Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thin Within

While sniffing around, I came across a "study" (survey) they were doing on eating disorders. Since I've had one of those for 15 years, I was intrigued. (I think of my disorder as being "in remission" rather than cured. There really isn't yet a true cure for eating disorders, but some people stay in remission for years or even decades, so I have some hope.)

Because I welcome every opportunity to let Christian missionaries working at computer banks know that other views are out there, I filled out their "study". (Christians don't understand WORDS.)

1: What do you classify as an eating disorder?
Eating and/or exercise which disrupts the normal processes of life and relationships. Secretive eating, binge eating, over-exercising, orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, etc. (You know, the actual definition and stuff.)

2: Why do we feel the need to look a certain way?
Borrowing from our Biblical and patriarchal history of women as sexual property, advertisers use womens bodies to tap into male desire, in an attempt to associate the desire for attractive women with the desire to buy X. Fashion and other industries contribute by determining what is deemed "attractive", and then selling the clothes, cosmetics, surgery, etc. that are deemed necessary to be "attractive".

3: When would you consider a person obsessive with their appearance?
When it takes up an hour or more of their thoughts per day. (I'm basing this on the OCD model that a person's OCD is considered clinical if obsessive thoughts and/or rituals consume one or more hour of the person's day.)

4: How do you deal with your emotions about your appearance?
Huh? I don't know; I grew out of my ugly duckling years, so I'm mostly just enjoying the swan life.

5: Define a person with true beauty. What does Peter 3:3-5 say beauty is?
I would define a person with true beauty as someone who is compassionate and generous. That passage defines beauty as "gentle and quiet" and "submissive". That sounds more pathetic and victimized than "beautiful" to me.

6: When are times that you feel like you have no control in your life?
When my unemployment check gets deposited late and my landlady knocks on my door.

7: What are some ways that you can overcome your eating disorder?
Cognitive therapy, positive affirmations, an approach toward health rather than appearance.

8: How do you think God views you? How do you think God feels when you’re harming your body?
God is imaginary. No real medical doctor should ever ask me what unicorns or gods think of my issues with food.

9: What do you think you need in order to have happiness in life? Is the thing you think you need eternal? Or is it just temporary?
Friends, love, enough money not to be stressed out about it. I need my son and satisfying mental exercise. I'd sure like to keep all my limbs and organs, although I know a lot of people manage to be happy even after losing some of those. What I need is real, which means I actually have a chance of getting it.

10: I have the following questions/comments about this study. Also, please pray for me in these areas:
Are you aware of the term "push polling" and do you see how this "study" does more to suggest that the real cure for an eating disorder is god (who I believed in during the 12 years I was puking my guts up) than it does to actually learn what women think?
I thought that was the end of it, so I didn't bother blogging it all here. (Yes, I do more theist educating on my own time, not just what you read on the blog. Scary, isn't it?) But now, I've gotten a reply from my personally randomly assigned "counselor" (with no credentials).
Dear Angie,

My name is Pat and I am an online mentor for this web site. I hope you enjoyed the study regarding eating disorders. There is an organiziation called Thin Within that has helped many women with weight control issues. The web site is I found it very helpful for me when I was struggling with 50 pounds of unwanted fat. I would like to hear what you think of it. You can write back to me directly by replying to this email.


Yes, that is a carat Jesus fish. (or Pat is less than, greater than, and less than the blank spaces beyond the carat fish.) And really, what of all my responses made her think I was carrying around 50 pounds of unwanted fat, or even 5 pounds that genuinely needed to be lost? I didn't even mention my body, other than to say it was "swan" like. People with eating disorders (which includes men) may have "unwanted" weight at any point in time. That's simply not a reliable measure of whether or not they need to lose weight, when dealing with someone who has persistent (irrational) body image fears. And it's damn irresponsible.

