These are all links to studies, support groups, activities etc. I referenced on my #LTKH Twitter interview on 7/28/14
Mothers Against Eating Disorders Facebook Support Page (mothers only)
Mothers and Others March - 9/30/14
These are all links to studies, support groups, activities etc. I referenced on my #LTKH Twitter interview on 7/28/14
Mothers Against Eating Disorders Facebook Support Page (mothers only)
Mothers and Others March - 9/30/14
The last time I've written about me is April 30. That is a darn long time ago and a lot has happened since then. Facebook is so ubiquitous in my life, I assume everyone knows everything, but realistically no full stories are told on FB--it's pretty much just the highlight reel, right?
So many of you have been with me for so long--7 years--you've seen my life transform in some drastic ways. One of those major transitions has been career-wise. For the past 18 months, I taught pharmacy technicians and running the externship program (a vocational internship) for a campus of a well-known chain of vocational schools (I started as a adjunct three years ago). My department was overseen by the Allied Health Program Director (the umbrella for the pharmacy tech, medical assistant and medical billing & coding programs). Since the M.A. portion is far and away the largest program, and has a separate accreditation which requires someone with an M.A. credentials, the program director (PD) has always come from that background.
My former boss was a reluctant and interim administrator and, in the interests of making the position easier to fill and do, I was asked a couple of months ago to take over the role of PD for Pharm Tech and MBC, and the MA program would stand alone. I said yes and I really enjoyed the job for three weeks--which is the length of time I had it before they powers-that-be came back to me and shared an idea for bringing everything back under the Allied Health umbrella, having me run it, and having my former boss be my assistant.
I didn't respond immediately as the position meant leaving the classroom, but after thinking hard and negotiating salary (women: men don't take the opening offer and neither should you), I knew yes was the right answer. I'm not even going to humblebrag this one: I got promoted twice in one month 'cause I rock my job. Women need to start owning their awesome like men do and I've decided to lead by example.
I LOVE everything about my new job.
I get to counsel students and since I've always had a soft spot for the underdog, getting to meet and hopefully help lots of underdogs is amazing. Some I will be able to save and some I won't, but what a cool thing to spend your time trying to do!
I get to lead a team of 12 and so far everyone seems happy with how they are being led.
I get to bring my ideas and the ideas of others to fruition.
I get to put my master's degree in Instructional Leadership to great use by learning the language of data analysis and doing things like evaluating year-over-year trends and then drilling down for answers as to why.
I get to develop talent.
I took this position two weeks before an internal audit and I worked six days a week, 12 hours a day to dig out from a considerable mess, but I did it and was part of a very impressive result campus-wide. I got to establish myself as a person that expects results, not excuses, and that was helpful.
Several people have remarked that my eyes sparkle when I talk about this new position and that can never be a bad thing.
What else? Let's do this up-to-date thing:
Ten Things Parents Wish Educators Knew About Eating Disorders (This has been very well received and has been shared internationally and incorporated into at least one schools teacher training curriculum. I'm over the moon about it).
A five-part series for the Dr. Greene site (I am glad I saw his TED talk--cool info I'm sharing with my kiddos about waiting to cut the umbilical cord. Also, DB is impressed with me for being affiliated with someone who did a TED talk).
This post, a rebuttal to a New York Times piece is one I am proud of as I got positive feedback from two writers whose opinions I respect based on their own amazing talents as writers--Mary Petrie and Jocelyn Philaja.
Brian Cuban and I co-wrote this piece; his is a strong voice for speaking out about eating disorders affecting not just men, but women. I very much appreciate his willingness to engage in dialogue about causation of eating disorders and am pleased to do advocacy work with him.
In her July 12, 2014 column, syndicated advice columnist “Ask Amy”, Amy gave advice to a teen who was worried both about her father having anorexia and her own increasing unhealthy thoughts about her weight. (Ask Amy: Daughter worries about dad’s unhealthy eating), Frequently, when a young person “Asks Amy”, or another columnist, for advice on a complicated medical topic, he/she is encouraged to seek further counsel and disclose the concern to a trusted adult. Instead, the response to this letter left the teen with no more information than when she wrote in (other than advice to protect the family’s pets from the food restriction which is a symptom of the father’s illness) and a directive to share her concerns with her parents then move on.
