerously close to anorexic and my “swing” goes up as high as 400lbs and as low as 110lbs. I have a background in the size acceptance movement, which is one of the few things that has kept me feeling somewhat sane. So, in the times when I was purging myself into oblivion, and looking “great” acccording to many people around me, I was at least able to hang on to the thought that there was something very wrong about people’s perceptions. Surely it’s healthier to be a fat woman, with a stable weight, who’s not binging and/or purging than it is to be a 125lb woman with bulimia?

  31. Allison
    Allison August 17, 2006 at 12:33 am |

    Piny, thanks for stopping the back-n-forth. I’d like to rephrase something that I *think* was partially what DAS was trying to say. I’ll only talk about my own experience to keep it from getting inflamatory (I hope).

    …many women have no idea how heavy they are or even what weight would be ideal for their frame and height…so they think they should loose weight when, if anything, they may even need to gain more muscle.

    I’m 5’3″. For some women, that might mean a weight of 100 pounds would look great. I’d look anorexic. During my twenties, I was pretty anxious about being heavier than what “society” (media, friends, etc) told me I should weigh (based solely on my height). In my late 20s to 30s, I’ve come to love the body I have, one that is curvy and strong — and one that will never be reed-thin.

    When I was in high school, I probably weighed 110 or so. As an adult, with muscle, I honestly look my best at no lower than 120. 130 is even a great weight. For me, understanding my *own* body has freed me from some outwardly-applied idea that the “ideal” weight for a woman my height is a certain amount. Nope…there’s only an ideal weight for my specific frame and body composition.

    Many women don’t understand that there is no single ideal weight for any given height, only what works for them. I think (hope) that might be what DAS was getting at. Genuinely “getting” this might help some women avoid disorders (like the one I’d have to develop to ever weigh 100 pounds).

    Great post, piny.

  32. belledame222
    belledame222 August 17, 2006 at 3:33 am |

    A bit of a tangent from the original point, but I am wondering something: how related are ED’s to obsessive-compulsive disorder? It almost sounds like in a way the problem isn’t even just the content but the “stuck in a loop” process, if that makes sense.

  33. Theriomorph
    Theriomorph August 17, 2006 at 8:30 am |

    I agree with all your points about how to support someone. A couple of additional ideas: never, ever praise someone unquestioningly for shrinking (especially if a young girl, or a woman you know is struggling with food/body, is listening). Everyone and everything in our culture will pair ‘you look great’ with ‘have you lost weight?’ When I see someone shrink, I always try to ask, in public, if they are all right, or if they’ve been ill. If I know someone is trying to lose weight, even if they have reasons NOT based in eating disorder, I always encourage them to be careful and remind them that our culture is so deranged about body and food, especially for women, that I think we need to be conscious of our vulnerability to buying into something self-destructive no matter how educated we are about ‘health’ of whatever kind.

    Talking about it this way, vs. praising unquestioningly or celebrating when someone shrinks is a small form of social action. Changing the verbal norms in an effort to change the emotional and social norms, or at least point directly to how screwed up they are (and we are).

    ‘Hey, beloved friend, how come you’re getting smaller? Are you all right?’ is a very different message than ‘Wow, I wish I had the ruthless self-loathing you have so I could wear those pants – you sure are more desirable when you’re dying.’

    I’ve had my own stretches with both starvation and using food to hide (starvation being the far more immediately dangerous of the two, in my experience; three days of not eating and you’re a hazard not only to your own heart but to other drivers on the road, yourself on a flight of stairs, etc), and I’ve had women in my life whose eating disorders threatened their lives and/or whose body dysmorphia made them depressed and isolated.

    Much of the useful things to say about all this have already been said, but one remaining thought:

    As piny said, “The problem is obsession, not merely negative obsession” and eating disorder does function in much the same way alcoholism does. A lot of people call it an addiction for a reason. So feeding into a person’s obsession/participating in their obsessive loops about food and body is not helpful, and I like the suggestion of simply focusing on the two headed weiner dog instead – be honest about identifying the disordered thinking as illness not ‘success,’ be loving but calm and not-obsessive-with-them, shift the focus back to life and the matters at hand outside of the person’s body. And be patient.

