The Control Myth

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I just watched yet another documentary on anorexia where they posited that a main motivator for girls and young women becoming anorexic is seeking control. Under this theory, which I literally have been reading and hearing for decades, these women are seeking to control something, something, in their lives. So they control their food. They control their diets. they control their calories, they control their exercise. They control their food habits, and their food quirks, and their food rituals, and often through those food idiosyncracies they control everyone around them. In some cases they binge and they feel out of control so they purge to get back into control.

But what if that paradigm is completely wrong?

And what if that’s why anorexics so seldom get better and stay better?

Sure, lots of girls (and women) who go into treatment (end even those who don’t, but have eating disorders nonetheless) have type-A personalities. They like control. They like to excel and they want to succeed. Maybe they are perfectionists.

But I have never- and I mean never- I mean bar none, no exceptions, not a one, not a single bingle itty bitty one- met/known/or heard of any girl or woman who began an eating disorder because her life needed more control.

Every one- with no exception- started because of a weight issue. Whether real or perceived, whether objectively true or medically completely unnecessary, each and every one felt she needed to do something about the size or shape of her body. And at some point that became (through whatever process was unique to that individual) an eating disorder.

If we could rewind that life back to age 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, and wave the magic wand that would make her feel okay enough, good enough, acceptable enough, beautiful enough, curvy enough (but heaven forbid, not too much), there would never be an eating disorder. If we could create perfect bodies (hear me carefully- I’m not saying “If we could create a society that accepted all body types as equally lovely and wonderful…” That isn’t this post, although there is certainly a place for that, okay?)- but if we could creat perfect bodies, and in each school and each city and each clique that definition would be slightly different- eating disorders would vanish.

Certainly at some point a control aspect does come into play with eating disorders. But to focus on control as the vortex of the storm is like saying control is the central issue in alcoholism because an alcoholic controls what they drink, when they drink, how much they drink, how much they put away for later, who they prefer to drink with, how much ice they prefer, what cup they prefer to drink out of, if they prefer to smoke afer or with a drink, what brand(s) they like, if they have rules about drinking and driving, if they have a favorite bar, etc etc etc.

A thing I have always found ironic about eating disorder treatment is how- especially given the idea that the disease is supposedly about control- that the treatment is about wresting every drop of control away from the patient. From therapists who believe that these women are sick because they need a sense of control, in-patient treatment(granted, lives can be at stake…) on every level every minute of the day seems designed to reinforce the idea that the woman no longer is capable of controlling any aspect of her life at all. She must eat what they say, under a time limit they impose, on a schedule they set, according to a daily routine they decide on, etc etc etc. And gain the amount of weight they determine to be healthy.

Sometimes you can see at the end of a documentary, a “success” story. A woman who is clearly medicated, who seems super blissed out, who is past a normal weight and is now pleasantly plump. You know that she is in heavy therapy, probably working hard to be okay with that, but if her therapist wasn’t on speed dial or she wasn’t heavily medicated it’s likely she is or would be suicidal. Because a woman doesn’t go from so anxious about her body that she gets an eating disorder to overweight without some serious angst. Then there are the woman who appear to be a healthy weight (the majority) but who are interviewed and you hear over and over are still fighting their ED. And always one or two die.

I wonder why it is so hard for the therapeutic community to let go of the idea that eating disorders are about control. What would it mean for them to admit that what they have been doing for so many years just isn’t working (the statistics are there already, so it’s not like it’s a secret), and try something new? I can’t think of any other illness where the medical community takes one glaring symptom and makes that the central focus. Can you imagine a cancer patient only being treated for pain? Or a heart patient only being treated for fluid retention? Or a gambling addict having the main focus of his therapy being getting counseled on how not to overdraft his checking account?

It hasn’t bothered me in the past, but for some reason tonight it just sent me into overload. Maybe it’s because I have yet another child in this age group, or maybe it’s because I am just bothered by continued misunderstanding. Maybe I have just seen one too many girls falling into the abyss, and I truly hope that finally someone will wake up and get this all correct.

The Alt What?

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In the comments section of the last post thetinfoilhatsociety pointed out that calling someone a white supremacist instead of a white nationalist is a defamatory thing. So first off, apologies if I unintentionally offended anyone.

