Sunday, August 31, 2008


Big-time disaster watch, people: Gustav kicked the crap out of Cuba and is now heading for the Gulf. I guess it doesn't like being called Katrina's little brother.

And about that "mandatory evacuation," Mayor Nagin, what are you going to do about the people who can't afford to leave?

All right, this is getting Biblical: massive floods in India and yet another quake in China.

Neat: WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health.

That was depressing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Women. Grilling. In lab coats, no less.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When I say "Hillshire"

I have never seen a woman using a grill on television. Have you?

Monday, August 25, 2008

A conundrum

This summer I've been reading blogs by people who, like me, have issues with food. Too little of it, too much of it, and some who are just damn tired of being told what their bodies "should" be. It's interesting as hell from an anthropology standpoint, but on a personal level the FA/Size Acceptance/Health At Every Size blogosphere (aka the Fatosphere) has been incredibly helpful. Writers offer a critical perspective on media, health communication, and social pressures to adhere to an arbitrary ideal. They focus on what their bodies do, not how they appear. It's refreshing.

When I was at my thinnest, I realized that once your body is a few ticks to either side of the bell curve, it becomes public property. I got stares, frowns, rude questions, comments. But my life was peaches compared to what people at the other end have to face. Read this post and comments at Shapely Prose if you don't believe me.

Sometimes a FA/SA/HAES writer will describe a situation with which I can identify. For example, one writer posted about the blood-pressure cuff not fitting during a recent ER trip. Once my own BP was so low that the nurse thought I was septic - until she realized the cuff was too big and retrieved the children's cuff. I felt REAL cool, lemme tell you.

My cuff didn't "fly off" as did the other blogger's, which is way more difficult to deal with. I was going to comment about the indignity that sometimes accompanies one-size-fits-all medical equipment - but I didn't. I was afraid the writer would be insulted. How could I, skinny in a society that worships thin, possibly understand how she felt? From a social standpoint, our experiences were different.

So here's my question - is the Size Acceptance community going to accept me? People make comments about my body; they assume I'm a "skinny bitch." Am I just fooling myself that a recovering anorexic could ever empathize with a fat person?


I got up the gumption to go weigh myself. And ... I'm okay. It was about what I'd expected. My fragile self-image is safe for the time being. If only I could come to terms with my stomach. I gain weight there first - in fact, a lot of recovering anorexics do* - so I have a bony back an a flabby midsection. Not lovely, but it's temporary. I think.

*The first author of that study is "M. Zamboni." Coolest surname ever.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The VGT Omnivore's 100

I was dicking around the Internet (as I am wont to do) and came across Very Good Taste’s Omnivore’s One Hundred (I first found it on this site). It’s an admittedly arbitrary list of foods that a “good omnivore” should taste at least once in her life.

The instructions:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) My additional step: put an asterisk by ones you want to try.

What’s fun is the memories that arise as you go over the list. And you learn a lot.

1. Venisontastes like corned beef
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare -
5. *Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue – I can’t help but feel that fondues are inevitably dangerous. Either you’re all going to get each other’s infections, or someone’s going to get burned by molten cheese.
8. Carp
9.* Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
I’ve only had it once, and at an excellent restaurant. I doubt it’s as good at Olive Garden or someplace like that.
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
I’ve definitely had more than my share of these.
14. *Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart – Never eaten one, but I love the way hotdog carts smell when I go downtown.

16. Epoisses – I had to Wikipedia this. It’s unpasteurized cheese from France.
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – not yet, but I’ve got a bottle of cranberry wine in the pantry.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
I ate a wild strawberry and got scolded for it.
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese – I used to work at a deli. When I saw this stuff for the first time, I turned to my co-worker and asked, horrified, “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” It provided much amusement.