It is appropriate for any advice columnist to consult an expert when faced with a question that is outside his/her scope of knowledge, as this question seems to have been for Amy. Most people, not just advice columnists, assume they know what causes eating disorders. The research in the field of eating disorders is ever changing and has exploded in the past decade with the advent of new technologies such as functional MRIs and conventional wisdom has been turned on its head. It is unlikely that any layperson would be able to offer solid advice in this situation. This is not the first time an eating disorder related question has been posed to Amy. In a June 18th column, “Parents Undermine Eating Disorder Recovery” Amy did in fact reach out to someone with specialized knowledge in in the Eating Disorder field as part of her answer. Why not this time before giving dismissive, and frankly ridiculous input about the effect on the pets.
If this daughter is correct, her father has anorexia, a biological, brain-based mental illness with a mortality rate in the neighborhood of 20%. Eating disorders in themselves, have the highest mortality rate of any psychological illness. Not something in which advice should be given dismissively or without a specialized background. Sadly, eating disorders are often accompanied by anosonogsia, a medical term which means the sufferer doesn’t recognize that he/she is ill. Additionally, these illnesses have a strong genetic and psychosocial interface, so both her genetics and a childhood spent in an environment of disordered eating and other symptoms of anorexia increase her risk of developing an eating disorder exponentially.
In order to prevent giving out medical advice which is off the mark or potentially damaging to the point of terminal, standard practice for any advice columnist should be to consult an expert and disclose who they contacted. If no expert is available, they should just shut up.
Eating Disorder Activist and survivor
Author: Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Jennifer Denise Ouellette
Mothers Against Eating Disorders
UCSD Eating Disorder Treatment Program Parent Advisory Committee
In response to Carol Weston’s supposition (Is Obesity O.K.?) that we should quit not talking about obesity, I must wonder where she got the idea that we’re not talking about it incessantly? I feel bombarded by messages from every quarter that say that I—an educated, accomplished professional, mother of four successful adult children, happily married for 27 years, and both healthy and fit—am “less than” because thin is not also one of my “accomplishments.”
The reality is that our thin-focused, dieting, fat-shaming culture does nobody any good. Eating disorders are being triggered in ever-higher numbers in part due to our rigid, black and white health messages—eat clean! sugar is demonic! fat is evil!—and obesity is still on the rise.
The obesity epidemic is due to a complex interplay of agricultural policy, urban design, educational policies, social welfare issues and myriad other factors. If you want to address these under the premise that improvements in these arenas are good for all of us--in the form of affordable nutrient-dense foods, fewer food deserts, more walk-able cities, physical education and nurses back in schools, decreased crime so neighborhoods are safe for outdoor play, etc. than please do so.
Addressing the obesity epidemic at the personal level is ineffective, misguided, mean-spirited and wholly fruitless and the evidence is clear on this. Judging the girls as you describe yourself doing in your piece may make you “feel” like you are helping others, but you’re not; you are hurting them and it’s not an act of concern, it’s an act perpetuating the myth that the size of your body makes you morally superior to them. It does not.
Jennifer Denise Ouellette
I have a very large capacity for outrage at injustice and inequity and a virtually endless capacity to discuss it.
This is probably why Nicole and I got shushed in the waiting room at the oral surgeon's while Social Butterfly was getting her wisdom teeth pulled (send healing wishes and heavy whipping cream). Nicole and I might be sorta-kinda-very-similar in our knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, our "issues." So there we were, animatedly discussing feminism, misogyny and rape culture and and an old man shushed us. Loudly.
