Donut-licking is an Aberrant Eating Behavior

ariana keep outBefore this “news” story hits the briney deep, I have something to say about Ariana Grande. She is the 22-year old celebrity of Nickelodeon TV, theater, and music fame who was seen in July, on a surveillance video, licking glazed donuts on an uncovered tray in a donut shop. On the audio, she was overheard saying, “What the f*ck is that? I hate Americans. I hate America. That’s disgusting!” There were entertainment-news stories and hash tags galore: #ilickdonuts – #donutgate – #donutproblems – #arianadonuts –  #arianagrandelickingdonuts –  #ariwearewithyou – #arianahatesamerica. This week I read that Ariana Grande Is Now the 2nd Most Disliked Celebrity, Following Close Behind Bill Cosby. Can you believe that? 

But for me as a clinician, donut-licking raises a red flag. It is an aberrant eating behavior on par with eating in a ritualistic way, chewing food and spitting it out, mixing strange food combinations, eating the same foods over and over, skipping meals, taking tiny portions, cutting food in little pieces, and refusing to eat with others. They are all aberrant eating behaviors that may be seen in eating disordered patients.

Ariana also happens to be extraordinarily thin, which wasn’t the case last year when (according to the Internet), at 5’1” tall, she weighed 106 pounds (BMI 20), a perfect weight within the healthy weight range. But within the past year (according to the Internet), she lost twelve pounds by following a vegan diet. I figure that now Arianna is in the underweight range, weighing 90-94 pounds (BMI 17).

Ariana Before Vegan

Ariana Before Vegan

Ariana After Vegan

Ariana After Vegan

I’ve explained why vegan diets are a problem in Beyonce Promotes Vegan Diet. Tricked by Her Trainer. But that doesn’t stop the knuckleheads on YouTube from praising Ariana’s weight loss. (See Ariana Grande Vegan Weight Loss Transformation.) The photos are telling.

I understand why Ariana Grande might let it slip that, subconsciously, she hates America. After all, we made her into an object that must stay dangerously thin (and hungry) in order to survive. As a role model, she spreads the poison to young fans. How can she feel good about that? When all she wanted to do was sing and dance. I hope she gets help.

Which Silhouette Are You?

Now that summer is here and the clothes have come off, I like to use my favorite nutrition assessment tool. It is the Stunkard Scale, a series of images of progressively heavier body types labeled 1 through 9, with 9 being the heaviest. It is mainly used in research to measure body image perception. Subjects are usually asked to choose the silhouette that most closely resembles how they look and how they would want to look.
Silhouette 4 corresponds to Body Mass Index (BMI) 23, the upper half of the healthy weight range. Women are most satisfied with Silhouette 3, whereas men prefer to be heavier. Silhouette 1 is too skinny to be healthy, and for some, Silhouette 2 is as well. Silhouette 5 rests on the border of the healthy to overweight range. Silhouettes 6 – 9 are too heavy and, as such, increase the risk for disease.

A Matter of Perception

People who live in societies that put a premium on thinness often see themselves as fat when they are thin. For instance, my beautiful, healthy daughter saw herself as a bit heavy while living as a nanny in the skinny minny Hamptons. On the other hand, according to a study from Quebec, children with heavy parents and peers are more likely to underestimate their weight than those with healthy-weight parents and friends.  Underestimation of body size is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, and heavy people who are active, although research shows that people with education and higher incomes are not more likely to perceive their weight more accurately than less educated people who make less money. People who lose weight commonly continue to see themselves as larger. Presently, I am Silhouette 3 or 4; however, I felt scrawny while visiting one of America’s fatter states.

Your thoughts: Which silhouette are you?

Helping Cassey Ho

Cassey Ho is a Pilates instructor, YouTube fitness guru, blogger and online community leader, and designer of yoga bags. When you count her blog subscribers and social networking fans, she has around 185,000 followers. Cassey is an exceptionally hard-working young woman who will probably go far in the fitness world. I met Cassey online a few weeks ago when I helped her with a dilemma.

Cassey wrote: Lately, some of my fans have attacked me for “triggering” their eating disorder and body image disorder tendencies because I’ve been talking extra about weight loss and dieting because it’s bikini season. The blog that started it is Best Celebrity Bikini Bodies…thanks to PILATES!  Some have said that I may have an eating disorder or body image disorder myself! They’ve even gone as far as to say that I should have my posts looked over by a psychologist to analyze the potential messages I am sending out. As a professional, what do you think?

I wrote back:  I think “triggers” are everywhere for people with psychological disorders. I believe that anyone who feels vulnerable should beware of potentially triggering experiences that they can control (e.g. don’t buy fashion magazines, don’t visit certain websites or watch certain TV shows, etc.) The really difficult triggers are those stressful life situations, including trauma and loss, that they can’t control. Ideally, a trigger will start a conversation. It is rich material for mental health therapy.

