Tuesday, August 19, 2008

everyone's a little disordered... sometimes.

"Can I start you folks off with a plate of our famous guacamole?"
"No, thanks, I think we're all set to order.  Honey, why don't you start."
The gaze shifts to the 9-year-old girl sitting in the back corner of the 6-top booth.  She apprehensively peers around her grandparents at me and immediately shifts her eyes back to the menu.  "Umm," she began, then took a stalling sip of her Diet Pepsi.  "I think I want the Original Steak Fajitas, but I have a question."
"Sure!  Shoot!"  I could feel her discomfort, but there was something more than just a fear of speaking to strangers.  I focused on her, curious.
She continued, slowly, "Is there a lot of fat on the steak?"
I felt my face twitch in an oddly questioning manor; I tend to have a difficult time controlling my facial reactions.  "No, there's no fat on the steak at all.  It's a great cut," I answered, putting my server-face back on.
"You also get your choice of beans with that: refried or black?"
"Which ones are better for you?" she directed at her mother across the table.
"Okay, I'll have the black."

I took the rest of the family's orders, snapped my notebook shut, and shuffled off to a POS.

The thought of the little girl remained in my mind.  I was a little picky-eater once upon a time, too.  So was a girl I grew up with and she doesn't have an eating disorder, now.  A lot of kids are picky eaters.  A lot of people are picky eaters, or have strange habits, disordered habits, even.

My radar is always on for little red flags like that.  I can't help it; I've lived it for so long.  But, like I talked about in my post about whether or not to take a stance when a huge red flag is raised, how can you ever actually know what is going on with someone?  When is it even considered "disordered" or even "worrisome," for that matter.  What if this was your own child?  I suppose that would be different..

At one of my appointments with the nutritionist in Walden Residential, I fought my right to use a straw in order to get my daily fluids down easier.  She told me that the use of straws was against the program's rules because it was a "behavior."  I didn't understand why. It wasn't a behavior I ever used, it was just easier to get liquid down with a straw and if they wanted me to stay hydrated, it would be a fine idea.  "'Normal' people don't use straws," she said.
"They use them every day.  What about in restaurants?  You can't get a drink without a straw in restaurants."
"Well, yeah, but that's just restaurants.  I mean, people don't keep them in their houses; they don't use them at home."
"Yes, they do.  My mom keeps them in her house, my friends have them, I keep them in my apartment.. why else would they sell them in the supermarket?"
"Well," she started to get defensive, "everyone has a little bit of an eating disorder."  End of session.

Doesn't that make every everyone's "somewhat" disordered patterns "normal"?

I hate when I become confused by my own blog entries..


Less Than Anonymous said...

I get it, sometimes doctors almost make it easy for ED to rationalize stuff like the straw thing.
When all of our habits become normal than it's so easy to just say 'hey they can do it so i can too' and honestly some 'behaviors' are just common sense.
in tx a friend and i we're stuck on a certain level for 3 days more than we were supposed to be because we didn't just bite into the huge muffins they gave us and instead ripped pieces off.

behaviors are something that constantly got to me cause i was never certain what was bad and what was ya know normal
ugh, damn you and your ability to clusterfluck me

Cammy said...

I was DEFINITELY a "picky eater" as a kid, but never in a health-conscious way. I was the kid only recognized two edible types of food: oatmeal cream pies and mac & cheese. I was never worried about food in terms of my body image, though. I am so sad for the girl that you saw in the restaurant, it is really disturbing when such young kids show red flags like that.

I do think that it's normal for some kids to be selective and have limited food repertoires, but in my case I know that having the history of being a picky eater definitely helped "get away" with my ED until I had lost a really drastic amount of weight. My parents were used to me being difficult about food, but I had always been healthy, so it took a while for them to catch on that all of the sudden I wasn't refusing dinner and then snacking later, that I was just plain refusing food. I guess there is always the potential for a "quirk" to develop into something more serious, but the context of behaviors is important, too. It's normal for a nine year old to be picky about their food because they don't "like" something, not so normal for a kid to base their choices on how much fat is in a serving.

I know tons of people that drink out of straws at home, by the way!

Marste said...

Well, the girl's question about the beans pretty much confirms the reason she was asking about the fat on the steak, but FWIW, even as a kid, I couldn't stand fatty meat. It just tasted gross to me; it still does, actually. So sometimes it's hard to tell what is disordered and what isn't.

(And ironically, my disorder later in life was not anorexia, but binge eating. I never did binge on fatty meat though, because I still thought it was gross. LOL)

Anonymous said...

I recently became a "straw convert" because I am a Diet Dr. Pepper addict and wanted to ameliorate the potential of "acid-wear" damage to my teeth. The dentist, and the popular press, frequently recommend people use a straw.

Once one patient uses a behavior that becomes a *behavior* (issue, "rule," obsession, ritual, compulsion, problem) at a treatment center, the center then institutes its own rule banning even benign habits of eating, living, existing.

People with eating disorders can create pathology out of practically anything b/c there's such an element of anxiety, rigidity, compulsivity, magical thinking. Facilities then become part of the cycle of perpetuating "rule-thinking."

Only on ED units do they denounce napkins, trimming fat from meat, *require* that patients lick the bowl, prohibit common food combinations or the use of condiments, demonize "health food" and glorify "junk food," eschew ice as if the root of all evil, and make people eat food that falls on the floor (b/c, of course, it could have "accidentally fallen" vs. really dropped).

They say you can go back to those normal things when your behavior is normalized, but they continue to be viewed with suspicion ... forever.

Kathy with a K said...

I could cry. Now, I'm more than a little hormonal right now, however a nine year old asking questions about the fat content of her fajitas is just sad. You know it doesn't stop there with her. She's on her way.

oh, and straws as "behavior"? Give me a break. Sounds like Psychologists with too much time and a love of labeling.

Anonymous said...

That little girl in the restaurant just sent a shiver down my spine. I would like to slap the mom in her face, honestly. I hate how this society makes kids worry so much about their weight and what they eat, I think that is why we have an eating disorder epidemic (in eating disorders, I include obesity; no one weighs 400 pounds unless they've got a serious problem).

And about normalcy... oh, yeah. When I "went out into the world" after (or rather, in) my recovery I tried to look at what other people was eating so I could copy their eating habits. Turns out not a single woman out there ate normally. They pick at their one-potato-for-dinner and eat 4 desserts instead. Right now, I've got about one friend who hasn't got an eating disorder. Every girl I know skips meals and purges to stay slim, or become slim. It's scary and frustrating and I pretty much gave up on eating normally and relapsed.