#EDAfail and playing the dozens

This reference will age me, but "playing the dozens" used to be "a thing." It involved escalating, and preferably amusing, insults about someone's mom: "Your mother is so..." Until one person either laughs or throws a punch.

The dozens is all the rage right now as Eating Disorder Awareness season seems to be a free for all on moms.

Parents lead by example, and Dr. Drew's daughter blames mom are only two glaring examples.

But this dozens game has a twist: the insults are coming from and not being protested IN the family.

It isn't that advocates are insulting one another, they're out there doing advocacy that undermines one another. But there is a rule, too, not to question other advocates. So where does that leave us?

Eating Disorder Awareness week is a welcome opportunity to get our messages out. But some of those messages are really arguable. They reveal fissures and all out chasms between us all. We need to deal with this. We need to be less afraid of conflict "in the family" than the loss of power we could have if we were working together.


  • Most "awareness" messages are about how serious eating disorders are. All good. But this is followed all too often with messages about trivial or even unsupported aspects of eating causation or treatment. (i.e. "body image" and "parents lead by example") which actually make eating disorders look unserious.
  • Most "awareness" messages involve scary medical symptoms when it is the psychiatric symptoms that are central to eating disorder anguish, disability, challenges to treatment, and maintenance.
  • Most "awareness" messages replace one myth with another. It's not unicorns, it's fairies! It's not about vanity, it's a need to control!
  • Most "awareness" messages conflate symptoms with causes. Perfectionism, "drive for thinness," bizarre eating behaviors are symptoms. 
  • Most "awareness" messages offer simple prevention strategies with zero, ZERO evidence to support them. LOOK IT UP.
  • Most "awareness" messages are easy sells: good parenting, positive affirmations, "hope," and self-care. The reality isn't as ribbon-friendly: difficult treatment, full-time caregiving, financial stress, and lack of research dollars. Cancer isn't fun either, but nobody thinks all those pink ribbons are enough.

Yet the tragic, the weep-inducing waste is that this week COULD be an opportunity to spotlight the very information about eating disorders that could save lives and families:

  • Tell folks eating disorders involve problems with the brain. Eureka!
  • Tell the world that there are effective treatments.
  • Expose the fact that most treatment offered in the community is entirely without basis.
  • Make sure people know things have changed in the past 10 years, in a good way.
  • Inform parents that their role is not shame, it's INFORMATION & ACTION.
  • Awareness that most of the information out there about EDs is sincere but uninformed and out of date
I'm joining the growing EDA Curmudgeon club, including the awesome comments:

And make sure to check out the #EDAfail community on F.E.A.S.T.'s Facebook page and on Twitter. If stuff pisses you off, you're not alone. And you are needed.

UPDATED: There is now a #EDAfail and #EDAstar page to help. Please tweet!


  1. How do we get over the guilt and shame of ED coming through us like a damned demon and forcing parents and others to deal with it in the 1st place? I know I should take that energy and use it toward getting healthy but what if I can't always do that? And since I got out of IP, people don't invite me for Thanksgiving, etc. like they used to. IDK.

  2. I think it depends on where that guilt and shame are coming from. Are they coming from our healthy selves, or from unhealthy areas? Would we tolerate someone else thinking it was your fault or that you deserve guilt or shame? (Answer: HELL no.)

    It's an illness. Not something one chooses and imposes on others.

  3. If all my selves (not just ED and the real me, but my logical, and emotional selves, the selves that live in other places and times, etc.) align in the knowledge that there is no place or utility for guilt and shame, it would help, and that can be worked on.

  4. Sounds like you need to hold a party for all the selves!

    And I like your phrasing: "no place or utility."


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