As to whether celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Cassey Ho have disordered eating patterns, I cannot say without a proper assessment. But Americans, and the world for that matter, like their celebrities to be thin. Most celebrities exercise an lot and are very careful not to over-eat. How else could they look that way? They have millions of dollars resting on it.

But when does self-care – a desire to exercise and eat right – turn into a disorder? When a person’s “love for diet and exercise” precludes enjoying a variety of wholesome foods in the amount needed to maintain a healthy weight, and when someone’s exercise program is so intense that it leads to injuries, exhaustion, and irritability, then that’s a problem. But, if not, then go girl! Cassey’s readers, and anyone, should take The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), the most widely used, standardized self-report measure of concerns and symptoms of eating and exercise disorders. It is a screening test that indicates a need for professional evaluation.

The Dilemma

Heck, I owe my bikini (or one piece swimsuit) body to Pilates. I go to Pilates three times a week and try never to miss. But for non-celebrities like me, after a certain point, say 60 minutes of exercise 5-6 times a week and healthy eating 85 percent of the time, chasing the perfect body has diminishing returns. After health habits are in check, time is better spent working on inner qualities and making the world a better place. How about helping the SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled activist movement, to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. They are collaborating with hundreds of girls ages 13 to 22. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take diet advice from a celebrity! As I told Diets In Review, Miley Cyrus Stays Trim Following a Gluten-Free Diet is not a good idea. Every modified diet, including vegan and raw food diets, carries a nutritional risk because so many foods are omitted.

Cassey had many more questions, and you can read my answers at Bringing it to Light: Eating Disorders on Bloglates.com. I thank Cassey for trusting my professional advice, and I wish her smooth sailing in her work to bring health to the masses.

Your thoughts: Have you ever wondered if you have an eating or body image disorder?

Susie Orbach Tells It Like It is About Women and Beauty

Woman Is the Nigger of the World~John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Weren’t they the best at getting our attention?  The words are appropriate because today is March 8th, International Women’s Day, a day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, they get the day off.

In honor of the celebration, Susie Orbach, psychoanalyst, author and feminist (mentioned in my blog, My Intuitive Eating “Aha” Moment) delivered a speech, “Body Image in the Media: Using Education to Challenge Stereotypes,” to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City last week. Susie compared the self-starvation, surgical cosmetic procedures and the use of appetite suppressing pharmacological agents to all forms of violence practiced against girls and women in the rest of the world. You can read the transcript of her speech at Any-Body.org, Susie Orbach Speaks at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She explains that beauty’s tyrannical hold zaps females of their energy, dollars, and sense of self.  In her speech, Susie Orbach says,

“The beauty companies, the fashion houses, the diet companies, the food conglomerates who also of course own the diet companies, the exercise and fitness industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the cosmetic surgery industry combine together, perhaps not purposefully or conspiratorially, to create a climate in which girls and women come to feel that their bodies are not ok. They do this through the promotion of celebrity culture, through advertising on every possible outlet from billboards to magazines to our electronic screens, through the funding of media outlets which can only exist because of their economic support.”

Don’t you love it?  All people, women and men, have a responsibility to rally against using the female body as a profit center. It’s especially important this year as basic rights like birth control are being challenged. We need the energy spent on beauty to protect our rights!

Your thoughts: How much beauty-time is too much? Do you share Susie views?

Ode to The Statue of Liberty

When I heard that it is the Statue of Liberty’s 125th birthday (I know how she feels), I decided to write my first blog.

I have always been in awe of Ms Liberty’s physical characteristics. (That’s the nutritionist talking.) She’s just so strong and so healthy and so perfectly proportioned. Even featured, truly physically attractive, but I especially love her arm.

Back in my Rhode Island office, I had a picture of the Statue of Liberty taped onto a mirror. I used her arm as a reference point for what an arm should look like. I figure that, if construction started in 1875, then there were no media (okay, photography was invented), but there were no bathroom scales and, seriously, how many people had mirrors?  And there was no processed food, and no super-abundance, and no energy-saving conveniences.  And that’s what the epitome of beauty looked like?  hmm-mm

I’d say the Statue of Liberty, has a BMI of 23-24, but who can say what’s under that dress, and as we all know, muscle-is-heavy.  But, really, her standard for beauty is no longer ‘in’.  How many media personalities have her arm?  None. Their BMIs seem to be 17-20. What a shame.

Either way, I hope that, going forward, you’ll remember the Statue of Liberty’s arm. I’m also glad I moved to New York City so I can be closer to her.

Question:  What’s your take on the Statue of Liberty’s arm?