Thursday, September 29, 2005

why is super obesity worse than morbid obesity?

I am in a wonderful category called super obese. Now anyone would think that morbid obesity would be WORSE than super obesity, but it's not. Here's the breakdown by BMI:

  • Underweight under 20 (some sites say below 18.5)
  • Healthy weight 20 – 24.9 (some say 18.5-24.9)
  • Overweight 25 – 29.9
  • Obese 30 – 39.9
  • Morbidly obese 40 – 49.9
  • Super obese 50 and over

If you don't know your BMI, the CDC has an online BMI Calculator.

Here's some example of weights and what BMI they are. I have weighed all these in the last 15 years.
  • 5'4" 114 lbs 19.6 BMI underweight (I was still chubby--Met weight tables say 107 for me)
  • 5'4" 125 lbs 21.5 BMI healthy (My stomach stuck out, my arms were fat and saggy)
  • 5'4" 180 lbs 30.9 BMI Obese
  • 5'4" 255 lbs 43.8 BMI Morbidly Obese
  • 5'4" 316 lbs 54.2 BMI Super Obese
BTW, the 627 lb woman had a BMI of 105. The doctor who will do my surgery, if I ever get it, said he did a person who had a 90 BMI. At my height, that's 525 lbs. (Which I am no where near, BTW).

Now any logical person would think that being in the category above MORBID (meaning WILL KILL YOU) would instantly qualify you for surgery without all this bullshit about losing 14 lbs and seeing a skinny-for-her-whole-life shrink who calls you a liar. But no, I still need the fucking co-morbidities, and I just haven't got them.

I AM TOO HEALTHY TO GET BETTER. hahaha. Our society, our medical structure, is SO FUCKED UP it's not even funny.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

lost some weight, can't sleep

It's so hard to tell when my scale doesn't go up to what I weigh, and also because there's no button to adjust it back to zero when there's no one one it. It weighs 2-3 lbs heavy (needle is at that when no one's on it) and over its max weight I know it's not accurate. But it looks like I might have lost 5 pounds. With all the working out I've been doing, it's not impossible.
Last night I couldn't fall asleep. I stayed up to watch The Daily Show and then listened to Futurama. Usually I'm asleep halfway through the Daily Show's interview (but last night it was Viggo Mortensen--Aragorn from LOTR-- so you know I stayed awake for that). I just laid there. At 1:00 a.m. I got up, went to the bathroom and finished a novel I was reading, went back to bed at 2:00 a.m., took some Nyquil and still laid there. So I got less than 5 hours sleep, I have to work a full day 9-5 today and then workout for 2 hours. I am tired just thinking about it. It's not the first night lately this has happened.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

if you missed the 627lb woman or half-ton man shows.... (and South Park)

Finally found the Jackie's Story, 627 lb woman's listing in Discovery channel's site. They spelled it "627lb" with no space, which is incorrect, which is why I couldn't find it. Found it by searching for "Jackie" on the whole site.

  • Monday 10/03/05 10 p.m. on TLC
  • Tuesday 10/04/05 1 a.m. on TLC
Her story is worth watching. Not sure why they say she gets a hernia operation because the surgeon very clearly looks for a hernia and says she doesn't have one.

If you want to watch the half-ton man show, it's on again:
  • Sunday 10/02/2005 5 p.m. on TLC
  • Wednesday 10/12/2005 10:00 p.m. on TLC
  • Thursday 10/13/2005 1:00 a.m. on TLC
He is a nasty mean man, but his size and bulk are amazing.

This is NOT an aside: Do you watch South Park? The very first eposide I ever saw was the one where Cartman wins the environmental essay contest (by cheating) (Wendy: "Cartman doesn't know the difference between a rainforest and a Poptart!" Cartman:"Yes, I do--Poptarts are frosted!") and he bulks himself up with Weight Gain 4000 so he'll be beefcake on TV when he wins the prize. At the end, he's this pile of jelly on the bed saying something like "You too can achieve your dreams. Beefcake! Beefcake!" and he looks JUST like the 1027 lb guy. It is still one of my favorite eposides.

