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Morgan rocks M & J Show on binge eating disorder

5th February 2008

Morgan rocks M & J Show on binge eating disorder

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.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Arts and Music, Eating Disorders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 26 responses to “Morgan rocks M & J Show on binge eating disorder”

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  1. 1 On February 5th, 2008, mo pie said:

    I can’t wait to see (and post) the clip. Excellent analysis, Rachel.

  2. 2 On February 5th, 2008, Fillyjonk said:

    There’s some kind of malfunction at the site right now so I can’t see the clip and comment on how great Morgan looked (though I have no doubt). Will have to wait for the YouTube.

    The thing I was concerned about was that they would ask Morgan how much weight she lost during treatment (sort of the reverse of the “Rachel’s results were incredible” line). Did that happen?

  3. 3 On February 5th, 2008, Elizabeth said:

    “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.”

    When I first read this line, I thought “Is she crazy, no one thinks that.” But when given some thought I think that it is completly true. I do envy the control of an anerexic, they have learned to have power over food. While their power over food has gone to far. I feel that food controls me, it has power over me. I do envy that they have that STOP in them. I don’t and I wish I did.

    I am not saying that one is better then the other, or one is worse then the other. I just wish that I had a little of that control.

  4. 4 On February 5th, 2008, Rachel said:

    FJ: Nope, they didn’t ask, surprisingly. Although had the show been longer, I bet that might have come up.

  5. 5 On February 5th, 2008, Ellie said:

    Morgan’s segment was really cut down due to how long they spent on the first segment. Morgan had hoped to elaborate with details of her treatment, which I think would have been really helpful, but alas.

    I’m going to try to get the clip up soon!

  6. 6 On February 5th, 2008, Faith said:

    I have been in recovery for about 3 1/2 years and I will say, from this bulimics point of view that this:

    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.”

    comes up in every support group I’ve ever attended. It’s not control though. That is a complete fallacy. An anorexic doesn’t have control over her eating, she’s out of control too.

  7. 7 On February 5th, 2008, pennylane said:

    Faith–I agree with you 100%. I never thought about food more than when I was bulimic or fasting. I’m fairly impressed by Juliet’s insight.

  8. 8 On February 5th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Ha, I have to wonder if it was Juliet’s or the producer’s insight there. I think the show hosts only serve as pretty parrots.

    As for control, eating disorders are about a lack of control, which is why I put “perceived” in parenthesis. But to the average layperson, the willpower of an anorectic is often astounding.

    I’ve also read some accounts recently of mixed-ED group therapy sessions. I don’t have the link handy, but basically the doctor cited said that the bulimics all envied and admired the anorectics and that the anorectics looked down on the bulimics as failed anorectics. Makes you wonder if any progress was made in these sessions.

  9. 9 On February 5th, 2008, Faith said:

    Rachel – I read those studies too. They were really interesting and gave me a little insight into some of my behaviors associated with the dynamics of the group and my interactions with anorectics. As for the actual group sessions, I don’t know how those went in the study but in my own experience, usually this envy by bulimics and condescension by anorectics was dealt with by the facilitators. They actually addressed it and we discussed it openly as a group. I think that’s the only way to have a mixed group – including a group that includes BED although I’ve only been in one of those and it wasn’t successful – not because there were people with BED but rather because the facilitator was…um…not that successful in facilitating.

    As for the “perceived” part, I also completely agree. But it really is interesting to see how many people envy the “control” of the anorexic.

  10. 10 On February 5th, 2008, Devi said:

    Bulimia and binge eating disorder eclipse anorexia nervosa, but anorexia is often glamorized because it carries what I call the “maiden in distress” element.

    A while back Entertainment Tonight was going through their eating disorder phase. As well as profiling an annorexic, they also had segments on Darlene Cates (of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”).

    I’ve never seen the segments so I have no idea if Cates suffers from BED, but I’ve always wondered what the ratios of support mail were between the two women.

