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Details, and, in some cases, the method of communication associated with the following letter may be altered, to protect the confidentiality of the distressed person.
***Phantom Tollbooth reader: If you've been in denial about your own eating disorder, or if you've been ignoring the warning signs in somebody close to you, or, if for any reason, you'd like to hear, and download my single-song "soundtrack" to the response that follows, check out this link:
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Dear Rock Doc:
My husband insisted I write you after he read an article in the paper by Martha Irvine on Anorexia Nervosa. We read your column religiously because you grew up where we live, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. My husband, Byron, said that since reading the article, he is convinced that our 15-year-old daughter, Ana is suffering from this disorder. He always worries too much. Ana may be diet-conscience, but I can assure you, she doesn't have an eating disorder. She usually gets up late, and so she misses breakfast, but we all do around here. I pack her a lunch everyday, and it's a great lunch. I spoil her to death. We all eat around the dinner table each night. She's never been one to make a pig out of herself, but I usually notice that her plate is at least half full after every meal. Nevertheless, I don't want my husband to worry, so I thought I'd write you. We are very proud of Ana. She is a talented songwriter, a great volleyball player and a straight A student. She also is a great Christian role model for other teens at her High School, Evan Hardy Collegiate. She recently won a neighborhood beauty contest. She is thin, but that's the look the girls are going for these days. My husband is nervous over the fact that she's always talking about Lindsay Lohan and Mary-Kate Olsen. I have checked her cw and gw and both are reasonable.
Mother of Ana
Dear Mother of Ana:
It seems that you have adopted at least part of the language of those who admire Anorexic women and girls. For those readers who have not read Martha Irvine's article, the terms "cw" and "gw" stand for current weight and goal weight. Frankly I have never met anyone who so casually uses those abbreviations who has weight expectations that fall anywhere near the "reasonable" level. Of course "reasonable" is a relative term, but there is reason to believe that your "reasonable" is tantamount to "unreasonable." I cannot make a certain diagnosis of anorexia nervosa as it pertains to your daughter, but certain conspicuous indicators concern me.
Your husband's concern over Ana's apparent admiration of Lindsay Logan and Mary-Kate Olsen seems reasonable to me. Not that there isn't much to admire in these two talented young ladies, but just ask Martha Irvine---they are the most commonly mentioned goddesses among those who worship anorexic body-types and strive to emulate them. According to Ms. Irvine, the term for what they provide to anorexic wannabes is "thinspiration."
Instead of looking towards Lindsay and Mary-Kate as body-image role models, young ladies like your daughter should be looking back, towards the late, great Karen Carpenter, who died on February 4, 1983 at the tender age of 32, after suffering from heart failure secondary to chronic anorexia nervosa.
To say that somebody is in denial has become a cliché, but I believe that it's a cliché that just may apply to you in this situation. Please write me back, let me know where you live and I'll be happy to refer your daughter to someone who can assess her and make a definitive diagnosis. If Ana does in fact suffer from the disorder, I'd recommend not only getting her enrolled in a program for anorexic teens, but I'd also recommend individual and family therapy. Anorexia nervosa almost always develops in accordance with a dysfunctional family system in which control issues are prominent. Pay more attention to your daughter's eating habits, seek out the help I've mentioned, and take your musical prescription, Her Plate is Half-empty. If it's not too much trouble, please thank your husband for bringing this matter to your attention, and write a letter to the editor, thanking Martha Irvine for enlightening your husband on the dangers of this disorder as it concerns Ana, your beloved daughter. Also, please examine your own behavior. Ask yourself if you may be unwittingly sending Ana any unhealthy signals concerning food and body image. Then, above all, surround yourself with supportive, caring, praying people. These are my recommendations. I hope I have not overloaded your plate.
If you are a musician-in-distress
or a person who is concerned over one, write The Rock Doc, Dr. B.L.T. at