I have always been a feminist, but never a militant one. I was not ever one to call anyone out for referring to me as a girl. Now I wonder about the wisdom of that. Was I complicit in maintaining the cultural attititude of dismissivenes and marginalization toward girls and women that is more pervasive today than it was when I was actually a girl?
You KNOW a Good Morning America segment titled "Tinseltown Tots Take 2-Week Vegan Cleanse Challenge" was going to get my attention. Go ahead, it's worth the view just so you can actually smack your head versus just typing SMH.
Several of us have tried to engage Rainbeau Mars on Twitter and Instagram though what we have gotten in return is new age-y platitudes that make little sense and demonstrate a deliberately obtuse attitude.
Since GMA sees fit to consider RM a nutrition expert worthy of airtime on the basis that thin must equal healthy (as that is her only qualification I can see because she sure has no formal education on the subject), I have decided I am now, "Joulet Neptune" nutrition expert. I'm not thin, but I do understand science and have spent considerable time speaking to dietitians (the educated, registered type) over the past couple of years.
The following is my expert opinion which I have shared with Rainbeau Mars; oddly, she has been silent via Twitter and email today though she promised to have a dialogue. You're right, I'm not the patient type-since she could email me immediately to get me to calm down on Twitter, I would expect her, in exchange for my restraint, to at least acknowledge the email. Whether or not this missive makes her reconsider will depend a lot on whether health is her true concern or whether it's self-promotion. We shall see.
Related: Good Morning America you have to answer for this as well--how is this an ethical thing to promote?
I would like to begin by noting that we share a common goal: healthy, nourished children. It is my hope that by stating this up front, you will open yourself to hearing this message—a message that is counterintuitive. I understand what I am saying turns everything you think you know, and everything that is intuitive to you, upside down.
I am a member of the group Mothers Against Eating Disorders. We love our children with the same passion you have for yours, and like you, their health is our number one priority. Many of us, like you, come from a place of understanding that a highly processed diet is detrimental to one’s health. Many of us, like you, come from a place of understanding that moving one’s body is vital for energy. Like you, we understand the health risks to children who are raised only on soda and chips; thankfully the options are not a dichotomy of healthy versus junk—we can model and provide balance for our children. Again, we have much common ground on which to conduct a dialogue.
Like any mother who has faced the potential death of a child due to a serious illness I have become educated and learned to speak a language that was foreign to me until my own daughter became anorexic. Before anorexia took up residence in my daughter’s body, I was naïve and uneducated and whatever vague understanding I had of the disorder was erroneous and sensationalist information I’d picked up from Lifetime TV movies and ABC afterschool specials. My family was blessed to have a pediatrician who recognized the signs of the mysterious stomach issues and weight loss in our girl; neither my family nor my daughter fit any profile in popular culture of a family in which this disease would happen.
Here is what I have learned, from reading and meeting with top experts in the eating disorder field, a discipline that has undergone an explosive shift in knowledge in the last 10 years:
Children who develop eating disorders share a similar genetically programmed personality profile. These traits are:
The crazy thing about those above traits is that they make for a kid that is generally very easy to parent and they are kids teachers absolutely love. They earn great grades, are internally motivated and are often drawn to sports or music where there ability to work hard and practice until perfect are great assets. Once these kids put their minds to something, it happens.
I also learned that eating disorders are triggered by a period of malnutrition or weight loss—and this can be either by accident or design; the fact that intent to restrict food intake or lose weight is not required is vitally important.
Where does the above information intersect with what you are promoting; which you call a non-reduced calorie cleanse?
Let’s picture a 7-year old girl with the profile I have described above. She hears one of your talks or a parent raises the topic with her. She is not old or mature enough to process your complete message, but what she hears is this: fruits and vegetables are good—they are “clean.” Hmmmm, if fruits & veg are so great they are the focus of this cleanse, other foods must be “dirty.” Clean things are good, dirty things are bad, so I am going to stick with as much fruit and vegetable as possible.
She also sees that mom is impressed with her for sticking with this—maybe her siblings want to cheat or are having difficulty sticking with this, but not her. Nope, she’s got the willpower and it feels great, plus she probably gets praise and admiration for doing this cleanse perfectly.