    Fact is, this stuff is excruciatingly hard on everyone. Great post, thanks for writing it; there is so little useful conversation about body image and eating disorder available that any time one like this happens in public it’s a real service.

  34. kenga
    kenga August 17, 2006 at 9:03 am |

    jonk,
    regarding this:
    “i think what is important is to question what it means to label things as “disorders”, “cognitive dysfuntion”, “unhealthy” or “self-destructive” – who is it that makes these claims? ”

    In my experience, it was the therapists, nurses, and doctors who were trying to make my cousin understand: If you don’t eat, you are going to die. She didn’t, and she did.
    Her weight bounced between 70 and 95 lbs for a couple years. Issues of control, and body image no doubt contributed.
    BUT – when you are so emaciated that you are unable to roll over in a bed without someone helping, it is very obviously much deeper than than feelings of unhealthiness, or an issue of people claiming you have a problem “reifying the staus quo values of sexism, racism, etc.”
    When a person is 5’7″ and weighs less than 40 lbs, there is a problem.
    k

  35. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler August 17, 2006 at 9:08 am |

    When I was dating, I used to worry about the women who would order small and eat sparsely: “Is she worried about becoming what she sees as ‘too fat’?* Does she think eating is unladylike (and if so, what other sensual pleasures does she consider herself unworthy of)? If we end up in a relationship, am I going to have to put up with this three times a day?” This has nothing to do with a woman being at a particular size.

    Now I’m a little worried about my stepdaughter, who a few months ago said (apropos of I forget what) “a girl’s gotta be thin!” She’s eight. She doesn’t even have hormones yet.** Her mother certainly doesn’t get her Bratz and suchlike. She’s already exhibiting — and it’s not just that one incident — concern about eating too much or being seen to eat in public.

    IIWYO,IA: Sheesh. There’s a woman at work I think could improve her appearance with some wardrobe changes, but I wouldn’t tell her that in a million years (because “look good for Hershele” isn’t in her job description; it’s not even included in “other duties as required”). How do people get the idea that someone else’s appearance is in their jurisdiction?

    piny:

    my dad alternately criticizes my mom’s weight and praises me for eating so healthy and exercising so regularly

    A few years ago at my grandfather’s birthday party, all his friends who hadn’t seen me in a few years were praising me for losing a significant amount of weight.

    I wasn’t sure quite how to explain that it was due to ileitis rather than any conscious effort on my part.

    *Which isn’t the same as “fat.”
    **Not literally true.

  36. DAS
    DAS August 17, 2006 at 9:14 am |

    Many women don’t understand that there is no single ideal weight for any given height, only what works for them. I think (hope) that might be what DAS was getting at. Genuinely “getting” this might help some women avoid disorders (like the one I’d have to develop to ever weigh 100 pounds).

    That is indeed one of the things I was getting at.

    The other is that there is indeed a such thing as being unhealthily overweight. Although our society’s ridiculous weight standards only make matters worse: while they induce some people to struggle to the point of developing eating disorders, they cause other people to give up on eating healthy, exercize, etc., figuring they’ll never achieve the ridiculous ideal weight. Of course, access to nutritional information and even healthy foods is also a problem. But to deny that a problem exists merely because the opposite problem also exists is a bit ridiculous as well.

  37. zuzu
    zuzu August 17, 2006 at 9:22 am |

    Now I’m a little worried about my stepdaughter, who a few months ago said (apropos of I forget what) “a girl’s gotta be thin!” She’s eight. She doesn’t even have hormones yet.** Her mother certainly doesn’t get her Bratz and suchlike. She’s already exhibiting — and it’s not just that one incident — concern about eating too much or being seen to eat in public.

    Do you not see the connection between your stepdaughter’s early concern about her weight and statements like the following?