  11. 11 On February 5th, 2008, Rachel said:

    I never did see Gilbert Grape so I didn’t even know a Darlene Cates existed. I just read through her personal biography and it was very touching. She doesn’t mention having BED, though. Did she have it? Or was it assumed she must have an ED because she got so large?

  12. 12 On February 5th, 2008, Devi said:

    I just tried to do a quick search and didn’t come up with anything on that score (other than a report of a heartfelt video message sent to ET by Johnny Depp.

    In my search, though, I found a really interesting interview with her here: here:http://www.maadwomen.com/lynnemurray/essays/darlenecates.html

  13. 13 On February 5th, 2008, red_delicious said:

    Wow that is a really touching story about these two women. And doesn’t Morgan look superb, I’m so happy she was willing to share so much. I, too, think of my animals before myself (mine being a cat) and I also had a hard time last year. I hope she’s doing well!

  14. 14 On February 5th, 2008, Morgan said:

    Thanks to everyone for your supportive comments. The discussion here has been really constructive…obviously there were a lot of problematic pieces with that segment, but I’m still glad I had the opportunity to bring national attention to an eating disorder that so many are struggling with.

    But speaking of people struggling….I was MORTIFIED by the set-up piece they did for Marie. I hadn’t see it ahead of time, but I sat there on the couch next to her on the stage and as soon as the piece started, I could tell we were in for it. The GLOOM! The DOOM! The catastrophe of stuffing her face non-stop. It was insensitive and offensive in the extreme. Barely into it, Marie was reaching for kleenex and I had my arm around her. Hell, it was triggering for me to watch that; I can’t imagine what she was going through.

    You raise an excellent point, Rachel. They would not have expected a bulimic to re-enact a purging episode. Would we ask an alcoholic to down a fifth of vodka, or a heroin addict to shoot up? NO. It could have been handled much, much better than it was.

    Red_Delicious: I hope this year brings you many surprises. My Kiba is so important to me, and I’m glad you’ve got a furry child to snuggle with as well.

  15. 15 On February 5th, 2008, Fat Girl said:

    Great post!

  16. 16 On February 5th, 2008, Sarahbear said:

    Kind of off topic, but when Devi mentioned Darlene Cates, I was going to suggest Lynn Murray’s interview with her. Lynn Murray is a published author and essayist who writes largely (haa) about fat acceptance and similar issues. Her wesite is: http://www.maadwomen.com/lynnemurray/new.html

    Now, to the M&J Show, Morgan and Marie were both wonderful. Very genuine and personable. Mike and Juliet certainly acted a little less… incredulous this show than they were when Rachel and Mo were on. I wonder if ED’s and fat issue are going to be a running theme with them for a while. Maybe we could get some credible doctors on there. Ones who aren’t OB-GYNs and who haven’t written weight loss books.

  17. 17 On February 6th, 2008, Jackie said:

    It might be just me. It seemed to be less about it being an eating disorder. More about, “Teh fattiez can’t control what they eetz, look they need help, all teh fattiez overeetz and that’s why tehy is fatz”

    I mean, they had a weight-loss book advertised right during the show segment. Do you really think Mike & Juliet are ever going to take HAES seriously? It looks more like to me, they’re just exploiting plus-size women to get some more freakshow ratings.

  18. 18 On February 6th, 2008, Devi said:

    I didn’t like the fact that the book was highlighted but the author herself has some good points and I was really happy to hear her correct one of the hosts that while some people who have been abused will develop and ED, not everyone who has an ED has been abused.

    Would it have been nice if they had also had a smaller woman who suffered from BED? Sure. But I didn’t take from it that all the fatties overeat. Of course, as a fatty who does overeat, my perception might be a bit slanted.

    Myself, I almost cried while watching the segment. To see someone else talking about it made me feel less cut off and less crazed.

  19. 19 On February 6th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Oh, I think its also important to point out something I didn’t mention in my post. Marie said she even had weight loss surgery. How again does weight loss surgery solve what is clearly a psychological problem? Post-surgery you still have the same addictive behaviors as you did before, only now you run the risk of irreparable physical harm if you binge again.