I am honestly not sure of the timezone so check your local cable tv guide. South Park is on every night at 9:30 on Comedy Central plus 10:00 on Wednesday.

kate moss is too skinny



She is too thin. She is not pretty. Why does everyone revere her? She was put up on a pedestal (literally) because of her too-thin (ugly IMHO) body. How does she keep it that way? DRUGS. Why is everyone surprised at this? Hmm.
I would NOT want to look like her. (For one thing, who wants to have a nipple hard-on all the time, the way she does in every picture? It's cuz she's so damn thin she's probably got no body fat & is always cold.)
And she's got nasty ratty hair. And she smokes, so she must smell bad.
Nice, real nice. This is NOT what I want to be when I grow up.

thinking about food & not living in the now

I think about food a lot. I spend more time thinking about food then I do eating.
Last night when I went home I had french bread pizza at 4:00, and then some popcorn, and finally several hours later (around 8:30), two s'mores (real ones) and some water.
I had my usual poptarts for breakfast (no tea, I don't feel that great today). I'm at work, bored, thinking, "in an hour and 15 minutes I get to go to lunch." I'm eating a mint because I have heartburn (thanks, hernia). And when I get out of lunch I'll think that it's 4 hours until go home and start thinking about what I'll do for dinner. In fact I am already doing that, can't you see?
It seems like lately everything I do I just want to get through it and to the next thing, like there's some goal I need to get to, but then at the end of the day what do I do? Read a novel, or sleep, or screw around online reading about stupid shit. I don't ever enjoy what I am doing. I am always thinking about what I will do next or how long until this thing I'm doing is done. Things I need to do, like sort bills and take care of my pets, I sometimes let slide, but I have nothing else PRESSING to do. I don't understand myself. It's like I want to fail at everything.

water & panic attacks

I love water. I love to be submerged up to my neck. I love to snorkel.
But I hate being wet. I hate coming out of the shower or the pool and dripping with my hair all heavy and sodden, and gravity kicking in and making me weigh 10x what I do while floating.
And I hate getting my face wet. No lie. I don't ever wash my face with water. Sometimes I use Seabreeze astringent on it, but never water.
I was thinking about this the other day as I was hopping in the pool, working out. In the laps lane they had swimming lessons going for little kids (can you feel my excitement?).
I took swimming lessons for many years as a child and failed every year until I refused to go back. Even as a tiny tot I did not want my face in that water. Because of that, the teachers would fail me. They would literally hold me under the water until I threw up, or throw me into the deep end, or push me off the high dive. And when I screamed and cried and freaked out, I was failed every year.
My mom says no one ever did any of that to me. Then how come I remember crying and being pushed off the diving board, not just at the YMCA, but also at the outdoor community pool? I remember coming up from the outdoor pool, having fell so hard I hit the bottom (which is pretty far down; the high dive is high up) and just puking everywhere, and the puke just floating there on the water (not cleaned up or anything) and everyone laughing at me.
The lady teaching swimming lessons doesn't do anything mean to the kids. In fact their parents are right there. In fact, most of them are screaming brats and STILL they are not tossed into the deep end or held underwater. Amazing.
But now, 30+ years later, if I even get splashed in the face, I feel ill. I hate the feeling of water up my nose or over my eyes. It was a trial to learn to snorkel because originally I had a cheap mask and it leaked, and when the water ran down my cheeks inside the mask I would have something very like a panic attack. I have had panic attacks snorkeling IN A POOL in waist deep water. It's not about the depth of the water at all--with a good leak-proof mask I am fine in the ocean at 20 feet deep. It's not about not being able to breathe (I find it very comfortable to breath through the snorkel). It's not even about not being able to see (which I can just fine with a mask on). It's about water on my face.
How can I overcome this inane fear?

Monday, September 26, 2005

what I ate since Saturday

Hmm. Yesterday I had some homemade chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. I like to make them tiny so I feel like I've eaten a lot more than I did. (The things we do to fool ourselves--I also put them on a tiny plate.) I would say I ate 8-10 1" cookies. And a large cup of tea with organic milk and splenda.
For lunch I had a big fat juicy hamburger (maybe 1/3 lb); threw away most of the bun. And some nice crispy fries. Heinz ketchup. And 2 1/2 glasses of ginger ale (not diet; I hate diet ginger ale). I was at a party at a bar. And then I split a small slice of peanut butter cup pie with my husband, and also had a glass of water.
For dinner I had popcorn, 2/3 cup unpopped so however much that it popped. Or maybe it's 2/4, not sure what size that measuring cup is, but it was 2 scoops. Popped in soy oil and topped with less than a TB butter, salt and pepper. 1 small glass diet soda ("diet soda" always means: caffeine free diet pepsi, and "tea" always includes organic lowfat milk and splenda, lipton brand black tea).


Saturday night I had homemade pizza. I made 1 1/2 doughs and made 2 pizzas out of them, so each pizza has 75% of the dough it should, and I ate 3/4 of my pizza, so 75% of 75% is about 1/2 a pizza, with green peppers, an assortment of cheese, and a tiny amount of sausage (1/4 cup--on the whole pizza).
For lunch Saturday I had a sausage grinder, parmesan cheese, only ate 1/2 the bread, with water. Then I had some popcorn at the movies, with 1/2 a bottle of diet caffeine-free Pepsi. I did not have breakfast Saturday.

