May 27, 2015

Kesha's Eating Disorder Battle

Kesha revealed the pressure of her career began to lead to an eating disorder. "I convinced myself that being sick, being skinny, was part of my job," the pop star writes.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs,” she recently told Vogue in an interview. “It’s been quite a journey. [With the criticism about my body], I went to a dark place.”

As a teenager with a budding pop career, Kesha sought to be different by talking about sex and drinking but felt that gender stereotypes led people to believe she was a "train wreck" rather than a rock & roll star. That's when she gave in to outside pressures.

"The music industry has set unrealistic expectations for what a body is supposed to look like, and I started becoming overly critical of my own body because of that," she wrote in Elle. "I felt like people were always lurking, trying to take pictures of me with the intention of putting them up online or printing them in magazines and making me look terrible. I became scared to go in public, or even use the Internet. I may have been paranoid but I also saw and heard enough hateful things to fuel that paranoia."

“Slowly but surely my self esteem [started to] deteriorate,” she told Vogue magazine. Although she knew that she was harming her body by not eating, she admits, “The worse it got, the more positive feedback I was getting. Inside I was really unhappy, but outside, people were like, ‘Wow, you look great.’”

"I had been abusing my body," she wrote. "I just wasn't giving it the energy it needed to keep me healthy and strong." “There was a lot of not eating – and I started to think being hungry to the point of feeling almost faint was a positive thing."

Her mother told that she watched her beautiful, self-confident, brilliant daughter be berated and ridiculed for her looks and weight to the point that she almost died. "The doctors told me her blood pressure and sodium levels were so low, they'd never seen it that low except with someone who'd had a heart attack or stroke. They said it was a miracle she hadn't already dropped dead on stage."

Shocking stories emerged of Kesha's management pressuring the star to immediately lose weight. Her mother recalled her manager saying, "You need to lose weight! I don't care what you do... Take drugs, not eat, stick your finger down your throat."

Although Kesha wrote songs like "We R Who We R" and "Warrior" that told people to love themselves, she felt like a phony. “I wanted to be genuine. But I was sad.” Upon finding the courage to accept that fact, the singer wrote that she decided to practice what she preaches.

I called my mom one night and I told her, ‘I need help.’ I went to an eating-disorder specific rehab site where a nutritionist taught me that food is a positive thing for your body,” she said. “I realized being healthy is the most important thing I can do for myself.”

In January of last year, Kesha checked herself into treatment for anorexia and bulimia. “I went to an eating-disorder specific rehab site where a nutritionist taught me that food is a positive thing for your body,” she says. "That first day at the treatment center was the scariest of my life," she wrote. For the first week, she barely spoke. "I was terrified and vulnerable."

The pop star spent two months in rehab and emerged feeling like she knew her self-worth and didn't have to worry about how others, including paparazzi, saw her. "I feel stronger now," she explained. "Strong enough to admit that I needed help and strong enough to have faced it head on.... Even I need to be reminded that we are who we are." Since her therapy, the singer admits she’s entering a new phase of self-love in her life and accepting herself.

“I’m trying to embrace the skin I’m in,” she said. “It’s difficult sometimes. Every day I have to look in the mirror and make the choice to be kind to myself. This is who I am – I have to love that.” “Part of being healthy is being positive,” she said. She doesn’t listen to the haters online, but instead tries to find peace in her life. “I run a few miles on the beach every day, and I got into Transcendental Meditation,” she told Vogue. [It reminds me] to be grateful for where I am, for my body, and my face – as imperfect as any of it may be.”

Moving forward, Kesha has transformed her look. She has removed the dollar sign from her name and lightened up on the makeup and glitter. It looks like the pop star is truly transforming inside and out. “I really wanted to make a change—be more raw and real,” she says.

May 12, 2015

A Story of Overcoming Binge Eating

Out of Control: A True Story of Binge Eating

Published: February 20, 2007

In 2007, Harvard published a survey finding that binge eating is by far the most common eating disorder, occurring in 1 in 35 adults, or 2.8 percent — almost twice the combined rate for anorexia (0.6 percent) and bulimia (1 percent).

Yet unlike the other two, binge-eating disorder is still not considered a formal diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association. I’m mystified as to why, and when you read my story you may wonder as well.

It was 1964, I was 23 and working at my first newspaper job in Minneapolis, 1,250 miles from my New York home. My love life was in disarray, my work was boring, my boss was a misogynist. And I, having been raised to associate love and happiness with food, turned to eating for solace.

Of course, I began to gain weight and, of course, I periodically went on various diets to try to lose what I’d gained, only to relapse and regain all I’d lost and then some.

My many failed attempts included the Drinking Man’s Diet, popular at the time, which at least enabled me to stay connected with my hard-partying colleagues.

Before long, desperation set in. When I found myself unable to stop eating once I’d started, I resolved not to eat during the day. Then, after work and out of sight, the bingeing began.