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
OystersOn a cracker with hot sauce. It tasted like a cracker with hot sauce, so not too bad.
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda – Had to look this up, too. It’s a hot dip from Italy made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.
31. Wasabi peas
These will put you in intimate touch with your sinuses.
32. Clam chowder
in a sourdough bowlI’ve had both of these, but not at the same time. I’m counting it anyway.
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar – Jim loves the stuff; to me it’s a little cough-syrupy.
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
I’m guessing this is a Jell-O shot.
39. Gumbo
A family friend makes this every so often for food competitions. It’s amazing.
40. *Oxtail
41. *Curried goat
42. Whole insects
I ate a cricket for a school assignment. I was trying to convince people that world hunger could be eliminated if we started eating insects on a large scale. It tasted like nutty hamburger.
43. Phaal – This is a hot-ass curry dish.
44. Goat’s milk – does goat cheese count?
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. *Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
This was another life, people.
50. Sea urchin
51. *Prickly pear – I had a chance to have these and went for a salad instead. Dang eating disorder.
52. Umeboshisour, salty, pickled fruit from Japan. Based on that description, I’m striking them out.
53. Abalone
54. *Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini - I hate olives.
58. Beer above 8% ABV
– woohoo fruit lambics!
59. Poutinethis dish consists of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, and yes, I have tried it. It was DISGUSTING, and not just because it is an ultimate fear food.
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads – tried Jim’s. Actually pretty good, though the texture was a bit odd.
63. Kaolinno desire to eat clay.
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. *Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets
, churros, elephant ears or funnel cakeBeignets – oh my god, beignets. Like an orgasm of fluffy, melt-in-your mouth dough.
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
– I’d rather have salsa
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost – Norwegian whey cheese.
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu – clear beverage distilled from sorghum or rice. It’s about 40-60% ABV. Jim should know about this.
77. Hostess Fruit Piethere are some fear foods I’m okay with avoiding.
78. *Snail
79. Lapsang souchong – Smoky-tasting black tea.
80. *Bellini – cocktail made with sparkling wine and peach puree. I think I need to try this.
81. Tom yum – tasty-sounding spicy Thai soup made with prawns, mushrooms, chili peppers, and lemongrass
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. *Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horsefuck no, I love horses. Plus I’ve read accounts saying that it’s really disgusting.
90. Criollo chocolate – rare and expensive type of chocolate made from a specific species of bean.
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. *Rose harissa – spicy chili pepper sauce from North Africa.
94. Catfish

95. *Mole poblano
96. Bagel and loxI’ve had both, but not at the same time.
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta

99. *Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Friday, August 22, 2008


California recently passed legislation that would ban the controversial BODIES ... The Exhibition from being presented in the state. A version of this exhibit is currently on display at the (otherwise wonderful) Cincinnati Museum Center. I've refrained from attending (here and in Columbus) for the same reasons that California lawmakers have decided to say hell with it: the exhibition's company, Premier, doesn't have proof that every body was obtained with the informed consent of the deceased person or next of kin.

In an interview for 20/20 in February, former Premier Chairman Arnie Geller, who resigned following the report, told ABC News he was appalled at the allegations that some of the bodies from his Chinese suppliers might be those of executed prisoners.

He said his own medical staff had seen no such evidence and that his suppliers have assured him that "these are all legitimate, unclaimed bodies that have gone through Dalian Medical University."

That they might be political prisoners is important, but it's not even my main concern. That these were "unclaimed" bodies indicates to me that a) they were indigents or b) their relatives were unable to pay for funeral expenses and chose not to claim them. If either case is true, then these individuals occupied the extreme lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Is it somehow okay to use their bodies this way? Absolutely not - there's no way of knowing what their wishes would have been. Absence of refusal does not signify consent. Furthermore, it seems to me that the unnamed "suppliers" are taking advantage of a relatively powerless population.

If done correctly, these exhibits are a valuable educational resource. However, displays should be limited to the bodies of informed, consenting adults.

The wall

I've hit it. I went for two weeks feeling good about my body, exercising, enjoying food, and then I got up from the table after lunch and was just disgusted with myself. Look how much I ate! Look at that person - she only ate soup. You ate a GIANT turkey-feta-spinach-cranberry salad and TWO ROLLS. With NON-LOW-FAT dressing. Oh my god you are a tub.

This line of thinking continued for ... about four hours. I'm doing better now, and I'm really going to try hard not to restrict my eating. What's worse is that today's lunch was with a wonderful friend of my mother's, someone I haven't seen since I graduated to pullups. An otherwise lovely meal was shadowed by fear and anger every time I took a bite.