For breakfast today I had pop tarts (s'mores, 2 tarts which is one foil packet) and 1/2 cup of tea.
I know I won't have lunch; I have therapy and then working out and by then it will be almost dinner time.

I eat like a child; I know that. What I am trying to point out is that I also don't eat much more than a child.
I'm not going to get slavish about posting my food here, but I will for a few days.

627 pound woman, half ton man

Last night was evidently fat people night on TV. Not sure now which channel it was on: TLC or Discovery Health, but they had 2 shows in a row on obese people.
The first one was very sad, Jackie's Story, the 627 pound woman. Her panniculus (the stomach fat that hangs down) was past her knees, and it was truly enormous. It was like another person in her bed with her. She couldn't even roll over it was so big. She said it was a hernia. When they were taking her to the hospital to get her bariatric surgery, she couldn't even get into a van without help. I forget how many years it had been since she left her bedroom.
When the doctor was doing her surgery they showed him sticking his WHOLE ARM into the panniculus looking for the hernia, and there was none. It was just all fat. When she woke up she thought that it would be gone and she was upset. She ended up getting really sick, getting malnourished, having to be in the hospital for 100 days. I think when it ended she was down to around 400 lbs.
She had been chubby her whole life and then something happened to her, some medicine or medical procedure, and she gained 125 or 150 pounds in a just a few months. WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE HELP HER THEN? She was living alone, unable to leave her BED much less her room, with some kind of nurse's aid coming in to help her every day.
Then they had on the half ton man. He weighed 1079 pounds. His wife married him when he weighed 700 lbs. They've never had sex. She said she gave him whatever he wanted because she felt bad that he couldn't leave the house. At one point she was saying that she gave him soda (not diet) because he couldn't keep down water. That's bullshit. He seemed like a real asshole. I had zero sympathy for him. After the surgery, a local news show was interviewing him, asking how much he ate before surgery (the doctors estimated 12,000 calories a day--most people eat around 1,000-3,000) with the camera panning the trash can full of pizza boxes, and before his wife could answer he went off on the interviewer screaming that it was genetic and he hardly ate anything. His wife wouldn't look at the camera. The doctors honestly thought that once he got home he'd graze his way back up to 1,000 lbs and die. He was literally days from death via congestive heart failure when they brought him in. They had to take the wall down to get him out of the bedroom, and move him in a sling made to transport orcas--and it wasn't large enough.
He was complaining after the surgery that he could only eat 1 oz of food every 20 minutes and sometimes he'd throw it up. Well if he ate so sparingly before, why should he be counting morsels of food and minutes elapsed?? At the end of the show he was down to 499 pounds and he still barely fit through a doorway.
They also briefly showed another guy, who had lost over 700 pounds and was famous for it, and how he's fat again, went to a special fat-farm for morbidly obese people, and left it, and refused to go back. They showed a woman who'd lost hundreds of pounds with help from Richard Simmons, and the doctors said she would backslide.
A section of the show was on addiction, and the doctors said that all addicts lie about their drug. They showed a study done on brains of addicts (coke, crack, food) and the same areas of the brain were affected. Addicts have less dopamine receptors so it takes more and more of the drug of choice (which releases dopamine) to get that same high, and somehow the dopamine receptors keep going away, so it's a losing battle. BUT they also said exercise builds NEW dopamine receptors so maybe there's hope for me yet.
Unfortunately I can't find any links on Discovery.com to information on these shows. I will keep looking. I want to know what happened to Jackie.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I don't want to know

Had more accupuncture yesterday. All the needles hurt. I hate it when that happens. Bad enough to recline there feeling/looking like a porcupine, not knowing if this is bullshit or ancient wisdom, but to add in PAIN? Ick.
Finally found the bottle of week 4 tonic. Will mix tonight, start tomorrow. To recap:

  • Week one: food and OCD
  • Week two: Money anxieties
  • Week three: Anger and abandonment issues

Just heard a song on the radio, a kind of sad one. "Even though I know/I don’t want to know/Yeah I guess I know/I just hate how it sounds" I think it's probably about someone being cheated on, but that's how I am about my health & my weight.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

smokers

I have bad habits. I'm not disputing that. But I can only hope my bad habits don't gross other people out.

Yesterday I was walking through a parking lot and someone had left all their car windows open. I would never do that, but that's just me. Anyway, when I walked by this car, it STUNK of cigarettes. (I'd like to think that's why they had the windows open, but anyone who smokes that much probably has no sense of smell left.) It was really a disgusting smell. And I know that smokers can't smell themselves.