So let's go take a peek at Thin Within. (I already did, but I want you to see this, too.) Thin Within promises "a Biblical approach to lasting weight loss" - not weight management, not healthy lifestyle, or body-confidence - weight loss. A good portion of the population with eating disorders will die if they lose more weight. This isn't just rude or impersonal; the next (genuinely Christian) woman who goes to that site may take her "mentor's" advice and join a non-accredited weight loss program run by "trust your body" quacks instead of doctors. And that might kill her. (I'm assuming female rather than male or gender neutral here, because I found the "study" on Again, it's important to recognize that 10-15% of people with eating disorders are male.)
The physical principle is that we should eat only when truly hungry and stop eating before we are full. At Thin Within, we use what we call a "Hunger Scale" to track eating patterns. We encourage people to eat when they are at a "0", or truly hungry, and stop eating when they are at a "5", which is before they are full.
If you can monitor and respond to your body's natural appetite cues, you probably don't have an eating disorder. I have no idea when I'm hungry anymore. I eat at set times of day, because I know I have more energy and am less cranky when I do that, but if I always stopped eating before I was full, well, that's what anorexia was for me. I didn't stop eating altogether. I just learned how to stop before I was full. (D'uh. I figured that one out when I was 12 and trying to stop my boobs from growing in.)
There are no good foods or bad foods - we simply want people to respond to their bodies God given signals of hunger and fullness. When someone is truly hungry, we want them to have the freedom to eat a healthy and balanced meal at that time.
They might have the freedom, but if there are no guidelines on food, people aren't generally going to pick a healthy and balanced meal, especially people with a history of metabolic abuse or binging. (Trust me, after days of stopping your meal before it has satisfied you, anybody would snap. At that moment, you don't want a health balanced meal. You want the entire Chinese buffet.) I have to say I can't see a discernible difference between peddling this as one half of your eating disorder/weight loss program and using the "think method" to teach trombone lessons. If people made good food choices when left to their own devices, we wouldn't have a national global obesity epidemic.
The spiritual principle of Thin Within comes into play because it is often hard for us to eat from a "0" to a "5" in our own strength. This is usually because we often eat as a response to being upset, excited, anxious nervous, depressed, lonely, etc.
Or because we're still hungry. Remember, stopping at a 5 means stopping before you're full. Unfortunately this "feel for it" guessing method requires a level of body-awareness many people do not have. I don't think anybody's obese because they want to be. Our foods are carefully designed* (by intelligent people) to abuse our evolutionary needs for fatty foods and carbohydrates. What's best is to eat regular, small meals throughout the day, and to try to avoid getting truly hungry, or to a "zero". It's better to eat nutrient-dense low calorie foods in large quantities than to eat low-nutrient high calorie foods like candy bars in small quantities. It's not always easy to do that, but that is the goal most healthy diets will model off of. (Peanut butter fiber bars awesome.)
At this point, we are no longer eating for physical nourishment, but we are creating a relationship with food and turning to it to provide us with a way of dealing with emotional and spiritual issues. We are no longer looking to food to provide us with just physical life, but spiritual life as well.
Emotions are not spiritual (they're emotional). And, ew, even as a believer, I never would have wanted food for "spiritual" issues. Clearly this Thin Within organization sees themselves as a weight loss group, so some of my complaints about how reckless this group would be for someone with a starving-type or calorie restricting-type eating disorder should be properly directed at Pat from I did not have the emotional love-affair with food all binge eaters are imagined by some to have. I pretty much avoided food until I was so hungry I inhaled it without even tasting, so this notion (of Pat's) that my problem comes from looking to food for "spiritual life" is just fractal wrongness.
While food may provide some level of comfort for a very short while, food cannot obviously provide us with spiritual life. Only a relationship with our Heavenly Father can accomplish that.
First sentence, true. Second sentence, so not true! There's the obvious problem that a spiritual life hasn't been defined, so I have to somewhat guess on the meaning intended here. I would guess that whatever definition Thin Within means when they say a spiritual life, it could include, or parallels, the spiritual life claims of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pantheists, Pagans, and Mormons. So "only a relationship with our dude" is just a baseless claim. (Yeah, we already knew that. But I like taking things apart, especially propaganda.)

Also, this is nothing more than the 12 step alcohol-for-meeting addiction swap. "Instead of having an imaginary and unhealthy (and ultimately unsatisfying) relationship with food, have one with our imaginary friend Jesus instead!"
Don't settle for another weight loss program that only deals with the numbers on a scale. Make an eternal change in both your body and spirit!
Anyone who is wanting to lose weight is wanting to lose numbers on the scale. "Don't settle for a program that addresses your actual goal!" Also, unless this group is Mormon and I didn't realize it, how do they expect to make an "eternal change" their bodies? (On a side note, I am completely cool with the idea of being a transhuman as long as the "me" in my gray matter gets to keep thinking and mucking about.)

So, after looking over Thin Within, and because she asked for my opinion, here's my reply to Pat.

Your response was impersonal and aimed at someone carrying around extra weight. Without knowing anything about my body type, you sent me to go "lose more weight". If you'd actually read the responses to the study that I entered, you'd realize that I'm a recovering anorexic and sending me to a weight loss website - Christian or otherwise - was extremely negligent behavior on your part.

I'm in a place of enough healing to tell you this. The next person you shamelessly and carelessly send to Thin Within (which I'm guessing gives your group a kickback for referrals?) may end up dead. Kudos to you for the complete lack of individual care you give for people you claim to be "counseling". This is why secular therapists are almost always better; they recognize that individual people need individual treatment, instead of prescribing the same rote verses over and over and over again. They *listen*.

Just so you know, I weigh less than 120 pounds and I'm a size 3. Do you still think that sending me to the online fat camp that worked for you is the best solution for MY issues with food?


Angie the Anti-Theist
What do you think - was I too nice?

*Yes that is a Conservapedia link. Sometimes the simplest way to find out if something is true is to see if Conservapedia calls it a lie, lol.