That was a really interesting distinction to me, and the more I thought about it the more it snowballed into a larger issue I realized I wanted to discuss. A while back I was researching some things so I was reading a lot of white supremacist/ neo-Nazi websites. I listened to a ton of speeches from well-known leaders in the movement and I was very surprised at many of their positions. And the truth is, although we lay-people will tend to think of them and say “supremacist” it would often (although certainly not always) be more correct to say nationalist. As with any ideological movement, there will be a spectrum of beliefs, from those that are almost indistinguishable from mainstream views to ideas that are so extreme as to sound deliberately exaggerated to provoke horror and outrage.

Some of what I am going to say may sound like I am being an apologist for these groups, but believe me their positions are all out there and public. They make no secrets of their positions, and you may be as surprised as I was to discover how wrong I was about many things. Or, it will confirm what you already knew. Either way, what I am saying is that I am not trying to advocate for any position, only to clarify and educate. If you want to check for yourself anything I say, feel free… I have no dog in this fight.

I guess the biggest thing to do is define terms. A supremacist is someone who believes he/she is better than someone else because of the color of their skin. (For the record, you can have a white supremacist, black supremacist, and I assume any other type of supremacist as well. I’m quite certain that most groups have members who not only think theirs is the best, but can tell you without a doubt exactly which other group is the worst… Sometimes this is conscious and sometimes not. I grew up hearing Polish jokes, despite never having met a Polish person in my entire life. They are pretty much blond jokes, but the fall guy in the joke is always a Polish person. When I met my British husband these jokes made no sense to him, which was weird to me, because *everyone* *knew* about Polish people, right? But then at some point I began hearing Irish jokes from British people. Same jokes, but here the punchline is Irish people. And guess what? I didn’t get it, because what did I know from Irish people? But to British people these jokes were hilarious. And at that point I got it. This stuff was not objective Truth. It was mean-spirited comments passed off as humor. And If you grew up with it as a fact of life you might never question whether it was based in fact. But it’s all part of the message. My group is better than your group. So hahaha. What rubbish. Anyway…)

A nationalist is someone who has a tremendous sense of pride. Again, you can have white nationalists, black nationalists, nationalists of other races, and certainly nationalists of any country. A white nationalist is more concerned with uplifting his/her own race than putting down someone else’s. Because they often prefer to keep to members of their own race- and this is crucial, so please hear it- not out of hatred for other races but out of a desire to associate with those they see as having more in common and being more likely to have interests that will coincide with their own, they are often labeled as hate-mongers and worse. But someone who is a true white nationalist (as opposed to someone who merely hides behind that label as a cover for racist activity) will treat other races with dignity and respect, and want nothing but the best for them- just as they want for their own race. Wanting to be separate doesn’t imply dislike. I have a lot of friends I really like a lot, but I would never ever want them to live in my house with me. And there are plenty of people I don’t mind being around, but I respect them zero. So the two things don’t always go hand in hand. It is not hypocritical for a white nationalist to say here are the values and ideals I want for my family and my community; I don’t expect you to uphold those same standards if you don’t choose to, but please make your choices for your own community. For the record, white nationalists can be found in lots of places helping on the front lines any times they are needed (sometimes openly as white nationalists and sometimes as private citizens) during times of unrest, catastrophes, weather events, etc. Just food for thought.

With all the recent discussion about whose lives matter, it is interesting to note that the only people who are accused of being outright racists are the white lives matter folks. I have heard the argument that only white people can be racist, since only they have the power to truly commit acts of racism, and that isn’t an argument I intend to regurgitate here. I will, however, say for the record that I find it both hypocritical and disingenuous to allow certain groups preferential treatment when it comes to their rights to protest and their coverage in the media. All human life matters. End of statement. Full stop. To shade the point with pithy semantics, in the end actually DEVALUES lives instead of elevating them. Nobody should abuse another human being, nor condone the abuse of another human being, nor advocate the mistreatment of another human being.

What I was quite surprised to find out was just how many supposed “hate mongers” (i.e. white nationalists, white separatists, and so on) actually call for no such things. Yes, there are people who use the “N” word and say hateful disgusting things, no doubt. The internet is rife with speeches filled with the most vile rhetoric you can imagine (by people of all stripes and agendas, to be fair). But if you are willing to open your mind you may find there is more you don’t know than you thought. I certainly realized that was the case.

Then again, the older I get, the more I realize that is the case with most things in life.