    Men don’t like fat chicks, Blitzgal.

  38. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler August 17, 2006 at 9:23 am |

    DAS! Health is not the issue! No one is saying a given weight is healthy, or unhealthy or talking about it at all! The only relevant health concerns are mental health. This is a question of body image.

  39. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler August 17, 2006 at 10:01 am |

    zuzu, there are attractive thin women and ugly thin women, attractive fat women and ugly fat women. I doubt I’m going to find much disagreement on that (maybe from DAS).

    Look, I don’t publish Details. I’m not the one who’s out there urging women to be thin to get a man, like the first is necessary or the second important. My pointing it out is no more an endorsement than you endorse testing drugs on prisoners. And it should be obvious why my stepdaughter is the last person who should ever try to match my idea of an attractive woman, even when she’s older.

    Back to this post: I’m not even sure where she picked up that attitude. It’s not prevalent in the house. And she is thin, but I fear pointing that out when she worries will only reinforce the basic premise that weight/waist is tied to moral stature. I think the key is to get her out of that mindset entirely. Regardless of what her weight is, I don’t want her to prize being thin over being happy.

  40. zuzu
    zuzu August 17, 2006 at 10:27 am |

    zuzu, there are attractive thin women and ugly thin women, attractive fat women and ugly fat women. I doubt I’m going to find much disagreement on that (maybe from DAS)

    You’re contradicting yourself. You’ve just said that there are attractive fat women, but you’ve maintained, strongly, that men do not, under any circumstances bar fetishism or liberal bragging, find fat women attractive.

    And this is entirely relevant to this post, and to the kind of messages your stepdaughter is picking up. Whether you find her attractive is irrelevant — but she picks up your attitude about women as being representative of the culture at large.

  41. Nomie
    Nomie August 17, 2006 at 10:31 am |

    Oh, man.

    I wish I could print this out and show it to my dad. He’s obese and he’s been losing weight due to doctor’s orders – his father was similarly obese and died due to complications from adult diabetes, so it’s been pressing for my dad. It’s going really well for him, but it means that he’s taking this as an opportunity to shame and blame me whenever I eat. He used to shovel food on my plate; now, if I so much as order something other than a salad, he gives me a withering look. And the constant lectures about how if I only ate yogurt and fruit, I could lose weight too!

    I’ve struggled with compulsive overeating for years, and this year had a major relapse into disordered behaviors due to a lot of stress in my personal and academic lives. I gained about 40 pounds, and it’s only been in the past few months that I’ve managed to get the behaviors under control and get back to normal eating habits. My doctor didn’t mention the weight gain at all; my blood pressure is fine, and I’m doing okay. I would like to lose the weight because I was happier where I was before, but I’m okay right now. But having my dad rag on me, constantly, is making me want to do nothing more than bury my head in a gallon of ice cream.

    Even worse, he’s constantly berating my younger sister about her weight. She plays sports and is mostly muscle, with a very small belly. And he tells her to do situps, run more, all this stupid crap. My sister is fourteen. She doesn’t need this. I try to tell her that she’s beautiful, that she’s fine the way she is, that her body is strong and powerful and that’s more important. But I’m away most of the year for school, and I’m moving away for grad school this fall. I worry about what’s going to happen to her.

    Sorry for the tl;dr, guys.

  42. jah
    jah August 17, 2006 at 10:36 am |

    Thanks for this. The other day I was in the Y and overheard this conversation between two thin, fit women talking about a third thin, fit woman:

    Woman 1: “She NEVER weighs herself.”
    Woman 2: “What! How will she know if she’s really the right weight?”
    Woman 1: “She looks so good! Why doesn’t she weigh herself? Today I’m 110.”
    Woman 2: “Mine’s 105. You’ll have to try harder. I can’t imagine not weighing myself every day.”

  43. Katie
    Katie August 17, 2006 at 10:43 am |

    I just want to say that this thread is extremely helpful, and I appreciate everyone’s contributions so much.

