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:
- Tendency to perfectionism
- Wanting to please parents and teachers (authority figures)
- Rigid, black/white thinking
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