The 14-days goes by, but she’s not ready to give this up. If 14-days is better, forever is best. If she can cut out ALL of the dirty foods that’s going to be even better. Mom doesn’t know to watch out for this and it starts slowly in ways a parent may not even notice with cutting back on quantities, or ditching snacks at school. Those actions cause malnutrition—when the brain doesn’t get 30% of its calories from fat, it becomes compromised very quickly and the switch is flipped in the genetically vulnerable.
Soon mom is concerned, then panicked—why won’t her 7-year old eat? What is with the abject terror of any food that isn’t 100% clean? Why won’t she even eat a vegan cupcake? Why is she losing weight? Why is she avoiding social situations like birthday parties? Where did the light in her eyes go? Why is my child wasting away before my eyes?
If that mother is lucky, she has a knowledgeable doctor and her child gets top-notch treatment immediately. In that case, there is about two years of the worst hell you’ve ever imagined as you weight-restore and properly nourish the child, living all the time under the specter of relapse because as the height changes, the weight must go up or you are back at square one. If that mother is lucky, her child lives. With a 20% mortality rate for anorexia, having her child make it is not a given—not by a long shot.
Of course, I would never expect you to just take my word for all of the above. I am including links to both scientific journals and mainstream pieces that reinforce what I am saying. In your response, I would appreciate receiving links to the scientific research and medical opinions that support your position that cleanses for children are both healthy and risk-free.
I appreciate your willingness to engage in a dialogue. I understand having your beliefs challenged is difficult and much of what I am saying is counterintuitive, but it is the truth—and a very hard truth at that. If you would like me to arrange a further dialogue with an expert in the field of both eating disorders and obesity in children, I would be happy to do so.
Jennifer Denise Ouellette
Let me preface this by saying I am a mom who made all my own baby food, made sure our milk and chicken were antibiotic-free and didn't allow TV on weekdays, the better to be outside running around after school. Added to that, as a parent volunteer and a teacher, I've seen far too many lunches that consist of two bags of chips and a soda. Don't get me started on the loss of daily P.E. and adequate recess in our schools.
I am VEHEMENTLY opposed to any type of specific nutritional education and BMI/Fitness testing in our schools.
Whaaaaat? You ask. Whyyyyyy? You ask. Let me tell you, I reply.
Because in addition to the above, I am also the mother of a daughter in recovery from anorexia. Because I know things I never knew before about eating disorders and genetic predispositions and at-risk personality traits. Because nutritional education is likely triggering eating disorders in younger and younger children. Because the obesity epidemic--a complicated intersection of agricultural policy, urban design, and social and educational policies, and a dieting culture is not going to be solved by teaching kids that sugar or fat are bad. Not for that child and not for all children.
Because all this talk about good and bad foods, healthy and unhealthy behaviors, and the attendant fat-shaming as you share cautionary tales of unhealthy lifestyles, harms and kills kids. And while obesity might kill your child someday, anorexia is happy to do it today.
For children who are people-pleasers, who are perfectionistic, who are black-and-white thinkers, that nutrition unit is a finger firing a trigger on the loaded gun of genetic predisposition.
Talk to the parents of an anorexic (there are other eating disorders of course, but this is where my expertise and experience lie) and the stories sound so similar it would be comical if it was at all laughable.
It goes like this: their child decided to follow some rules about food and exercise-rules their teachers and parents taught him/her. (This is where that personality profile comes in--children who go on to develop anorexia are generally really good students and overall terrific kids--smart and creative are common adjectives. They want to make you happy and they want to do things right.) At first, you usually congratulate yourself on parenting that mythical unicorn of a kid--the one that loves an apple better than a cookie, the one that would rather take a walk than watch TV. High-fives all around.
