Saturday, May 22, 2010

finally, productive media coverage of bulimia

This piece came out in the NY Times in late April, but I've been too consumed with law school to give it proper blog coverage.

Although the article is powerful, I'm not very crazy about the organization, so I have included parts below that I find particularly strong. I highlight these segments to draw attention to eating disorders as psychiatric illness, not extreme diets of "superficial" or "stupid" [white] girls.

Some background: Melissa, age 19, died of a heart attack after 5 years battling bulimia. Her mother is now making a documentary about eating disorders.
It wasn’t until Melissa’s third round of in-patient treatment...that her father began to fully understand. “I really said, ‘Wow this is almost like heroin addiction,’ ” he says in his film interview. “They need to purge because it makes them feel high and it’s something they need to do. I never appreciated that.”

Once, [her brother] explains, in the middle of a bitterly cold night, he looked out the window and saw Melissa on the curb, going through the garbage. “I went outside and I yelled her name,” he recounts in the interview, his voice breaking. “Just the way she looked back at me — it was so empty, vacant. It was a deer in the headlights, but that doesn’t even explain it.

[Her mother] took her to a pediatric gastroenterologist who said Melissa probably had an eating disorder. “I reacted the way most parents do: ‘That’s not possible,’ ” Ms. Avrin said. “We didn’t go back to him.”

In the early stages, the Avrins did not really see what was going on, in part because Melissa wasn’t visibly underweight, in part because they didn’t want to.

Ms. Avrin wrapped the fridge in locks and chains, hid her purse and made sure never to leave money lying around. “It didn’t have to be good junk food — if she wanted to go on a binge, it could be a dozen eggs,” Ms. Avrin said of Melissa. “Anything that wasn’t nailed down, she would eat.” full article.
In the sneak peak of the documentary (visit the article and press play), Melissa's father says "Even when it was diagnosed as bulimia, I still--I didn't even understand. I didn't accept that it was really anything."

While eating disorders are truly twisted and frightening diseases, I can understand what is going on. I can see the addiction; I can see the cognitive distortions; I can see the self-destructive underpinnings; I can see the need for escapism; I can see the need to drug one self. What I will never be able to wrap my head around is the denial of many parents--or when a parent learns of the eating disorder but doesn't understand, and that parent will not take on a duty to to research and learn more.

If a child had cancer, I am sure most parents would stop at nothing to learn about cutting-edge treatment, the whys and hows, and what-to-do next. Sadly, this is largely not the case with parents of ED victims.

In truth, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. There is no shame in being a victim--and there is certainly no shame in being a survivor. I believe that recovering from an eating disorder is one of the most difficult tasks in life. While other addicts can separate themselves from the substance and substance-abusing company, you cannot separate yourself from food. I truly believe that if you can recover from an eating disorder, you can do anything.

If you have any questions about eating disorders, signs, symptoms, and/or treatment, please email me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

cancer caused by environmental exposure is "grossly underestimated"

In advocating for energy reform, it's important to recognize that climate change is ultimately immaterial in taking a stance. Global warming in only one piece of the puzzle; even without it, the overall picture is crystal clear.

Case in point: the recent 240 page report published online by Obama's cancer panel, stating
[the] proportion of cancer cases caused by environmental exposures has been “grossly underestimated.” It warns of “grievous harm” from chemicals and other hazards, and cites “a growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer.” full article
This comes as no surprise. Check out an older post on the dangers of living in proximity to a coal plant. The biggest problem is that, where people live near such facilities, making causal connections is much easier. When it comes to water, air, and food contamination for people sprawled around the country at large, it's more difficult to make correlations.

Some more on the report:

Nearly 80,000 chemicals are in use in the United States, and yet only a few hundred have been tested for safety, the report notes. It criticizes the nation’s regulatory approach, calling it reactionary rather than precautionary, which means that the government waits for proof of harm before taking action, instead of taking preventive steps when there is uncertainty about a chemical. Regulation is ineffective, the panel says, in part because of inadequate staffing and financing, overly complex rules, weak laws, uneven enforcement and undue industry influence.

The report looks at contaminants from a variety of sources: industry, agriculture, air and water, medical imaging and contaminated military sites. It also considers natural hazards, like radon gas in homes and arsenic in drinking water. The report concludes, “At this time, we do not know how much environmental exposures influence cancer risk.” more

This is not without criticism. An epidemiologist from the cancer society claims the work is

“unbalanced by its implication that pollution is the major cause of cancer,” and had presented an unproven theory — that environmentally caused cases are grossly underestimated — as if it were a fact. more

We'll see how the issue progresses. Frankly, Obama has made it clear to me where he stands. See Obama's Betrayal and Dirty Little Energy Secrets.

Friday, May 7, 2010

energy reform is a political impossibility

While my immediate reaction to the oil spill was sadness, my secondary reaction was optimistic. Now Obama would be forced to back-peddle on his proposal to expand offshore drilling.

That was an incomplete assessment.

Senator Graham, chief sponsor of a Senate energy bill, called energy politically impossible for now. The bill tempered opposition by amping up offshore drilling. With drilling off the table, say buh-bye to any compromises. Additionally, Democrats are focusing on immigration, putting energy reform back where it was during the health care debate--on the back burner (well...not that it ever left the back burner).

Obviously I say "thanks, but no thanks" to offshore drilling--but I am willing to accept a diluted energy package over nothing at all. Sadly, even a limp bill is looking unrealistic.

While there is talk about making moves ("Never let a crisis go to waste. It is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before"--Rahm Emanuel), nothing will happen unless Dems get their priorities straight.

Really, the only option at this point is consumer activism. I'm all about Thomas Friedman's re-casting of capitalism as favorable to the environment. Consumer pressure can enact change faster than government action. I'll have to dig up the Lexus and The Olive Tree and blog some examples (e.g. consumer pressure forcing large tuna companies to go "dolphin free" when net restrictions were lifted).