I will feel better about this by the time I go to D.C. next weekend. I will, dammit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reading is sexy

My sister recently had to purchase A Streetcar Named Desire. This is what her copy looks like:

Jeepers, beefcake much?

This got me wondering if other newer editions of the summer-reading standbys are promising titillation they don't deliver.

Here's Wuthering Heights:

Hit that, Heathcliff!

Pride and Prejudice

This isn't really misleading, but I have a problem with putting movie stars on book covers.

Another iteration:

Jane Eyre:

David Copperfield:

Not really about a magician.

The Awakening

She doesn't get n
aked until the end, and it's not at all what you think.

The Red Pony

Oh, how cute! Or, you know, brutal and tragic. I read this in the third grade and was definitely unprepared.


Well, okay, this one does deliver.

I mean, really, what's next - the Bible?
Oh, wait.

This one's for guys ...

This one's for girls:

And this one's for the surfer in all of us:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I haven't weighed myself in over a week. At this point, I'm a little afraid to. My body is changing - I can feel differences. I have more muscle, especially in my legs. But I also have a little more ... give, I guess you would say. I can grip skin where I couldn't before. Lately I've been unconsciously rubbing my stomach, like I'm anticipating its eventual expansion.

Oh, the vagaries of body image. Do I even look thin anymore? I don't think so - not unnaturally so, at least. And as much as I hated the concerned or sidelong looks, the very sickest part of me took those as vindication, as reassurance. All my efforts were paying off! And now that I'm getting better, that sick part - it's smaller now, but it's definitely still there - doesn't want to see that go to waste.

There's always that tug-of-war. I like the things that are happening to my body. At least the rational part of me does. But there's still that piece of me that looks in the mirror and sees something revolting and out of control.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Abuse of evolution

This article in the Washington Post discusses several studies on the different investing behaviors of men and women. Overall, women are more risk-averse, choosing to keep more of their wealth in more secure assets. Men also tend to trade more frequently, sometimes to the point of "overtrading." In the long run, that can actually lead to lower returns.

All of this is very interesting, but the reasons why these gender differences exist is far more exciting to me. There are several conjectures, but the one that grated especially hard was the one from Emily Chiang, an investment advisor, who thinks that "evolutionary psychology" is responsible for the gap:

"Men are hunters, she said. "Women are more like gatherers."

Okay, people. While the "man hunt, woman gather/cook/take care of babies" concept dominates high-school science textbooks, evolutionary science can't make definitive statements about early human division of labor. Fossil evidence is interpreted through the lens of modern society - today's standards are unwittingly applied to the past. Ethnographic analogues - modern-day hunter-gatherers - are practically nonexistent; but research done in the 50s and 60s suggests that a) division of labor varies between societies and b) in some cases, men and women shared many "gendered" tasks.

Relying on "caveman" stereotypes sells modern humans short. We're far more complicated than that.

Teach a kid to garden ...

Last week I wrote about a borderline offensive ad on childhood obesity and the group that created it. I want to emphasize that the Center for Closing the Health Gap is actually a great organization. Today's Cincinnati Enquirer ran an article about the Center's Do Right! Campaign. The group got kids involved in planting a garden in a vacant spot near the YMCA. The article described Harvest Day, when the kids finally got to pick the veggies they'd planted and nurtured. They were understandably proud of their produce.

Gardening projects like this are a great idea. Kids can learn so much from growing a garden - botany, biology, meteorology. It's stealth teaching. Gardens aren't like a puppy, but there's still responsibility involved (witness the wilted, neglected flowerbeds of my childhood). Teamwork comes in handy. And if kids grow their own carrots and zucchini, they'll be more likely to eat them.

Unfortunately, these programs are hard to sustain. As energetic as they are, there are some gardening tasks that kids can't (and shouldn't) do. Finding a suitable and safe spot isn't easy, and supplies can be expensive. A good idea might be to match gardeners - maybe retirees with some extra time - with a YMCA or day-camp program. That doesn't address the money issue, though. I doubt gardens of this size would produce enough surplus to sell.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday news

Disaster watch: Tropical Storm Fay is headed for Haiti. This is going to be ugly.