    Alexandra, this:

    But I said to my husband the other day, “I think I’m better. I ordered a salad for lunch because I wanted the salad. Not because fat women eating in public shouldn’t eat double cheeseburgers, not because I’m trying to lose weight, not because I’m trying to appear good and going home to eat everything in sight…I’m having a salad because that looked good and I want one.” And it only took me eleven years to get there.

    is great. I hope I can get to that someday, too. I used to (and very rarely still) binge and hide the evidence from my husband, because I was so ashamed of what he would think(!) I still cannot eat something “bad” or eat large amounts of food in public without feeling totally anonymous or proclaiming to everyone around me that “I can’t believe I’m eating this!”

    I don’t know of a single woman who doesn’t have some sort of issue with food, and it’s sad, because I think many of us play out a sort of social game every day when it comes to food, even (and especially), among ourselves. Like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I ate all of that,” or “That cake looks so good, but I am so fat, so I’m going to pass”, or “Look at her, she doesn’t need to be ordering dessert!”

    I’m saying this to make the point that women are responsible for other women’s negative body images, but that this is systemic, and it’s a fucked up disease that affects everyone, no matter how healthy they are.

  44. Katie
    Katie August 17, 2006 at 10:55 am |

    I do have one other thing to add. My mother was bulimic when I was 7-8 years old. At the time, she was separated from my dad, but he was able to talk her into staying with him (ugh). He would constantly make jokes about her fat ass, and gagging noises when she ate.

    He’s a fucking asshole, but it does point to a larger issue–eating disorders are still seen a joke by some people, or at least, not taken as seriously as they should be.

  45. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler August 17, 2006 at 11:35 am |

    zuzu:

    you’ve maintained, strongly, that men do not, under any circumstances bar fetishism or liberal bragging, find fat women attractive.

    I think I’m being unclear on the “fetishism” thing. I don’t mean that only men with fetishes like fat women — I mean that if a man declares a preference for fat women, he’s viewed as a fetishist, while other men, whose tastes are more mainstream but no less arbitrary, are not

    I should also probably draw a stronger distinction between my own attitudes and beliefs and those I’ve observed in others.

  46. rabbit
    rabbit August 17, 2006 at 11:37 am |

    Its so difficult to be sane and reasonable, even when working for healthy weight loss. I’ve been losing anywhere from 1/5 to 3 pounds a week (more like the former most weeks), and working very hard at it, because I was unhappy and unhealthy at the weight I was. I’m doing this the supposed ‘right’ way (though I need to exercize more), and yet I still struggle with not being completely obsessed with what goes in my mouth. I am constantly telling people how many points are in things, and how ooh! I found these 100 calorie packs of cheezits and they’re really good and low in points! and on and on, because it is almost required that you focus a lot of attention on what you eat change your entrenched eating habits. I’m working on maintaining a balance, and every time I look at my little weight loss chart (I’m an obsessive chronicaler) and get discouraged that I’ve been losing so slowly the past couple months I have to kick myself and remember that this is not about quickly or ‘so I’ll be skinny faster’ or whatever. And its hard to focus on ‘my blood pressure is dropping!’ when ‘I am going to buy a two-piece next summer!’ is around. And its hard to focus on why I want to lose weight without falling into hating my body the way it currently is.

    On the converse, my sister, who has always been the thin one, has put of quite a bit of weight (20 pounds, but over only about 4 or 5 months) because she’s been stressed and out of work and a million other things. She still looks great, she is not anywhere out of the normal range…but I’m concerned because I know how fast extra weight can sneak up on you, and suddenly it is an issue and you feel like crap and now its really hard to fix. I’ve been trying to just be sort of supportive and ‘if you want me to show you what I’ve been doing thats been working, we can do that’, and I want to help her (because I gained about 50 pounds on an already chubby me in a year, and everyone was too nice and polite to stop me and tell me I was gaining weight alarmingly fast), but I don’t want to be obsessive or overly YOU MUST LOSE WEIGHT, because I’ve spent my whole life with that crap. Having a healthy relationship with your body is a difficult thing, I think. Trying to make changes to your body in a healthy manner is even worse.