If you're the parent of a little, you probably pick up some issues right away. If you're the parent of an older kid, it may take awhile. One day, you realize you are scared out of your motherfucking mind because you CAN'T get your kid to eat. CANNOT DO IT. If you're lucky, as I was, you have a great pediatrician, a phenomenal program nearby, and insurance that does what insurance is supposed to do. If you're not lucky, you struggle to find help as your child gets sicker and you deal with clueless clinicians and then when you do find help, you have to mortgage your house to pay for it. If you're lucky like me, your daughter is alive, in recovery, and goes to college. If you're not lucky, your son is dead; many sufferers die of medical complications and suicide while waiting to access treatment. When treatment is available quickly, the 20% mortality rate plummets.
Back to my original point: think about this--you take a kid who is a rule-follower and a people-pleaser and a perfectionist and a black-white thinker and say:
Sugar is BAD
Fruit is GOOD
Fat is BAD
Vegetables are GOOD
Soda is BAD
Water is GOOD
Being sedentary is BAD
Being active is GOOD
The fun, creative, kid you love more than life itself takes this information to heart and begins to restrict eating and starts exercising for fitness. And they are GOOD at it--oh, so good; no days skipped, no cheating--it's impressive initially. At some point, the period of malnutrition and/or weight loss flips the switch in their brain and they no longer have control over what and how much they eat--the disease now dictates food consumption and exercise--and your life as you knew it is over and so is your child's.
You can have immediate access to the best treatment in the world as our family did and you are still looking at a minimum of two years before you can quit holding your breath. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness for a reason; anorexia is a bitch of a disease and tenacious beyond your wildest nightmare.
This is my plea to you; mother to mother, teacher to teacher: MODEL balance in your food choices and your activity level and keep your mouth shut; let your actions speak for you as you eat balanced meals and go out for ice cream now and then and take family bike rides or walks. If the obesity epidemic is your issue, I get it. But tackle it among adults, not among kids: advocate at all levels of government for changes to our agricultural policies that affect our food supply, for urban design and public transportation interface that give us walkable cities, for reintroducing movement and nurses into schools--these are ALL important issues and I support your work.
But please, LEAVE the children out of it--it might be your daughter who goes from being the adorable third--grader who delighted both you and her teacher with the outline she drew for reading and writing her first chapter book report in third grade to the 17-year old who missed the last semester of high school because she decided that she could avoid the Freshman 15 in college if she got a head start on adhering to reasonable "healthy eating and exercise" rules.
I encourage a dialogue about this and welcome your questions. There is a lot of common ground on what we are #FedUp with and we all have the same common goal--to safeguard the health and welfare of ALL our children.
I must preface this by saying that I was not at my most mature by engaging with this douche. And yet, I enjoyed it. Plus, he deserved it and other self-justifying cliches. Also, I learned Storify--two hours total to learn the program and complete the project and I think that's good for an old lady! One day I will do something good with the Storify platform and I will owe it all to this juvenile Twitter exchange.
Here you go: Twitter Beef with Loudmouth Radio Jock
Thanks to Christina for suggesting Storify!
I had an experience recently that I've been mulling over and wasn't sure if I wanted to blog. Then I (finally!) had time to read this post by Mrs. G. not long after I read this article a friend shared on Facebook.
It seemed a little bit like the universe saying "you write about what happens to you and it happend to you, so what's up?"
To which I responded, "good point."
I'm going to paint in pretty broad strokes here; the gist is that I was recently told that a collective of people--none of whom know me in real life, and whose names I still don't know--were "gravely concerned" with and conversing at length about my "manic" online presence and therefore my mental health.
I've had time to process both the exchange and my reaction to and thoughts about it. I've been able to run the scenario by some people I really admire and trust.
In the end, I've decided that whatever and whomever the amorphous "concerns" are, they nothing to do with me and I choose to not let it take up real estate in my brain. I'm calling that a win for maturity. I control the way I feel, I don't let somebody else do it.
The fact that I am a high-energy person who moves fast and covers lots of ground is not a liability to me. Nor is it to most people I live, work, play and advocate with both IRL and in the online circles in which I travel.