Teachers in a small Texas district are now permitted to carry guns in the classroom. Those kids are going to be on their best behavior, I imagine.

In Casselberry, Florida, a group of women ran for office and started a "revitalization" project - by kicking out all the strippers. Girl on girl politics?

So I wasn't scrimping all those other years?

I would not want to be Manhattan's emergency manager, especially during a tornado warning.

It's one thing to poison pigeons in the park; it's another to paint them purple (note to PETA - shut up).

Friday, August 15, 2008

I was doing so well

And then today. I tagged along to my sisters' doctor appointments so I could go shopping (combining trips y'know). And they took forever. I was so hungry that other people in the waiting room were looking at me when my stomach growled. Surely the Recovering Anorexic can handle a little hunger, right? That's the thing - I couldn't. You used to be so good at this! Control yourself. I thought. Not healthy. I had a granola bar with me, but if I couldn't eat that and lunch- too many calories! The inevitable crankiness that comes from hunger didn't help my mental state, either. I think my mother wanted to swat me - I would have deserved it.

So we finally ate lunch (mall food court - thank God for Chik-fil-a) and commenced shopping. Note - Forever 21 does have great bargains, yes. But the store has no perceivable layout. It's like all the closets in OU's sorority houses threw up in a giant white room. And then there are the clothes - more notably, the sizes. Unless you actually want to look like you were Saran-wrapped into your outfit, you're going to need a large. And good luck finding those - a salesperson told me "we only get like one or two larges" with every shipment. Trying on such body-conscious clothes ... makes you body-conscious. Every bulge, every lump was screamingly obvious.

Most of the clothes are crap anyway. I don't have to try that hard to be ugly.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things that are awesome

1. After literally years of research and analysis, The Boy - henceforth known by his true name, Jim - and his co-workers at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity have had their alternative college rankings report published on Frankly, it kicks ass.

2. After my diagnosis, I saw the excellent nutritionist Jennie Wade, MEd, RD, LD. Now she and Amy Bellamah-Daniel, RD, RN, LD have started the Body Truth Center in the Cincinnati area. It's an "intensive outpatient program" designed around the idea that recovery is a process - it's going to take a while, and you need to go on living while you work on it. The ten-week program costs $600/week, but they'll work with you and/or your insurance provider. I'm really glad to see her doing this.

Article at the Cincinnati Enquirer

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sugar and spice

In a past life - okay, in high school - I worked in the deli/bakery at Kroger. I started out in the bakery, where I actually was pretty good at decorating cakes. In fact, I learned how to make frosting roses so fast I earned the title of "prodigy." We technically couldn't do anything freehand, but I fudged the rules on occasion.

It is with great excitement, then, that I share this link with you: Cake Wrecks.

Oh yes. Yes.

From the archives, part III

From a journal entry dated November 28, 2005:

I weigh 103 pounds. I know that's not enough and I know I have to gain weight. But now I have to drink these fucking Ensures that have 360 goddamn fucking calories - one every day in addition to what I've already eaten. Mom wants to lock me up. I can't exercise. I'm not "allowed" to have a salad. I'm going to get so fucking fat, oh my god ... And now, Mom's going to make tacos - I usually put beans and salsa on lettuce, but we conveniently don't have any salad greens even though I've been telling her to let me know when she wants to make tacos, so I'll be able to get a bagged salad at work. Nice. She's just trying to sneak around me*. She knows I won't say no, because then she'll just say, "well, you aren't even trying, you need to be in a program." Like fuck I'm not trying. Goddamn. I swear, if she tries to make me drink an Ensure tonight, I going to flip out. I can only do so much in one day. It's so hard not to hate everyone. Happy fucking holidays. Welcome the fuck home.

*My mother is a wonderful person who was understandably terrified by her Incredible Shrinking Daughter. Our relationship survived anorexia, which I know is pretty lucky.

From the archives, part II

From a journal entry dated October 7, 2005 (I'd been in college for about a month):

I don't know what to do. I weigh 106 pounds - close to the lowest I've ever been. I'm so bony that I can't sit in an unpadded chair for more than 20 minutes. I have no energy. I feel fuzzy - I space out a lot. I feel like I can't hold a conversation. Things don't seem as funny as they used to. I'm worrying Mom and I'm starting to scare myself. Every time I think about it, I just feel like it's too much trouble; I don't want to deal with it. I don't know what to do.