And that’s my deep thought for the day 😉

Freedom To and Freedom From

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I was all set to very belatedly address the Michigan Right to Farm Act. Months and months ago someone rather gleefully forwarded me an article about the Right to Farm Act being repealed. A few other people forwarded me similar articles with horror or trepidation. Basically Michigan has a law on the books that protects people who want to raise small amounts of food and such as long as they follow generally accepted safe agricultural practices. So people have been able to grow things (although heaven forbid, not in their front yards! hahahahahaha) as long as they do things like not fly crop duster planes over their neighbors and spray napalm. That type of thing.

But I wanted to just double check before I posted and I found this on a well known fact checking website:

http://www.snopes.com/michigan-right-to-farm-act-repealed/

So it seems that the Right to Farm Act is intact.

But it actually doesn’t change what my initial reaction was to the news, nor what I wanted to say in this post.I had an excellent Political Science professor once who explained the difference between Civil Rights and Civil Liberties as Freedom To and Freedom From.

Civil Rights are the freedoms to do something. They are things you are entitled to.

Civil Liberties are what you must be allowed to be free from. You have the freedom from interference in your actions or choices in a given area.

It is a crucial difference, and I still think the best explanation I have ever heard.

Even if the Right to Farm Act would have been repealed, it would not have outlawed private farming. Cities and municipalities still could have allowed private farming within their own boundaries. Just because you don’t necessarily have a “right” to do something, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the liberty to do it. There is not an automatic corollary. I don’t need a specific right to eat cold pizza for breakfast in order to be free to make the choice to eat that every single morning if I want to. And I don’t need a state right to farm for my city to agree to leave me alone if I want to grow carrots in my yard and maybe even have a road side stand to sell them in season. Plenty of locales, especially more rural ones, have been getting along just fine like this (thank you very much) with or without the state’s blessing.

This is a country built on life in the country, and although as city folk we tend to forget that, plenty of good wholesome people still flourish in that life. So many of us picture America as the hustle and bustle of New York City or the glitz of LA, but the backbone of America is more truly the people who can go out to their garden and pull up some food and trade with their neighbor to make a meal. These people don’t need a bureaucrat to tell them they have a right to do what they’ve always done. They just need the liberty to live their lives.

And that’s what’s great about America.

Book of Faces

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One of the biggest dangers I see with social media is that everyone else’s like looks better than yours. Because people put photos of the highlights of their life, it looks like everything they do is glamorous and exciting and wonderful. Although everyone knows this intellectually, it’s easy to forget that what you see online is only a selected slice of other people’s lives. But you know that in your own life there is plenty of humdrum and mundane. A typical person’s Facebook seems to read like a magazine in a doctor;s waiting room: went to lunch at a fancy restaurant, took a trip, went somewhere exotic, wore a hot bikini, hung out with beautiful friends. If I had a Facebook page, mine would look something like this:

Woke up overtired and looking haggard

Cleaned up in the kitchen and did some sweeping

Figured out what to make for dinner

Went to the grocery store/Target/misc store(s)

Came home, unpacked, maybe drove carpool, cooked, hung around, watched Netflix, went to bed, woke up, lather, rinse, repeat. I don’t think my real life would make anyone jealous, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that means I should get Facebook (or whatever else people use nowadays) as a favor to other people, so folks will know that others have a life that is just as bland as theirs. That real people don’t actually pick up and go to Cancun or have random ski weekends for no reason or spend $500 on lunch. That if I eat chocolate mousse there is a special occasion involved, and I darn sure won’t be wearing a bikini when I do it.

Maybe it will help people out there feel like they don’t have to measure up to someone else’s imaginary life. For the last few days I have been trying to upload some cute cartoony pictures to go along with the blog post and it hasn’t been working. I have also been trying to figure out how to end this post. Last night I had a mini-epiphany. Maybe it was Meant To Be that the photos wouldn’t work. Maybe that was the most perfect illustration I could ever have hoped for to go along with what I wrote. Perhaps that showed my point and goes along even better with what I’m saying than any little drawings I could have found on the internet. Sometimes even a simple blog post just doesn’t work as you originally planned and even putting a few small pictures repeatedly fails.

Such is real life.

And you know what? That’s plenty good enough.

In fact, it’s really just fine.

In and Out

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One of the things that hit me fairly soon after I moved back to Michigan was that I had forgotten how to breathe.

