Hair of the racedog

This will annoy my allies who support these things, but I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say that I'm uncomfortable with the growing trend toward exercise-oriented eating disorder fund-raising.

It is all about context, of course. Serving wine at an M.S. fundraiser doesn't alarm me, but it would at an AA event. Having a Fun Run to raise awareness around leukemia doesn't strike me as odd, but I'm positively perplexed by the trend toward Walks and especially Runs as recovery awareness. Would we hold a Fast for Anorexia? Compulsive exercise is one of the most common symptoms of an eating disorder, and the whole fitness world could use an ED intervention. Lest we forget, we live in a world where people think it is fighting eating disorders to do competitive eating and body building.

I'm not naming names, but even if it makes money and a good time, and even if it means saying no to a well-meaning big name celebrity - I wish we'd rethink this. Just thought I'd get that off my chest now, in case anyone else is queasy over this as well and need back-up.

May I suggest, as an alternative, group hugs or "Eat Ins" or "Fun Naps" instead?


  1. I agree. In addition, these kinds of fundraising events seem like a big distraction to me, whether the event is intended to raise money for eating disorders or any other illness. Wouldn't the time and money be better spent in other ways? For example, I would gladly write a check to a researcher who was proposing to do some serious, evidence-based, scientific research on the treatment of anorexia nervosa. But I haven't seen any indication that money raised by walking events will go to that purpose, and if it did, how much would end up with researchers after overhead expenses associated with the event are deducted. And are there commercial sponsors underwriting these events and receiving advertising benefits? Just curious.

  2. Thanks for bringing this up. I too am baffled by this trend as it only serves to allow sufferers to engage in behaviors that are often very destructive. (Maybe the fear is that if there was an eat in, no one would participate. Sadly, I know I wouldn't.) Regardless, the exercise focus of these events really doesn't make sense. And it's extremely triggering for sufferers.

  3. This is such an important topic. I had the same reaction when I first read about the celebrity in question. Well, actually my reaction was more like, "Thank god! A *big* celebrity behind this cause! But, a MARATHON?! Really?!" I'm not sure it's the most positive or balanced message to send.

    That said, I'm not sure an "eat in" is balanced either, as it promotes nutritional wellness, but is still so centered around food, and eating disorders are about more than that. Also, I think it can be incredibly beneficial for people in recovery to take part in these kinds of awareness activities, and I think many would be scared away by such an event.

    I think we should be encouraging activities that promote balance. I think a moderate walk (not a walk/run, not a 10K, obviously) coupled with a reception after that could include a variety of foods would be a great idea. Learning the balance between intake and moderate, *enjoyable* exercise is a big part of the recovery process for many, so I think an event that can encourage both would be great! Anything that promotes extremes - competitive eating, body building, marathons, wholly food-based activities - I think can be dangerous.

    A love the hugs idea. What about hug-a-thon?! Or a love-your-body a-thon? Something like that could be a day long event that includes food, healthy activity, art, education, activism, etc., etc. Okay. I'll stop myself now!

  4. I don't see what the problem is. Alanis Morissette has SAID she is healthy. In fact, as both a long time fan of her work and her PERSON as well as someone with an eating disorder, it means SO MUCH to me that she is doing this.
    She has the money, she could just donate it without letting anyone know. But Alanis actually has a pretty long list of her involvements with a WIDE RANGE of charitable organizations. All the more power to her for doing it this way, in public. And I would even go "so far" as to argue that doing something in sports to raise money for NEDA even makes it more salient. To the other commenter: "a hug a thon"? are you serious?! Reality is that something like that wouldn't get as much publicity/raise as much money as an actual event like a marathon. And who cares if she chooses to run/walk 5k, 10k, or 40k? Where do you draw the line at what's "healthy" and who are any of us to cry out that she is not doing it appropriately?! That's bullshit. Frankly, I'm jealous she has a healthy body to run a marathon because in my state of sickness with the disorder I couldn't even walk up a hill.

    And how does this "encourage otehrs to be destructive?"
    A) You don't know she's being destructive, why is a marthon destructive, why do you assume she is... etc etc
    B) Hello --? A little element of personality responsibility in order, hello??!?!?
    No one is making you do anything. If you choose your eating disorder or health, that's your choice.

    The other part of my argument is as follows: in the end, it doesn't really matter, does it? As someone who is supposedly well educated in the realities of organizations/support for eating disorders, you should know not to look a gift horse in the mouth. The end result is the same: increased awareness and $, both of which are much needed.

    I think you're full of crap. Get off your high horse. Not everyone who doesn't do it your way is doing it "wrong".

    Would you say someone with breast cancer shouldn't walk in a BC walk because they were once sick and "people with cancer shouldn't exercise!!!11"...? I challenge you to look at how your argument would apply to any other illness/charitable donation for an organization for any other illness. I think you would see that there your opinion is almost as see through as swiss cheese.

    In the end though, it's just that. YOUR opinion. Your blog. But it's an open blog, and I'm sharing MY opinion.

    --Alanis fan

  5. I can see how a marathon fund-raiser might seem inappropriate, but I think intentions are good and the event will offer the opportunity to have open and public dialogue about moderation, wellness, balance ... something along the lines of "those who may have a history of exercise compulsion or an eating disorder should consider where they are in recovery before signing on; make sure they have a doctor's OK and the support of a clinical/professional team; and take personal responsibility for self-care in training and race-day activities."

    This kind of event has bulit-in "sidebar" features for journalists covering it to prepare stories/video packages about eating disorders in athletes and over-activity in non-athletes, the pervasiveness of the problem from young ages through the highest levels of competition, to "Biggest Loser" wanna-be's dangerously sweating it out in plastic workout suits on hot, humid summer days.