I learned where the few all-night mom-and-pop shops were located so I could pick up the evening’s supply on my way home from work. Then I would spend the night eating nonstop, first something sweet, then something salty, then back to sweet, and so on. A half-gallon of ice cream was only the beginning. I was capable of consuming 3,000 calories at a sitting. Many mornings I awakened to find partly chewed food still in my mouth.

And, as you might expect, because I didn’t purge (never even heard of it then), I got fatter and fatter until I had gained a third more than my normal body weight, even though I was physically active.

My despair was profound, and one night in the midst of a binge I became suicidal. I had lost control of my eating; it was controlling me, and I couldn’t go on living that way.

Fortunately, I was still rational enough to reach out for help, and at 2 a.m. I called a psychologist I knew at his home. His willingness to see me in the morning got me through the night.

Just talking about my behavior and learning from the psychologist that I was not the only person with this problem helped relieve my despair. Still, he was not able to help me stop bingeing. That was something I would have to do on my own.

I finally reached the conclusion that if I kept eating that way, the dreadful foods would end up killing me. And I knew by then that diets were a disaster, something one goes on to go off, only to regain what one has lost. So I decided that if I was going to be fat, at least I was going to be healthy.

An Eating Plan

With my then-limited knowledge of nutrition, I created an eating program for myself: three substantial meals a day with a wholesome snack between meals if I was hungry. No skipping meals allowed. I stripped my apartment of favorite binge foods, though I allowed myself one small treat a day. And I continued with my regular physical activity.

After a month of eating three big meals a day, I had lost seven pounds. And I continued to lose about two pounds a month (as my weight dropped, so did the amount of food I needed to feel satisfied) until two years later I was back to my normal weight.

As I have learned from talking with experts who treat eating disorders, the factors that precipitated my binge eating and the route I took to “cure” myself are strikingly similar to the precipitants among their binge-eating patients and the therapeutic measures used to help them.

It is important for everyone out there with this problem to know that help is available.

While binge eating without purging occurs in 2.8 percent of the adult population, it is much more prevalent, as you might expect, in obese people.

Dr. Katherine Halmi, director of the eating disorders program at the Westchester division of New York Presbyterian Hospital, says 10 percent to 15 percent of the obese population has this problem, and among those who binge without purging, almost 90 percent are obese.

Dr. Halmi, who is also a professor of psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, said she had found dieting a frequent “proximal trigger” among people with binge-eating disorder.

Other common risk factors, Dr. Halmi said, include a “personal disaster in a person’s life, like the death of a spouse, losing one’s job, having a serious problem at work, or being left by one’s husband for another woman.”

“People soon learn that binge-eating alleviates anxiety, similar to an addiction,” she said. “There’s psychological reinforcement of the behavior because binge eating makes them feel better at the time, even though they may feel upset afterward for having eaten so much.”

Dr. B. Timothy Walsh, an eating disorders specialist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, says that when compared with equally overweight people who do not binge, binge eaters are more troubled by anxiety and depression.

Getting Help

The main goals of therapy are abstinence from binge eating, and weight loss or weight control, said Cynthia M. Bulik, the distinguished professor of eating disorders in the psychiatry department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. Walsh adds that emotional relief is another goal, and that it sometimes results from achieving the other two.

Most popular at the moment is cognitive-behavioral therapy, with or without medication. Since binge eaters have highly irregular eating habits, the behavioral aspect introduces structure to their eating behavior: regular meals, including breakfast, and an afternoon snack if needed.

Dr. Halmi said those in recovery must not go more than four hours without eating, and that their diet should include foods they like.

The cognitive aspect tries to undo the unhealthy notions people have about food and eating, like “I’ve already blown it, so I might as well eat the rest of the ice cream” or “I didn’t eat breakfast, so I can eat more at night.”

“We also help them find more appropriate responses to emotional problems, like using relaxation techniques instead of food to deal with anxiety,” Dr. Bulik said.

The cognitive-behavioral approach, while highly effective in stopping binge eating, is less effective in achieving weight loss, she said.

Thomas Wadden, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that “a behavioral weight control approach” — a structured meal plan that reduces daily intake by 500 to 700 calories but allows a couple hundred calories from foods the person likes — is effective in stopping bingeing and also helps the person lose weight.

“We see an improvement in people’s moods,” Dr. Wadden said, adding that there should also be therapy to deal with relationship issues or self-esteem, if needed.

Medication is also sometimes used with the structured eating plan. Prozac and similar antidepressants and the anticonvulsant drug Topamax have helped some patients gain control of their weight and achieve abstinence from bingeing, Dr. Bulik said, though data are lacking on long-term effectiveness.

As for me, do I still sometimes eat “out of control”? Yes, now and then.

When I feel anxious or upset, I may polish off a dozen innocent-looking cookies or a pint of low-fat ice cream. But this is nothing like it once was. And since 1967, with minor fluctuations, I have stayed at my normal weight.