Note to self - your mind and body work better when you feed them.

From the archives

The following is from a journal entry dated June 19, 2005:

... the thought of gaining weight scares me. Food scares me - french fries, pastries, cakes, cookies. Sometimes I know this is irrational, but other times I can't even consider any other way - I can't eat that cookie; I can't have that slice of pizza, because it'll be the beginning. That one little donut hole will be the first thing, then something else, then something else, and all my good habits will go out the window and I'll be back at 145, flabby and unhappy.

I was trying to figure out where it started ... I guess a few things happened at once. I started feeling flabby, and then people started talking seriously about going to college - and how the "freshman 15" was a real possibility, how you'd gain more like 20 pounds. If I looked and felt that bad at 145, how would I feel at 160? 165? How would I look? How would I be able to afford new clothes? After that, I started looking around at other people, especially at work (note - I was working in a deli/bakery at the time). If I didn't change something, it was only a matter of time before I was one of the people in the scooters, so obese that I can't shower or wash my hair. It scared me shitless (note - I can't believe I once wrote that. I'm actually ashamed).

I weigh 110, 112 pounds. My shoulders are bony. My hips jut out. You can see my vertebrae and some of my ribs. I have cheekbones for the first time in my life, and my double chin is mostly gone. So are my tits and ass, incidentally. And I'm terrified, absolutely terrified, of gaining weight.

The irrational part of me thinks this is fantastic. I looked so good at prom, so good and graduation. It's good that I can cope with the hunger ... I'm sabotaging myself. When Mom was making me eat a serving of almonds a day, I'd figure out a place to throw them away. At work, I chew gum to keep from eating the stuff we have lying around. I eat fruit, veggies, low-c al breads, salads, oatmeal, grilled chicken, tuna. No rice, no potatoes, no pasta. No tacos, no chili, no pizza. No cakes, no cookies. No more cappucinos or frappucinos.

This is exhausting. I can't say I have an eating disorder - then we get into Lifetime-movie territory. There's something wrong, but I'm not certain that I want to fix it, because that would entail gaining weight -something I am too scared to do. And part of me keeps saying, you're fine. I look at TV, or at a magazine - how did I not notice how thin all these women are? Whenever Mom says my bony shoulders and collarbone are gross, I just look at the screen - collarbone, hipbones, knees. These women are thin - why can't I be? Why can't I just be left alone to do what I want?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I saw this ad on a bus stop shelter yesterday. It upset me - another caricature of a fat kid chowing down. The sponsoring organization, the Center for Closing the Health Gap, has been taken to task by the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance.

I'm siding with the NAAFA about the ad, but it's not a condemnation of the CCHG, either. Their mission:
To lead the efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in Greater Cincinnati through advocacy, education, and community outreach.
Nothing wrong with that. The Center is doing good, needed work in the face of plenty of challenges. The ad was part of their "Do Right" campaign, which includes fitness demonstrations, nutrition workshops, and a community garden. The ad appears to be a misstep. I hope they come up with a better one soon - they need good press, not negative.

Article in today's Cincinnati Enquirer. Don't read the comments.

In the closet

I cleaned out my closet today. By that I mean I arched awkwardly over my sister's overflowing laundry hamper and sorted through storage containers. I was pretty ruthless - stuff that I've hung onto for years for "sentimental value" is currently sitting in the trash.

Then I found my old journals. My first day of high school, my first boyfriend, my first kiss. My first breakup, the SAT, college mail, my second boyfriend. Homecomings, prom. I thought about myself a lot. I'm also surprised by how virulently I hated myself sometimes. I really wasn't that bad.

I kept reading. There was the first time I listed what I'd eaten that day. When I first admitted to myself that I didn't know when or how to stop dieting. I wrote about fighting with my mother, throwing away the almonds she tried to make me eat. It was so weird to be diagnosed! How could I, as smart as I was, possibly have anorexia?

The entries go downhill from there. Those first weeks of treatment were brutal - and this wasn't a residential program; I was seeing three doctors a week. Things that should have been exciting were shadowed by how sick I was - going on vacation, starting college, meeting friends. And I said the ugliest things - about my mother, my doctors, myself.