  20. 20 On February 6th, 2008, BigLiberty said:

    I think these two women did a great job, and I’m very pleased that M & J behaved themselves by focusing on the disorder and not the weight. Morgan and Marie are brave; especially Marie for that pre-recorded segment that was filmed, though I don’t think it was quite right to film a person with an eating disorder in the midst of disordered eating.

    I hope that, slowly, the realities behind disordered eating and weight will garner media attention, rather than every nut ‘obesity expert’ who claims there’s no such thing as naturally high setpoint or disordered eating amongst fat people, and we just have to “eat less and move more” and, hallelujah, all our problems are magically solved.

  21. 21 On February 6th, 2008, withoutscene said:

    Great post. Morgan was fabulous and brave! I agree the reenactment segment was insensitive and probably triggering for many people.

    What really got me was that last part about “We’re watching you, sister.” Um, okay, thanks! I read too much into things sometimes, but that statement didn’t feel supportive..it felt what you’re mother tells you after she scolds you and you promise to be good. People hide when they binge because they DON’T want the shameful looks from others. The “shame” of eating, in fact, is why MANY people don’t like to eat in public or in front of other people. I duno, it just rubbed me the wrong way.

  22. 22 On February 10th, 2008, Ashley Best said:

    OK, first off.. it’s Fox News!!! The lowest of the low in “reporting” ( and I say reporting as I laugh my ass off). Fox News is known for being the most insensitive network, let alone the most self indulged network.

    When the male host, I don’t care what his name is because the show disgusts me to no end, said to Rachel “and I bet a lot of people say, look at that woman she looks unhealthy,” I almost punch my screen!
    The look Rachel gave him said it all.
    I’m sorry but Rachel looks great, she doesn’t look fat to me. As my mother says when we watch a show together about a fat person is weighs much less then us, “Well I wish I looked that fat!”

  23. 23 On March 2nd, 2008, Lillian said:

    I felt like crying when Morgan talked about staying around for her greyhound. I have pets and I adore them, but I don’t live for them.

  24. 24 On May 1st, 2008, On binge eating disorder « Queendom said:

    [...] blog fatgrrl). There has been quite a big of coverage of this in the fatosphere – among others at The F-Word and of course on Morgan’s own blog. After I finally had gotten myself to watch the respective [...]

  25. 25 On May 6th, 2008, The Mike & Juliet Show: Morgan’s Thoughts at FatGrrl said:

    [...] would raise Binge Eating Disorder awareness to a national platform. I agree whole heartedly with Rachel’s observations about the perceived differences between BED and its better known counterparts, bulimia and [...]

  26. 26 On August 31st, 2009, MARIE ZMICH said:

    HELLO,

    THIS IS MARIE ZMICH. I WAS ON THE MIKE AND JULIET SHOW ! I HAVE HAD COUNSELING AND AM DOING BETTER.
    I WENT ON THE SHOW TO HELP OTHERS AND MYSELF, I SPOKE FROM THE HEART AND AS YOU CAN SEE I HAD SUPPORT FROM OTHERS WHEN I DID ! AS I STATED BARIATRIC SURGERY ALONE WAS NOT A GOOD OPTION WITHOUT COUNSELING. MIKE AND JULIET SHOW DID PROVIDE ME WITH COUNSELING WITH WONDERFUL RESULTS. I WAS ASKED BY THE SHOW TO HAVE THIS ALL VIDEO TAPED, TO KEEP A DAILY VIDEO DIARY, I DECLINED. THAT IS WHY JULIET AT THE END OF THE SEGMENT STATED “I`M KEEPING MY EYE ON YOU SISTER” THE FOOD THAT I ORDERED AT THE DRIVE THROUGH, WAS FOR TWO FRIENDS AND A HUSBAND THAT WERE WAITING FOR ME AT HOME.

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