Fatosphere blogger Morgan Wiley of the blog www.fatgrrl.com absolutely rocked The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet this morning.
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Morgan appeared with fellow guest Marie to discuss binge eating disorder (BED), a disorder that has been estimated to be more common than both anorexia and bulimia combined. Also appearing were Dr. Susan Bartell and in the audience, Lynn Grefe, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association.
Eating disorders, especially those of the binging kind, are usually shrouded in shame and secrecy, so the fact that these two women would go on national television and share their very personal experiences is something to be applauded. Morgan appeared very articulate, poised and looked absolutely radiant. And it must be a trend that fat acceptance bloggers sport awesome-looking glasses.
I think Morgan’s co-blogger Ellie plans to put the segment up on YouTube soon, but I jotted down some of the show’s highlights. The show also features clips on its website.
The show starts with a pre-recorded segment on Marie, who says she’s been struggling with BED since the age of 9. And here lies the only problem I have with the way the show presented the issue, apart from the too-short time segment allotted. When the camera crew came out to my home, the crew suggested all kinds of different and odd scenes to film. In Marie’s case, they actually had her recreate a binge. Yes, really. They asked a woman who admittedly has yet to enter into treatment for BED to recreate a binge episode, and to drive the point home, they even showed her wolfing down a fast food burger.
Some may say this kind of clip is necessary to reveal the full nature of BED, but I thought it was in poor taste, exploitive and irresponsible. If the guest had bulimia, I highly doubt the show would ask her to recreate a purging episode.
My other complaint is that Dr. Susan Bartell is also the author of the book, Dr. Susan’s Girls-Only Weight Loss Guide: The easy, fun way to look and feel good!. Reviews of the book extol the book’s emphasis on the dangers of yo-yo dieting and eating disorders, genetic reasons for weight gain and emotional eating and lauds its focus on adopting healthier lifestyles.
But the very title of book still emphasizes weight-loss and suggests that only through weight-loss can girls “look and feel good.” There will be girls who read this book, follow it cover-to-cover, who still won’t lose weight. We need to stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle to girls, yes, but we also need to teach them to recognize and celebrate body size diversity and work to promote healthy self-image in all girls, regardless of weight.
Ironically, Morgan herself wrote a scathing review of Bartell’s book here.
All quibbling aside, I think the the characteristic cluelessness of the M & J Show hosts actually played into the show’s favor as they represented the attitudes of many people who are unaware of BED or think BED isn’t an eating disorder on par with anorexia and bulimia assume.
Juliet: “Can you explain to people who say, ‘Just stop eating?’”
Marie: “It’s not about feeling good, it’s about doing something to self-medicate yourself. It’s about a loss of self control. It’s like I’m an addict. Its just packaged a lot nicer.”
The hosts then turned to Morgan – have I mentioned how confident and glowing she appeared? – who then briefly recounted her 15-year struggle with BED. For Morgan, the disorder started in college as a coping mechanism. After her roommate walked in on a binge, Morgan even arranged for a private room. She even shared with viewers how the disorder made her suicidal last year. “It sounds a little sappy,” said Morgan, but concern for her greyhound kept her from following through. Not so sappy, Morgan. During my disorder, my cats were the one thing that kept me going sometimes.
Much work has been done in the past few decades on highlighting the biological and psychological nature of anorexia and bulimia, but BED remains a conundrum both in the general public and amongst the medical community. It’s not about pigging out on junk food; it’s about a true loss of control as food begins to subsume your life. As Morgan explains, she was spending $600 a month on food.
“It’s not preventable,” said Morgan. “It’s something that is very complicated and develops over time. Someone once told me, ‘I don’t have a problem with food, I have a living problem I try to solve with food.’”
The show then turned to Dr. Bartell, who gave a brief rundown of BED symptoms. I don’t mean to judge, but after watching past clips of the M & J Show, as well as reading Juliet’s blog, she doesn’t strike me as, shall we say, the cerebral type. But Juliet surprised me by pointing out a brilliant observation:
Juliet: “When you’re anorexic you get attention and sympathy because you look sick, but with BED…”
Dr. Bartell: “Binge eaters get criticized and ridiculed. But it really is a disorder. We need to think of it like that.”
Bulimia and binge eating disorder eclipse anorexia nervosa, but anorexia is often glamorized because it carries what I call the “maiden in distress” element. When most people think of an anorectic, they often think frail, weak, and emaciated, compounded by the fact that anorexia most often develops in adolescence and predominantly among girls. There’s also another component: envy. I think many people also secretly admire the anorectic’s (perceived) sense of control and abstinence from food, as well as the fact that by DSM-IV definitions, anorectics are extremely thin. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard women say, “I wish I could catch a little anorexia.” More on this here.
The show then turned briefly to Grefe, seated in the audience, who reminds viewers: “Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s treatable and that’s the good news.”
Mike and Juliet then surprised Marie by arranging for three months of free treatment at an eating disorders facility. Readers of Morgan’s blog are aware that she is making fabulous strides in her recovery from BED. I hope Marie equally responds to and continues with treatment for her disorder.
All in all, a fabulous segment, though I wish it could have been longer. BED is a serious and growing problem and we need to encourage more discussion and research into the disorder. Kudos again to Morgan for having the courage to share her experiences, while putting a very human face to a disorder that often escapes our collective notice.