I was recently talking to a woman who's quitting smoking, and she was appalled when she realized her clothes stink, her home stinks. She had on a beautiful amber necklace, and it smelled of cigarettes so badly that she had to take it off and put it in a bag. And amber can't be washed (as a resin, it will melt eventually). I suggested that she hang it in her bathroom and burn a lot of good-smelling incense and re-smoke it with a better smell. (Sometimes I do that with my clothes, which don't smell of cigarettes but sometimes are stale from being in the basement where the laundry area is.)

I've probably said this before, in the winter, but if I had to stand up, outside in the rain and snow and heat and cold, to eat, I'd be skinny. If it became illegal for me to eat at work and in bars and restaurants, I'd be skinny. I cannot imagine the addiction. I don't want to imagine it.

Terrible thunder/lightning, signing off now.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

2+ hour workout

I started at the new gym yesterday. I did my 1 hour pliometrics workout, then 9 minutes of stretching and by then it was almost time for the water aerobics class to start, so I took that too; that was 50 more minutes of hopping. Got into the pool at 5:05, got out at 7:25.

My style of working out is to go slowly and do each movement perfectly. This goes back to when I was thin and did Nautilus every day. 10 perfect, slow reps are better than 100 fast, sloppy ones. And you're less likely to get hurt. When I do the pliometrics I'm the same way. I concentrate on my form. Are my elbows going behind my mid-line? Are my shoulders down and back? Is my abdomen clenched around the "ball" in my tan tien? Are my feet landing gently as if on a sponge? Am I breathing through my mouth? Am I drifting or staying in place?

And my PT is all about form also. In our last (freezing) outdoor workout she stayed on the pool deck and just studied and corrected my form.

So then I take this water aerobics class. A long time ago, when I was thinner (but not thin), I took water aerobics at a different gym. So I'm not a beginner, plus it's been 2 months that I've been doing the pliometrics.

What a shock. No instruction. Just a brief description-do this with your hands, do this with your legs--and everyone was off. Go faster, go faster. No one cared about form. I wanted to ask questions because some of the exercises didn't even make sense, but it wasn't that kind of class. Everyone just splashed and hopped furiously. I tried to attempt one exercise and did something to the back of my leg- a cramp so bad it still hurts today, as if I'd sprained it. I know it was because of bad form, but I wasn't given good instructions. I watched others but everyone seemed to do it differently.

So my Wednesday night workouts are going to be this dual thing with pliometrics & aerobics, and my Monday/Friday afternoons will just be the pliometrics. So I'll be doing about 4-5 hours a week in the pool.

What sucks is that it's a chlorine pool.
I got spoiled by the Pristine Blue pool I've been using. All I can smell on my skin is bleach. And that's AFTER a shower. ICK. Someone said salt will pull out the chlorine so I'll have to go back to using my salt scrub at night. And I have to coat my hair with leave-in conditioner so I don't get green hair. Sigh.

BUT IT'S A POOL. How can I complain? Only $30 a month too.

What I will miss about being fat

Being able to float vertically with my arms down and legs together and still have my shoulders and head totally out of the water.

Having an excuse to be lazy.

Never being hit on in person.

and there was another thing...it'll come back to me...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

4 phases of life

My ND put me on these remedies that are supposed to bring me through the 4 stages of life/developement. Each one is 1 week.
The first week, I was very aware of food and food issues, especially my father's OCD around food and how it influences my own eating habits and please god, don't say I'm as bad as he is.
The 2nd week, I was very aware of debt and lack of money and abundance issues--it seemed that every other commercial on the radio or online was debt reduction (which I need! )
This is week 3. I thought it would be anxiety, but I've progressed into anger and also abandonment issues. Maybe it's just things beginning with A. Why can't I feel adored then? Adored and alive?
Let's see what week 4 brings.
And then I repeat the stages, over and over, until all the remedy is finished.

Do you hear me? Do you care?

I'm so fed up. I'm so tired. Tired of fighting, tired of trying, tired of being ignored, of having my heart broken over and over by people who claim to care about me, but they don't even listen to me when I talk.

I can make a request in a quiet, polite tone of voice, or I can issue an order like a bitch. I can cry. I can beg. I can email. I can phone.

The silence is deafening.

But when I do sit home alone and cry, like I'm doing now, I'm being self-indulgent. Damn straight. Is someone else going to indulge me? Surely not. Not those who can't respond to an email or return a phone call or even give voice after hearing (no, not hearing) a request.

I had plans with my best friend next Wednesday. These are long-standing monthly plans, the 2nd Wednesday of every month. She mentioned in passing today that she's getting a spa treatment instead because she "forgot all about" our plans. And she can't reschedule because she's got a whole line of plans with other people for the next few weeks on any day I'm available.