The entries are saddening - but they're a reminder of how far I've come. I still struggle - and I will for a long time - but I've made this much progress.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Politic Olympic

I was pessimistic about the Olympics. It's not about politics? Please. When you have that many countries in one place, in competition with each other, of course it's going to get political. And then there's the human rights issues swirling in China - Tibet, religion, etc. I didn't think I was going to watch.

And then ... I did. And damned if I wasn't hooked. Maybe it was latent national pride; maybe it was the sheer physical and mental prowess; maybe it was that damn Coke ad with the Special Olympics kids. But just for a second, I thought maybe the Olympics were somehow special, above the backstabbing and hubris of global politics. Call it suspension of cynicism, if you will.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday reads

My mind can't grasp this yet: Bernie Mac passed away.

Wait - now we have "swing counties"?

Thanks, but I already knew I was going to be poor.

Gift cards to talk about safe sex? Hey, whatever works.

Dear UK Department of Health: BMI measurements are crap.

Fair trade coffee: yer doin it rong.

Friday, August 8, 2008



The bitch is back in Bethel.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I can't believe I'm heading home tomorrow - has it really been nine weeks?

I've met some amazing people. Remember how worried I was about the other interns? Completely unfounded fears. The group was funny, energetic, intelligent. Before I came here, I didn't have a clue about the "disaster field," and now I'm thinking of maybe emphasizing my that when I go for my MPH or even getting a degree in disaster or emergency management. My mentors have been helpful, and I've been extremely fortunate to have been able to travel so extensively.

But now ... I had wanted to use my summer work in the thesis I have to do next year. However, I can't take the data back to OU with me, and without it, I don't think I'll be able to expand my work into a real anthropological thesis. In fact, one of my mentors told me I was "pretty much done" and I'd done a great job. I feel like what I accomplished here only scratched the surface. Had I known that I wouldn't be able to do my thesis out of this, would I have chosen to do something else with my summer? Honestly, I don't know. I think I'll be able to use some of my research to do a disaster-related thesis, so it hasn't been a total wash. Far from it, given everyone I've met (and the nice stipend).

I've still got almost a month before classes start. I'll see what I can put together before then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

News roundup

Two disasters: Tropical Storm Edouard and a nasty (6.0) quake in Sichuan, China.

And the ultimate emergency management challenge: clear a baseball stadium.

Disaster of a different sort: primates are in trouble.

Or not: 125,000 lowland gorillas live in the Congo region. What we have here is a failure to communicate ...

Monday, August 4, 2008


In the third picture, from left to right: my aunt, my mother, my sister, moi.

A note on triggers

I want to clarify a bit on my last post. Anthony Bourdain has every right to say what he wants about obesity. Free speech is a freedom I'm very glad to have. So I don't want anyone to think that he "shouldn't be allowed" to say those things, because of course he should.

That said, I was definitely affected by that rant: I've been disgusted by my (fat, "depraved") body for most of the day. It's happened before - I'll see something, hear something, and it creeps under my skin and into my head. Sometimes it happens because I am stupid. For example, when my Women and Health Communications class covered pro-ana websites, I thought I'd check them out - I was so much better, they wouldn't get to me. Cue two weeks of hating food and myself.

Just because I vehemently disagree with what Mr. Bourdain and Mr. Nugent said doesn't mean their comments don't have an impact. For me, being thin was a way to be "good," to be a better person when I lost control of other ways to measure my self-worth. Eating too much or gaining weight was a sign of personal failure, a sign that I wasn't good enough. Hearing those two demonize obese people echoed the very darkest thoughts I used to have.

I can't ask those two to please shut up - even if I could, someone/something else would crop up with the same message. Much of American society is fat-phobic, and that's something I have to deal with. Thankfully I have other voices to counteract those messages - my family, the boy, my friends, and some really amazing bloggers and writers. I'm hoping soon I'll be able to flip past the celebrity weight-loss tips without issue.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Et tu, Anthony?

Note to the Travel Channel: this exchange between Ted Nugent and Anthony Bourdain is not a "discussion" about obesity. It is a hateful, cruel diatribe.