What I do have to ponder is why I let this knock me off my rhythm and I must admit it has. Things tend to happen in our lives for a reason, though, and I've had some positives come from this--that's what I choose to focus on.
I will busier than normal for the next few weeks--I am rewriting curriculum at work, my program is expanding and I get to have someone I really enjoy working with (I dig working with guys--straightforward is their m.o. and that's mine as well. I have no time for veiled communication--too much to get done) on my team for the foreseeable future. Danger Boy and Social Butterfly come home in a week. I have a friend and her family coming to stay to go through the UCSD program. I am really enjoying writing my blog for UCSD and spending more time on Twitter. Been working the #truthinads hashtag pretty hard, as well as #MAEDvocate and #IEDAction. I lurve social media as a tool for activism.
I took a trip to Flagstaff last weekend with my friend Michele and her daughter Iris (10) to visit Social Butterfly and visit a college campus. Our plans went a little cattywampus due to snow--a lot of snow to me! Iris was dazzled by the snowfall and that was pretty amazing. Cards were played and fun was had and a wonderful MartAnn's breakfast was eaten. Of course, we drove a lot (learn from me: if you play Pandora for 15 hours through the desert you will lose virtually all your data for the month. Oy!).
Oh, yeah, this happened.
I'm not even going to bother telling you how busy I am and what I've been up to; you know. I don't want to let this space and y'all go though, so I'm just going to do a slice-of-life story.
Jury Duty. Nobody likes it, but you have to go. So, of course last week was getting prepared so if I did get picked . . . Tuesday is first day of a new mod, so LOTS of prep. And two classes. Oy. But I got ready.
Last year (yes, just last year!) I did this and rode in with my friend, Heidi Brown the attorney (I also have Heidi Brown the teacher) who works near the courthouse. I got released pretty early though and if I hadn't bummed a ride home from a woman I recognized from around "The Ranch," I would have been stuck for a good while. So I decided to drive myself this year and, in the interests of killing two birds with one stone, getting both exercise and cheap all-day parking, park a mile away and walk. I even wore my oh-so-comfortable, black, Born, wedge-heeled sandals (may they rest in peace) because they are dressy enough to wear to court (I feel you should not shlep to jury duty), but still walkable.
I am sure you can see where this is going. About one block in, the thong thingy broke. That combined that with the fact that even WITH a GPS I went in the wrong direction at one point (my directional deficit is so pronounced as to be a disability) made for a VERY long walk that was both decent exercise and led to some stoplight-waiting-conversations about how I looked young to have had a hip replacement.
I had lunch plans with Heidi who thankfully offered me what she described as "ugly mules in a size-too-large." Sold! I added two blocks to my hobble to her office by once again taking a wrong turn. Seems like I should have realized I wanted the blue dot to be getting closer to the red dot rather than further away, doesn't it?
The mules were serviceable and a good reason for choosing function over form, which made the walk to the cute little cafe with the delicious quiche actually enjoyable. After FINALLY getting released (it should not have been such an annoyance that the wi-fi reset hourly, but it was). Also, I saw this Deputy being very respectful as he dealt with this clearly mentally ill man--though the man did have some spot on complaints about racist police departments. I do think this deputy was a good guy, though--he had a very calming, de-escalating demeanor.
I finally got released at 2:15 and In a miraculous turn of events, I not only found my car, but the Ross downtown that I'd made note of in the morning. 15 minutes later I had four potential shoe replacements and an adorable crocheted blouse, all for $97.
So that was jury duty.
I could use some good juju for this cutie.
We seem to have had a recurrence of the Evan's Syndrome she had four years ago. This time we knew her wobbliness was serious and Mr. Fix-it took her in first thing this morning as soon as we noticed. They've started her on steroids and she'll go back in a couple of days for bloodwork. We are prepared this time that we might have to make a tough decision, but it's still sad. She responded well to medication last time, so fingers crossed.
That's the snapshot from today--now off to visit you all. Sorry about all the snow!