Do you hear me? Do you care?

My husband agreed that, to save money, he won't order alcohol anymore when we go out to eat. Our last bill had $12 for 2 tiny beers on it. Bullshit. I told him to buy a 12 pack and drink at home. Where is he tonight? He said he was having "a quick beer" after school....2 hours ago...which turned into "dinner and drinks" and when I reminded him of our agreement about no alcohol on the credit card, he got sullen and pissed off.

We had an end-of-summer party; I invited 50 people. Six came. Most didn't even bother to respond to the invitation. It was a no-alcohol party and someone showed up drunk after being told NO DRINKING.

Do you hear me? Do you care?

I'm trying to find a better job. I send out resumes every week. I don't even get a politely worded no thanks, no matter how utterly qualified I am and how much of a work of art my cover letter was. It can't be cuz of my weight; they haven't seen me or interviewed me.

Do you hear me? Do you care?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

articles on "Starved"

both from CNN.Com on August 4, 2005

Is there appetite for eating disorders sitcom?
By Neil Osterweil
Medpage Today Senior Associate Editor
Friday, August 5, 2005; Posted: 8:03 a.m. EDT (12:03 GMT)

NEW YORK (MedPage Today) -- Take 1: the FX network's new comedy series "Starved" is an audacious but ultimately fond and respectful look at Americans' obsessions with eating, dieting, and body image.

Take 2: "Starved" is a tasteless, exploitive travesty that mocks people with serious, life-threatening eating disorders.

Even before the show's debut (tonight at 10 pm ET), critical opinions on Starved have been all over the map.

" 'Starved' just might be the most repulsive show to hit the airwaves this year," wrote the Boston Herald's TV critic, while his crosstown rival at the Boston Globe called the program both "offensive" and "sick," but also "funny, poignant, and culturally relevant."

The New York Times' opinion came down squarely in the middle, saying that "it's not quite funny enough."

FX, a network that is building a reputation on edgy programs, has this to say about tonight's pilot episode:

"Four New Yorkers -- Sam, Billie, Adam and Dan -- struggle with various eating disorders and lean on each other for support. The friends attend Belttighteners, a radical support group that takes an unconventional, harsh approach to recovery. To Billie's horror, Sam secretly tries to mold his date into a woman from a sultry TV commercial. Adam continues to shake down deliverymen for their food and Dan struggles with his decision for gastric bypass surgery."

Lynn Grefe, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has previewed the pilot, and gives it two thumbs way, way down. Grefe said that watching a program that spoofs people with eating disorders is like watching a comedy set on a cancer ward.

"I can't imagine doing this same thing with leukemia or any other serious, potentially life-threatening illness," Grefe said in an interview. "We know of the millions of people affected in this country by eating disorders. Families are losing their homes and depleting their life savings and their retirement accounts to pay for treatment because insurance rarely pays for treatment as it's necessary. So I don't see anything funny about this."

Grefe, whose organization has called for a boycott of "Starved," says that portraying people with anorexia and bulimia as buffoonish characters trivializes the diseases and makes serious disorders sound like lifestyle choices.

A psychiatrist who sees firsthand how eating disorders can disrupt lives agrees.

"I guess the question is how much does this program glamorize these very serious disorders, make them appear to be appealing disorders where in fact they're not at all. People with eating disorders are desperate and unhappy and often not functioning very well, and there's nothing glamorous about it." said Dr. Walter H. Kaye, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh's Western Psychiatric Institute, in an interview.

"Starved" creator and star Eric Schaeffer, who says that he has been fighting food addictions for 22 years, told CNN that "laughter is the best medicine. I know from my recovery in all areas of addiction that humor is a tremendously, tremendously important antidote to recovery."

But Sandra Fischbein, a psychotherapist who counsels patients with eating disorders and is herself a recovered bulimic tells CNN that "Starved" is "trivializing behavior that ends up killing people in this country and all over the world."

Making light of the dark is an old tradition in entertainment. Even Shakespeare got into the act in "Romeo and Juliet," when he had the mortally wounded Mercutio uttering "ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man," as his life ebbs away.

But having a laugh at someone else's expense is an equally ancient if sometimes cruel custom.

"In the vulgar shows of our own times we find the lower instincts taking the upper hand," wrote psychiatrist Dr. Boris Sidis in his 1913 treatise The Psychology of Laughter. Noting that audiences of his day would laugh uproariously at slapstick violence on stage, he wrote that "the pain is regarded by the audience as slight and insignificant, although the abused person may regard the matter in a very different light. In fact, the more important the insignificant matter is considered by the person the more ridiculous the whole performance appears."