Ironically, the air in Seattle is so much cleaner, so much purer, and so much more beautiful- objectively. The first time it rained in Michigan, I asked *h, “Do you smell that?” He scrunched up his nose, and I could tell he had no idea what I was asking. It smelled vaguely like the smell of water that had been sitting in a garden hose for too long, but just a tad bit worse. It was the smell of pollution, and to me it was glorious.

I inhaled deeply and said with a giant smile, “THAT is the smell of HOME!”

But I didn’t mean it to be funny.

I think that we all have those sort of visceral memories, and whereas to other people they may be icky or unpleasant to us they will evoke such wonderful things that to us they are simply the best. For me rain in Michigan is one of those things.

Yes, some people hear “Seattle” and their first thought is rain (I too was once one of those people). But in truth a Seattle rain is a gentle misty sort of affair that if you’ve ever been in a Midwest rain, can hardly be called rain at all. In fact, even in Seattle they have a term, called “Seattle-ing” for the spitting that comes from the sky and passes for rain out there. We were quite miffed to watch people walking around in the rain in Seattle without an umbrella, much less a jacket, until we realized that you could do this quite naturally without even hardly getting wet, since the rain was so gentle and, well, barely there.

In Michigan, however, the rain is like a lot of other things. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s right there up front and unmistakable. It’s like the sky is saying, “Oh you want rain? I’ll give you some rain!” And it does. Boom. In Michigan, with the weather like with the people, you know where you stand.

But this post isn’t actually about rain.

It’s about me.

It’s about the first time I realized that for the last year or two, I have been holding my breath.

Not literally of course, but a few weeks after we arrived in Michigan I was doing something very mundane and I realized that my breathing here was slower. It was deeper. It was more relaxed. In fact, my whole body was more relaxed. My whole Self was more relaxed.

In a thousand little ways I began to notice that I was less stressed here. That the things I didn’t do in Seattle (drive certain places, eat certain things), here I was doing with ease. That things which got on my last nerve in Seattle were less on my nerves in Detroit. That I had been chest-breathing and white-knuckling my way through my last stretch of time in Seattle like a death-row inmate and here I was breathing like a zen master.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still challenges in life. I am cold most of the time, and winter hasn’t even set in yet. I am not being so good about keeping in touch with friends from Seattle, even though there are some I am grateful to for their kindness while we were there. I have about a zillion new doctors I still need to find and make appointments with.

But overall I give our move to Detroit an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Now the question is, what in the world will I blog about?

😉

A Couple Square Feet Of Carrots

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I was looking at the Facebook page attached to this blog, and one of the comments about the last post observed that I started an outrage movement over a couple square feet of carrots. I thought that was an interesting point, and one I wanted to address. First off, I will set aside whether it is a correct premise or not that my story/this blog began over vegetables or something bigger. But I think the crucial difference, and where I think I am consistent between the Cecil story and my own, is that as soon as people started making threats against the city planner in my case I IMMEDIATELY called for them to stop. I in no way condoned violence against him or his family, nor did I solicit people to commit vandalism against him or the city, nor did I call for criminal charges to be pressed against him (which, by the way was a hotly debated topic at the time about both him and the prosecutor…).

I am grateful to people who pointed out areas of the Cecil story where I may have been wrong (for example the amount of money that actually goes to local people where safaris take place), but the main outrage I had was over the idea that a story like that could spark violence against a person and take over the news. I haven’t heard one story discussing better protection for animals as a result, nor have I heard anyone talking about Zimbabwe tightening up any laws- all I have heard about is this dentist (many conflicting reports about his history of hunting) and all of the bad things being done to him or being contemplated about him.

If we want to get personal, I could say it reminds me of the people who said I really should have gone to jail over my garden, although in truth that never crossed my mind until someone else drew the initial parallel. I thought I was within the scope of the law (as did the dentist, from the stories I heard, although reading through the comments it seems that several readers heard different versions of the story…), and then I got blasted by an over-eager bureaucrat, as now the dentist is by those calling for his extradition to face criminal charges.

Anyway, I don’t want to belabor the point. I just thought it was an interesting observation and I wanted to comment. Have a great day.

Another Season, Another Reason, For Makin’ Wordies…

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Here’s a recent TED talk that made me think, that made me smile (extremely hard to do lately), and that made me appreciate my grasp of language and my access to TED talks. I hope you will appreciate it as much as I did!

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