The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Nov 20, 2009

A father's words

Is thinness worth your child's life? Then what are we doing while looking in the mirror and standing on that scale every day? What are we teaching our own children as we struggle with our own physical selves? What are we talking about in the midst of our children about someone's weight and stature, their eating habits - that lead a young one to have a wrong perspective on food and body? Maybe they link our words to our affection for them should they not "measure up". They see so much more than we realize we are showing them...

In November we'll be speaking at a couple of schools in Philadelphia. One of them recently wrote asking if we were on the NCAA Speaker's Grant List. If so, they could write a grant to offset the costs of bringing us out. As we are not on the list, I emailed the NCAA to inquire about the application process. One of the requirements was for Tom, my husband, to write a narrative of his experiences with Andrea that have helped him gain knowledge of eating disorders. He wrote it this morning and with his permission I share it with you:

When our daughter, Andrea, was 18 she began dieting for the first time in her life. My wife and I live in northern California and Andrea was attending Pitzer College in southern California—an eight-hour drive away. She was in the middle of her freshman year in college and saw dieting and increased exercise as a way to get healthy and fit and as a way to 'remake' herself in the 'new life' she felt college offered. We did not know then that although every diet does not lead to an eating disorder nearly every eating disorder begins with some form of weight loss diet. In seeking information no one ever told us that dieting can be deadly.

Within a matter of months, Andrea’s dieting and exercise regimen took on the feel of an obsession. Counting calories, weighing herself numerous times each day, working out to the point of exhaustion and eating less and less. We did not know that when it comes to an eating disorder, "genetics and biology loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger." Andrea came from a family where both sides have family members who have suffered with mental illnesses and addictive behaviors—this we now know made Andrea more susceptible to the development of an eating disorder. Combine this genetic pre-disposition with a culture and media that reveres thinness and a family where dieting was accepted as 'normal' behavior and we have a recipe for disaster.

Eating disorders are secretive illnesses—they thrive in the silence of their 'host.' In spite of this fact, Andrea called her mom the day after the first time she made herself throw up. She was in treatment two weeks later (the beginning of summer break) seeing a therapist, physician and dietician. We were assured she would heal as we’d gotten on it so quickly. We also assumed she could heal over one summer and then all would be fine. Now we know that it takes at least as long to heal from an eating disorder as it does to develop one and that the development begins long before the first identifiable symptom. The average length of time for healing is five to seven years—there is nothing quick about an eating disorder, except how quickly they can kill: Andrea died a mere 13 months after the first time she made herself throw up.

In the beginning of Andrea's illness I would tell her “Just stop!” I was under the erroneous conception that the illness was about food and weight. Although it is everything about food and weight, it is also nothing about these two 'red herrings.' An eating disorder is a coping mechanism. It is what saves the individual from drowning with the weight of unexpressed and overwhelming fears and emotions. This is a concept I struggled with … until I realized that unless we are taught helpful coping skills, many of us seek ways to numb ourselves from overwhelming feelings: excessive alcohol, exercise, shopping, sex, gambling, drugs, the list is endless. An eating disorder is another way to numb.

I have learned so many things from our daughter’s experience with bulimia. Sadly, the majority of my knowledge was gained after her death. My wife and I have felt compelled to share our daughter’s story and the wisdom we’ve gained because we know that there are many others like us who are ill-informed and hold the same misunderstandings about these deadly illnesses. We have a thick file full of testimonials from people all over the world (we speak internationally, but our web site and Doris’ book have allowed our message to travel where we cannot) who, because of Andrea, have found their way into treatment and credit her with helping them choose to heal. My expertise on the topic of eating disorders is not as great as my wife’s but it has been hard earned and continues to grow.

Blessings until next time,

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