Today we laugh at the bluster and bombast of a Paulie Walnuts on "The Sopranos" while we cringe at his brutality and ruthlessness, and we chuckle at the mordant wit of the dysfunctional family of funeral directors on "Six Feet Under" as they pretty-up corpses for public display before burial. Both "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" air on HBO, which like CNN are owned by Time Warner.

So are psychiatrists and advocates for people with eating disorders taking themselves too seriously? Maybe, but they're not the first to find the content of a TV series objectionable.

Italian-American groups, for example, have been vocal in their opposition to the unflattering portrayals of Tony and Carmela Soprano and other people of Italian heritage, "At least being Italian won't kill you," Grefe says.

According to the NEDA, nearly 10 million American women suffer from anorexia or bulimia as do one million men, and another 25 million people suffer from some type of binge-eating disorder.

Part of the pathology of eating disorders is driven by societal pressures. Television simultaneously satirizes the desire to be thin - as it does in "Starved," and Kirstie Alley's Showtime "mock-documentary" "Fat Actress" -- and serves up heapin' helpins' of rail-thin eye-candy in the forms of the sleek, flab-free bodies on Fox's "The OC" and ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

"The media definitely has an influence on people with eating disorders," says Dr. Thomas Weigel, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who also treats patients with eating disorders at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

"There was a study on Fiji; before TV it was actually valued to be somewhat overweight or obese, and after they got TV, a couple of years later people started to develop eating disorders," Weigel says

But Weigel also notes that there can be an upside to programs such as "Starved," or at least to the controversy surrounding it.

"With the recent Terry Schiavo case, we got a lot of good press about eating disorders," he says, "in that people started to pay attention to the idea that someone with an eating disorder could die from it, that it was an important illness, and I think something like that actually helped awareness of eating disorders."


A comedy about eating disorders?
'Starved' pushes the line with concept


Thursday, August 4, 2005; Posted: 11:54 p.m. EDT (03:54 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- "Starved" feeds on the culture's jangled issues about food, in shockingly funny ways.

Invading an area we might have thought off-limits to TV comedy, this new scripted series uses actors with actual eating disorders to find uneasy humor in the plight of four fictional characters plagued by self-starvation, obesity and bulimia.

One of the characters is Billie, a young if hard-bitten aspiring singer who is also a recovering anorexic.

"I had this idea," she tells the support group she frequents with her three comrades, "that if I weighed my laxatives like I weigh my food, I might be able to keep them to a manageable amount."

Thus does "Starved" nail the mind games so many of us play with our health and body image. And not just those of us diagnosable as addicts. The series (which premieres 10 p.m. Thursday on FX) should ring true for anyone who ever spoke of eating as "a guilty pleasure," dabbled in fad diets or looked to the bathroom scales for self-approval.

"Food is the most basic forum for discussing things like love and the absence of love; how we hurt ourselves and how we heal ourselves," says Laura Benanti, who plays Billie.

As it happens, Benanti knows firsthand. Now 26, she's a veteran performer whose first Broadway show was "The Sound of Music" at 18, followed by another musical called "Swing!" where, surrounded by rail-thin dancers, she concluded: "I'm fat."

Eating almost nothing and working out ferociously, she took off 25 pounds during the show's run. At 5-feet-8, she hit 106 pounds. By then her hair was falling out.

Since getting help, Benanti has held her weight at 125, and stayed busy in theater and films. Now, as she sinks her teeth into this all-too-familiar role, she marvels how "our inability to live with food in a healthy way is so indicative of how we feel on the inside: how lonely or sad or scared."

'Most people ... have some kind of challenge'

Billie is the sole female among the four friends who are battling a condition commonly associated with young women. But that's not the only way "Starved" defies our expectations.

As another twist, just one of the friends is genuinely overweight: Dan, played by Del Pentecost. A writer by trade, he's a compulsive overeater who snacks on doughnuts by the dozen and, at the diner with his chums, swallows four breakfasts in the time it takes Billie to worry down her carrot.

But now meet Adam (played by Sterling K. Brown). Looking anything but sick, he's an NYPD cop with a chiseled, buff physique. He's also a closet bulimic.

Completing the foursome is Sam, a narcissistic commodities broker who is recovering from anorexia and compulsive overeating.

"It's so weird how I can look really quite devastatingly handsome and thin, and also extremely fat, all at the same time," Sam observes to Billie as he inspects himself in a mirror at his gym. To the outside world, of course, he looks like neither: He's rather ordinary in appearance.

Sam is played by Eric Schaeffer, who also created "Starved" and wrote and directed all seven half-hours.