    Probably, the body of participants in a marathon would be the serious, serial runners who are trying to make qualifying times for other races ... or running for the prize money. They may or may not also have some kind of moderation issue in exercise or nutrition, but ... again, the event itself is a perfect platform for addressing that.

  6. Seriously? How can you compare a run or walk with fasting in order to raise money for eating disorder awareness? Fasting is not part of a normal, healthy lifestyle.

    But get this--exercise is. And you, not being part of Alanis' treatment team, you don't get to decide what is healthy for her or not. She at the perfect age to do one. Women, from a physiological standpoint, should do marathons until they are at least 25, after their bodies have finished developing and their hips have finished widening.

    I am fully recover from anorexia. I know a lot of your fans don't believe that's possible, but it is. And part of a normal, healthy life is exercise. I know, that big E word. Sure, while you are still sick, it can be dangerous and cause more problems than just using too many calories. But Alanis has said she is recovered. She has said she is working with people to get to train for this. She's not just out there wildly running thousands of miles each week.

    I was recently diagnosed with ARVD--a very rare, progressive, irreversible and untreatable form of cardiomyopathy, and can never do any aerobic exercise again. Up until that diagnosis in June, I was training for a marathon (I've been a runner since I was twelve, and I"m now 32)--with the full consent and support of my treatment team. *gasp* Now I walk every day. Very slowly. But it's good for me. For my level of health. Who are you to say what is good for Alanis' level of health? You can't pigeon hole everyone who has ever had an eating disorder and give them such rules as you can never exercise again or you can never compete again.

    The NEDA walk is not competitive. The awareness walks taking place across the country now are not competitive. They are being done for awareness and for raising money. How is this different than people walking for money to go to the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Fund. If you want to know where THAT money is going and what that organization has supported, read Barbara Ehrenreich's "Welcome to Cancerland."

    Alanis has not said she's going to attempt to win or place. She has not said she attempting to qualify for one of the major marathons in the country. Those two things might raise some eyebrows. She's going to run, raise money for an organization dedicated to fighting the very same illnesses we are trying to fight, and to raise awareness.

    Personally, I think it's wonderful that she has come forward and said, "I had an eating disorder. Now I've found balance. And now I'm ready to do something to help out."

    And I agree with the above poster. Sorry if she doesn't do things your way. Not every one does. But that doesn't give you the right to question their motives or state of recovery.

  7. I am not questioning the motives or state of recovery of the participants or the organizers of these events. Not at all.

    I'm questioning whether athletic events are appropriate for eating disorder awareness and fundraising. Going back to the AA analogy, there isn't anything inherently wrong with drinking alcohol, but we wouldn't auction wine at an AA fundraiser.

    I am expressing my discomfort about adopting this particular fund/awareness raising method for this illness. I'm not the only one who feels this way, and I think it is worth discussing. I still haven't heard, in these comments or elsewhere, anything that makes me more comfortable with the idea.

  8. For me, what makes me comfortable with the idea is that Alanis is recovered and gives everyone with an eating disorder a public role model of recovery. That is possible to live a normal life and take part in normal activities.

    We have dinners at ED conferences that give out awards to people who have made a significant difference in the field of ED awareness. Should we cut them out as well?

  9. We serve deserts at these dinners that may trigger people with BED or bulimia -- there is nothing inherently wrong with eating a dessert, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with healthy exercise such as walking. BOTH should NOT be seen as problematic but become so with EDs.

    Can we not see the ability to DO these walks as a triumph over an ED? A celebration that we REFUSE to give in to all or nothing thinking and believe that if exercise is bad for people with ED's it can never be good?

    If it is TRUE recovery that means taking back to power to exercise without ED thoughts or motivations and truly ENJOY it for what it is.

    Could we not think of the people walking these walks -- (recovered, supporting ED causes etc.) to be ROLE MODELS for those suffering?

    Alcoholism is different because it is an addiction. Laura, I don't think even under normal circumstances someone would organize a "drink-in" for AA. You need to seperate EDs from addictionb because they are not and seperate exercise from "drug of choice." This is not longer the context once recovery has been achieved.

    Just a different aspect which suggests alternative ways to look at this event. I think an important part of the blog is the comments that is generates and keeping an open mind to ALL posters.

  10. Being an alcoholic with an eating disorder who is in recovery I identify with this post. Of course, I don't go to bars or watch eating contests on tv or elsewhere. I can't change the world around me but I can change my perceptions to what I see around me in the world. Thanks for your support.

  11. I'd be a fan of a dine out for ED research! Philly has a week or two each year where proceeds from dinners at participating restaurants goes towards AIDS research.

    I agree that it's just uncomfortable/strained to have the exercise type fundraisers for a disorder where many sufferers have used that activity to self destruct. (maybe you've mentioned this before- but it reminds me of the miss america thing....yes, awareness/etc is great but there's something uncomfortable about focusing on exercise/looks when you're talking about EDs)

    And I'm in no way against marathons- I'm in recovery & doing my fourth in a few weeks.

  12. My college has a "mirror-less" day each year during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. They cover up mirrors all over campus and leave markers to people to write self-/body-affirmations. When the day is over they take the papers down, compile the positive statements and send them out to the whole student body. They don't use it as a fundraising event, but I'm sure a creative person could think of a way for it or something similar to raise money for ED awareness. Something like that with no focus on food, exercise, and removing the visual of your own body is a positive for all involved--even those who don't have eating disorders.

  13. check out for an in depth interview with her about her motives behind the marathon. very inspiring. she has nothing but good intentions.


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