  47. exangelena
    exangelena August 17, 2006 at 11:43 am |

    jah at #53, if you ever see this again, I loved a comment you made at Alas a Blog:
    “Ugly is not equal to bad. Ugly just is. Fat doesn’t mean unloved. Fat and ugly don’t even mean undesirable. As you said above, I understand what I look like. I just don’t let my physical appearance limit my life.”
    link
    A little unrelated, but applicable to a discussion about beauty and body image, and certainly an attitude that would prevent eating disorders!

  48. raging red
    raging red August 17, 2006 at 12:32 pm |

    I mean that if a man declares a preference for fat women, he’s viewed as a fetishist, while other men, whose tastes are more mainstream but no less arbitrary, are not.

    But you didn’t say “he’s viewed as a fetishist,” you said: “The few who do either brag about it for liberal cred or label themselves fetishists (or at least group themselves by that preference).” So according to your initial statement, there is no such thing as a man who is simply attracted to fat women — no fetish required, no “liberal cred” desired. And by the way, who are all of these liberals who are giving cred to other liberals because they like fat chicks?

  49. raging red
    raging red August 17, 2006 at 1:19 pm |

    And sorry, I probably should have left my comment on the “fat pig” thread, because I think this is a really important post with many enlightening comments and I didn’t intend to further derail that discussion.

  50. Sally
    Sally August 17, 2006 at 1:21 pm |

    Another piece of advice I’d give is to avoid discussing specific numbers. Paris Hilton’s weight may be a fascinating subject, but I don’t want to know it. Likewise, I don’t want to know how many calories there are in a Big Mac or a pint of strawberries. I’ve been more or less recovered from my eating disorder for ten years, but specific discussions of calories or pounds still set me off.

  51. Sailorman
    Sailorman August 17, 2006 at 4:14 pm |

    Cook for them. It makes eating personal. It lets you make the “right” thing. It lets you share a healthy relationship with, and appreciation of, the food you eat. Better yet, cook WITH them. Turn them into a healthy, happy foodie.

  52. Barbiturate Cat
    Barbiturate Cat August 17, 2006 at 5:56 pm |

    jah – At a family dinner a month ago, a relative literally took me by the arm, in to the bathroom, and weighed me. It was, uhm…interesting…[we don’t own a scale in this house] She also weighed herself, and made my husband do the same.

    Most people would be better off if they just trashed their scales…it’s sad to see people who are really happy and content with their bodies suddenly freak out and obsess over their weight/food intake the minute they find out what they weigh.

  53. syfr
    syfr August 17, 2006 at 8:48 pm |

    I only have a scale in the house because my SO bought one to weigh the cat. And the baking scale, of course.

    I don’t actually know where the person-scale is. I prefer it that way; I don’t want to become a pound obsessed person, and not having the scale in the house/ not knowing where it is is a good solution for me.

  54. Theriomorph
    Theriomorph August 17, 2006 at 9:29 pm |

    I’m for pitching the scales entirely. Heard someone on Weight Watchers talking about measuring loss/gain by ounces recently, and recalled reading somewhere that a woman’s natural weight flucuation can be as much as 3-5 pounds a day (water, hormonal cycles, etc) without reflecting any difference in fat or muscle loss/gain…Can’t recall where I saw it. Anyone know those figures?

    Imagine if the goal was to FEEL GOOD. You know, healthy, strong, able to do what you want, alive & beautiful in your own skin.

    Radical.