Schaeffer, a New York-based filmmaker-actor whose credits include "My Life's in Turnaround" and "If Lucy Fell," explains that the series sprang from his desire "to do something in the area of addiction. Alcoholism and drug addiction was too specific but most people, I thought, have some kind of challenge in their relationship with food."

These people include him, as he readily concedes between scenes at the Brooklyn loft where most of the interiors were shot.

"Basically not an hour goes by in my life that I'm not preoccupied with food," says Schaeffer (5-feet-8 and 155 pounds) -- "with what I can eat, when I can eat it, have I eaten too much of something, bargaining with myself, rationalizing: If I work out a certain amount, am I allowed a reward of a certain kind of food."

His special reward: those yummy little Nemo's chocolate cakes, which he craves as much as the character he plays.

In the opening scene, Sam wrestles with himself over this fetish food. Already he had sprinkled household cleanser on his latest stash to keep himself from eating it, then tossed it in his building's garbage chute. But he can't resist. He races to the basement, where he retrieves his cake from a trash can and, whisking off the detergent as best he can, scarfs it down.

Gross. And hilarious.

"I have to write from my experience," says Schaeffer, 43, who has liberally drawn on his experience with eating disorders. "If I wasn't a member of the club, I don't think it would be as funny, or that I would feel as authorized to look at it with humor."

"It took a lot of courage for Eric to put it on paper," says Brown, who adds with a chuckle, "It's a pretty extreme kind of show."

'I'm very body-conscious'

Brown is a 29-year-old St. Louis native who had a recurring role on NBC's "Third Watch." Now he's playing another cop, one whose technique for on-the-job purging includes jabbing at his stomach with his police baton.

Brown says that, unlike Adam, "I don't purge. But I think there are a lot of points of entry for me to connect with the guy.

"I'm very body-conscious," he explains, then recounts that morning's particularly tough training session. He was preparing for a scene where he would take his shirt off. But fearing he would somehow pudge out if he ate anything, he decided to skip food until after his scene was shot.

"Different shapes and sizes, man," sighs Brown, summing up the range of people with food issues.

"I'm obsessed with food, and I didn't realize it until I started on this show," says Pentecost, who estimates his current weight at 300 pounds after maxing out at 400. "I've been married 17 years, so my fantasies aren't so much sexual in nature anymore. But my wife," he laughs suggestively, "makes a great apple pie."

The 41-year-old actor, who began bulking up as a 190-pound high school football lineman back in Haltom City, Texas, has appeared in the ABC miniseries "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital" and the features "Coyote Ugly" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

"I've been in more than one commercial as the fat screaming fan in the stands," he adds.

But doesn't playing Dan -- a character both defined by and at war with his obesity -- hit painfully close to home?

"At first I thought it might," Pentecost replies. "But the honesty of the show actually makes it kind of freeing." Besides, salvation could be on the way. He hopes that if there's a second season for "Starved," maybe his character will get to slim down.

"I would love for them to say, 'We're picked up for more episodes and Dan will be 50 pounds lighter -- let's do it!' That would be great."

new show on FX: starved

There's a new sitcom on FX (a network I don't usually watch) called Starved about eating disorders. I think there's been 4 episodes; I've seen 3 (I was on vacation and I don't know if they are re-run the same week).

I read about it online, before it started, and how controversial it is. I guess some bigwigs think it's impolite to mock eating disorders while others think it's great to get visibility for such problems as adults with anorexia and men with bulimia.

There are 4 main characters, who attend a sadistic weight-loss support group called "Belt Tighteners":

  • Sam is a white guy who eats chocolate cake out of the trash. He's not fat; just an average normal guy. He is addicted to these "Nemo" chocolate cakes and also has an obsession with a red-haired actress from a candy commercial. (She is naked except for her hair and red sneakers, a certain reference to Lady Godiva, or Godiva's chocolates, but the company on the show is called something else.) I believe the guy who plays Sam also writes the show.
  • Billie is a lesbian singer who is anorexic and also an alcoholic. She secretly sleeps with men. She weighs all her food.
  • Dan is the fat guy you'd expect this show to be about. He keeps cancelling his appointments to get bariatic surgery, and is full of self-loathing which drives him to eat more and more.
  • Adam is a bulimic cop who stops delivery men on false pretenses so he can get food as a bribe for fixing tickets, and then vomits into back alleys. He's the token black guy also.