I'm so angry. I liked you, Anthony Bourdain. Your acerbic, sarcastic wit and bellyaching got me through a raging UTI this past New Year's Eve. My father even thought you were funny.

But you're not being funny here. You're being cruel, stereotypical, and hateful. You don't seem to realize that "curing" obesity isn't simply a matter of eating your fruits and veggies. How often do you, flying in first class, have to deal with someone "spilling" into your seat? I'd wager not very often. And yet you don't seem to grasp the relationship between poverty and obesity. Come ride a Greyhound bus with me, bitch.

And Ted, your statement about "mentally deranged" people is downright offensive. My eating habits are pretty fucked up, but I'd prefer not to be called "deranged."

I'm really upset about this. I enjoyed Mr. Bourdain's show quite a bit - now I don't think I can stomach (haha) watching it again.

Thanks to Womanist Musings for the link.

Biological Determinism

Meredith Small, the author of "How Birth Control Brings us Down," is an anthropologist. I am vaguely ashamed of my chosen path.

Dr. Small used a study out of the Brain & Mind Research Institute in Sydney, Australia. The authors injected 69 male participants with either oxytocin or a placebo. Subjects were then shown faces with "happy, angry, or neutral" expressions. When the subjects returned the next day to review the faces, the ones that had received the oxytocin shot were more likely to remember the "happy" faces then the angry ones. From this - just this - the authors extrapolated to say:

"the administration of oxytocin to male humans enhances the encoding of positive social information to make it more memorable. Results suggest that oxytocin could enhance social approach, intimacy, and bonding in male humans by strengthening encoding to make the recall of positive social information more likely."

I think the authors are pushing it. However, they don't go as far as Dr. Small. She says that since oxytocin is heavily involved with childbirth and lactation, women in cultures with "no birth control" are usually "awash" with it. This, she claims, is the reason that women have "traditionally" been "the keepers of positive social interactions." Because women in Western societies use birth control and thus aren't "under the influence" of as much oxytocin, they're more likely to "never forget an angry face" or "hold a grudge." For Dr. Small, these are synonymous with "manly."

So there are some problems with this. First, cultures with no chemical birth control usually practice other methods of reducing births. Granted, one of these is prolonged nursing, but others include taboos on sex and (this is controversial) polygyny. Second, I agree that hormones and brain chemistry are physical processes mostly beyond our control. However, the way one expresses the effects of these chemical surges are culturally and socially shaped. When your brain starts sending you "hungry" signals, you're either going to go to the fridge or grab your bow and arrow - depending on your enculturation into a given system. Third, Dr. Small's claims are completely anecdotal. Does she have evidence that women on chemical birth control are generally angrier, less emotional, more "manly?"

My hormones are part of my behavior, yes. But they don't define it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I will be twenty-two in September.

I have no shame in asking for Under the Umbrella Tree on DVD.

Friday, August 1, 2008


In the past couple of days I've stumbled upon two accounts of eating-disorder recovery. In one, the writer was a young adult who had entered a treatment facility; in the other, a 14-year-old girl and her family wrestled with anorexia. Both described the "refeeding" process, the part of treatment where food literally becomes medicine.

And there was so much. Food. We're talking up to 4,000 calories a day. At the treatment center, any food left on a plate at the end of a meal or snack period was replaced by an equivalent amount of Boost. In the other account, a mother describes making meal after calorie-dense meal - and her daughter still didn't gain. As it turns out, prolonged restriction changes your metabolism to make weight gain even more difficult to accomplish and maintain.

I was stunned . When I was in my own "refeeding" - from November 2005 to spring 2006 - I never consumed that much. I didn't think it was physically possible (and it barely is, given the tales of painful bloating and cramping). After I was almost pulled out of school, I drank three Boost Plus a day at 300 calories each. I don't know what my friends thought - after one random Tuesday, I went from picking at a bunless veggie patty to grimly eating every single bite of whatever dining-hall entree seemed to have the least visible grease (they were still pretty gross). And I thought I was eating more than any person could consume without becoming Mr. Stay-Puft. Sometimes I still think I'm eating far, far more than my body needs.

Getting those boobs is going to be harder than I thought.