  55. concerned
    concerned August 18, 2006 at 4:22 am |

    This post was wonderful. One thing not really discussed here was how actually following your advice has a beneficial effect on the friend, not necessarily with her destructive habits, but on her peace of mind. I’m friends with a few girls with borderline eating disorders, and I’ve never encouraged their fears. One friend in particular is very stubborn and absolutely cannot handle confrontation or even real life, for that matter. She gets it from her parents: around seven years ago she went to Thanksgiving dinner and no one had seen her in three months – she was a true waif. Her parent’s solution? weight gainer… clueless…

    Anyways she knows I know and that I’m there for her. I think she appreciates me not saying much (I do say things from time to time) but looks to me to remind herself that normal eating habits and confidence do exist and that she can be this way too. Confrontation is way easier said than done. A friend of ours works in an ED clinic but won’t say anything because her words will mean nothing. Sadly it’s true.

    Obviously the parents are useless (incredibly she moved home) and guys are insanely attracted to her (five-seven size 2/4) which only reenforces her habits – she’ll never give up the guys. She barely eats, works out like crazy, mentally counts calories, inspects herself, not to mention getting blackout drunk on weekends and shaking (I’m not going to talk about the drinking here it’s not at issue)… all indicators of problems and unhappiness I know, but can she still live her own version of a happy life? We live in different cities and no one else is around to be some sort of good influence, let alone good friend. How long do we follow your advice before we’re bad friends – is my ten years too long?

  56. Barbiturate Cat
    Barbiturate Cat August 18, 2006 at 1:12 pm |

    Theriomorph – I don’t have the figures to quote, but I’d believe it’s true based on my own personal experiences. I weighed myself near daily about 8 years ago, and my weight would rise or fall four or five pounds whenever I stepped on the scale.

    And I’m totally up for being radical. That’s much nicer than comparing how I look to other people and obsessing over how much my body weighs, rather than concentrating on if I’m healthy and feel good in my own skin.

  57. littlem
    littlem August 20, 2006 at 5:20 pm |

    DAS said:
    “…maybe we should be pushing for better access to quality food and education about nutrition for the poor.”

    Yah, DAS, we should.

    Now, since the highly credentialed health and social work professionals I know that have attempted to do this have failed miserably without sufficient support from public/private partnerships to build the requisite grocery stores with affordable prices for fresh produce in the neighborhoods where “these” people live AND without sufficient information/educational resources for alternatives to challenge the cultural norms that support high-simple carbohydrate and/or fried foods as dietary staples (and I’m not even talking about junk food; I’m talking about food people ate historically because they had no access to/couldn’t afford anything else), how precisely would you in all your wisdom suggest we go about it?

  58. littlem
    littlem August 20, 2006 at 5:29 pm |

    Sorry, Piny, for responding to DAS before I saw your comment. That’s a hot button issue for me, and I responded w/o reading through all the comments.

    Back to the thread issue:

    “I didn’t want to be invisible; I wanted to be anorexic, because at some level I figured that my teachers and friends would find me fascinating and profound. It worked.

    THIS right here is the problem. This issue right here. This speaks to how deep the “worship of thin” goes in this culture.

    IMO this happens frequently because friends and family take in cultural messages and don’t think about WHY they’re saying what they’re saying. Same as heterosexual men who feel that they “have” to have a thin woman on their arm socially but haven’t given a nanosecond’s thought to the homosocial reasons WHY they feel its a necessity.

    We’re all culturally influenced. People think what they think. The problems I have are with people who have never bothered to challenge what they think or consider its source.

    I can’t wait until “Fat Politics” comes out.

  59. littlem
    littlem August 20, 2006 at 5:53 pm |

    Barbiturate Cat –

    “At a family dinner a month ago, a relative literally took me by the arm, in to the bathroom, and weighed me. It was, uhm…interesting…[we don’t own a scale in this house] She also weighed herself, and made my husband do the same.”

    WHAT?!?!

    Please tell me it was at your request. We don’t have all the details of the situation in which this occurred, but if someone did that to ME — barring really convoluted emotional dynamics between me and the relative in question, which I will admit are fairly common in families in our culture — I believe I would have had to fight them.

    My weight is no one’s business but mine and my doctor’s. Not in this culture.

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