Correction; after visiting the web site, there's been 5 eposides and I missed 2. There's a description of eposide 6 but I know I didn't miss last weeks; so I'm guess that's this week's.
I find the show to be both funny and sad, and kind of a relief. You know, "At least I've never eaten chocolate cake out of the garbage" "At least I don't make myself throw up" "at least I don't liquify pepperoni pizzas and drink them" "At least I don't drink until I pass out and forget hurting my best friend by fucking his woman"

I guess I have a lot of sympathy for the characters even if their behavior is extreme compared to mine. If what Sam & Adam have is binging, I so don't have that, don't do that. I have never asked someone to lock up my food and then broken in to eat it. I have never hidden in a men's gay sex toilet to learn to vomit silently. (If you've seen that eposide, you will wonder, like I do, what they did with Darrel Hammond's cool character.)

Since the two CNN.com articles about the show don't come up anymore, the text of them is in the next post.

back on topic: fat as ever

I've been feeling pretty good about myself. The swelling in my leg is way down; it's maintaining at about 1/2 to 2/3 the usual swelling from the past. I've been working out 1-3x a week, an hour or so at a time in the pool and I'm about to join a gym with a heated deep-water pool to progress into a more advanced workout. My stomach is farther from the steering wheel. I had some accupuncture last week and I told me ND all this and said that I was afraid to weigh myself when I felt so good.
And I was right to be afraid: As of yesterday morning, I am still at my maximum fucking weight. Yeah maybe I've grown some muscle or whatever, but the 14# I need to lose for surgery are not based on fat weight vs muscle weight; they are 100% scale weight.
I was thinking about calling that damn shrink who hates me, but if I haven't lost the 14# there is no use; I'm not qualified to get the surgery without them even if she does change her mind about me being an out-of-control binge eater.

it's about time...

Other nations are finally stepping up to the plate. But if you read between the lines in this CNN.com article, you'll see that the US hasn't accepted all of it-it's just "offered"
Here's the list:

  • Nigeria has pledged $1 million
  • China offered $5 million in aid .... also rescue workers, including medical experts
  • Japan has offered to provide $200,000 to the American Red Cross.....also...up to $300,000 in emergency supplies...if it receives requests
  • India is making a $5 million donation to the American Red Cross
  • The Singapore armed forces, responding to requests by the Texas Army National Guard, has sent three Chinook helicopters
  • South Korea awaits a U.S. response after pledging aid,
  • Afghanistan pledged $100,000
  • Sri Lanka will donate $25,000
  • Taiwan has pledged more than $3 million
  • Canada has offered to help in any way it can, and its navy is preparing a ship full of emergency disaster relief supplies to be sent when a request comes
  • Cuban President Fidel Castro offered to fly 1,100 doctors to Houston, Texas, with 26 tons of medicine to treat disaster victims (CASTRO?! WTF!)
  • Mexico has offered $1 million and is sending 15 truckloads of water, food and medical supplies via Texas. The Mexican navy has offered to send two ships, two helicopters and 15 amphibious vehicles.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the United States, offered to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area.
  • Australia is giving $10 million
  • France has offered (a shitload of stuff, read the article for details; again, doesn't say it was ACCEPTED)
  • Germany has offered a range of assistance
  • Italy has offered to send aid and evacuation specialists....They were awaiting word from U.S. officials
  • The Netherlands will provide teams for inspecting dikes and for identifying victims if there is a formal request from the United States. It also will send a frigate from Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles to New Orleans shortly to provide emergency assistance, the Dutch government said.
  • Russia has offered to help with rescue efforts but is awaiting a reply from Washington
  • Spain expects to receive a formal request to release gasoline stocks
  • Sweden's Rescue Authority said it was on standby to supply water purifying equipment, health care supplies and emergency shelters if needed.
  • Tony Blair has said his country stands ready to help the United States in whatever way it can.
  • Qatar has offered the United States $100 million ($100 MILLION?!)
  • Iran has offered to send humanitarian aid to hurricane victims
the US helps everyone; are we going to be too fucking proud to accept help from others, now that it's finally being offered?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina

I can't focus on myself right now. I keep going back to CNN like a dog to its vomit, and just crying. It's awful. And are any other countries coming to help us? No. That pisses me off. If this was happening in France or some other country in Europe, America would be over there with planeloads of food and bottled water and medicine. The Queen sent her regrets. Send some of your money, you rich old bag! The only country I've read about who offered aid was Venezuala; their leader is the very man who nutcase Pat Robertson said the US gov't should eliminate a few weeks ago.

I have no money to send. I have no stamina to go and help. I'd send stuff-clothes, books, food--but these people are on the streets, stuffed into convention centers and sports arenas. There's no distribution system in place for stuff yet.

I'm worried about the zoo animals, and the aquarium there. I saw a post by a girl who left her cat behind and she wanted someone to go save it, and I just wept for her. No one will go save her cat. They aren't even saving people anymore.