Monday, May 12, 2014

The Spokesperson

A few weeks ago, a few friends and I were discussing people who are chosen to represent companies. Typically, those who pick individuals to promote their products make sure the spokesperson looks the part. For example, you generally wouldn't see someone who weighs 500 pounds and smokes representing a running apparel company. Instead, the higher ups will probably look for a true athlete, someone who may already use their products. Most businesses usually take it one step further by seeking out individuals who appear to be healthy, no matter what the product.

What's worrisome is that, just like with modeling, some companies don't have standards when it comes to weight. Oh, they do when it comes to being TOO heavy. You definitely can't be heavy in this world and expect to have products and opportunities showered on you, but being too thin seems to scare people into keeping quiet. Companies will often turn a blind eye when it comes to spokespeople being too thin. I'm not talking about people who might be too thin; I'm talking about people who have clearly hurled themselves over a wide line. I'm not sure it's anyone's place to say something to the person or the company in these cases, but there seems to be a double standard. Besides, what could anyone say? "Hey, I noticed you have a malnourished gal representing your company. I hope she eats something soon!"

I admit that when I went to the facebook page of an organic food company, I was horrified to see one person in quite a few photos sporting their logo, a lady who seemed to be some sort of company representative and was listed as a sponsored athlete, looking not just anorexic but very unwell. I know some people can be naturally thin, but when the person looks like she somehow managed to stagger out of Dachau, it's usually not because of a high metabolism.

I don't know about you, but seeing something like that did not make me want to buy whatever they were selling. In fact, I quickly changed my mind about even looking into their packaged foods.

I understand that weight doesn't define a person. At the same time, would you take advice from an active alcoholic on how to get sober? It's not a great analogy, but there's a reason why companies often select healthy looking people to represent them. If I'm buying a product that makes claims about health, I don't expect to see someone in a state of starvation promoting it. She can (and should) eat all the raw bars and vegan shakes she wants, and I don't have a problem with the company sending her whatever they want. You have to admit, though, it's off putting to customers and potential customers to see someone so clearly in the throes of an illness in a position of promoting food.

I don't know what the solution is, but it's upsetting to me that this company in particular is OK with publicizing someone who appears to have such a severe addiction. This lady does't seem to be any kind of cancer survivor or someone aiming to be in good health; it's someone who looks sick. I find it sad. I'm not saying she shouldn't be given a chance to promote products; it's more that I don't think people will respond well to seeing someone pushing food when she looks like she does't come close to eating enough to sustain her activity level.

This reminds me of another odd occurrence I have witnessed more than a few times in the psychology world. I know of at least two counselors who are and admit to having obvious eating disorders that are getting worse who counsel others. A third is clearly in denial, which is probably worse. She seems to think everyone else is too fat while she is fine looking like a skeleton. I'm not sure how she gets clients, but she does. I guess it's a do as I say, not as I do phenomenon, but there's no way I would have done well getting advice from someone who was spiraling down while I was trying to recover.

I remember my mom telling me when I first had the idea to write my book that I had to first recover if I wanted to promote it in any way. She's right. I'm definitely not saying anyone has to be 100 percent healthy to be of service to others or hold a job as a spokesperson, far from it, but people will respond more appropriately if the person offering counsel or sporting a certain logo for a company is at least beginning to climb out of the hole instead of in the process of diving deeply into the abyss.

I'm curious to know what other people think about this.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Just Shut up, Dr Drew

I addressed the topic of Dr (I really want to put that in air quotes, but apparently the guy has a degree) Pinsky's Loveline slip up, in which he discounted a caller completely when the man tried to explain that his significant other was diagnosed with several serious conditions, on twitter and facebook, but with all the back-pedalling the doctor is doing with his apology, I thought I would mention it here as well.

Here's what Pinsky said when the caller mentioned that his fiancee has endometriosis, intestinal cystitis, lactose intolerance and what might be something along the lines of having no stomach lining:

“These are what we call sort of functional disorders. Everything you mentioned, everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren’t discernibly pathological. They’re what we call ‘garbage bag diagnoses,’ when you can’t think of anything else, you go, ‘Eh, it’s that.’ So, it then makes me question why is she so somatically preoccupied that she’s visiting doctors all the time with pains and urinary symptoms and pelvic symptoms, and then that makes me wonder, was she sexually abused growing up?”

Whether or not this woman had suffered at the hands of some abuser isn't exactly the point. To so completely discount her very real physical conditions and suggest that she's some kind of hypochondriac is disgusting. When the caller insisted that his fiancee often refused to go to a doctor, even when she was in great pain, Pinsky said, “Trust me, she saw lots of doctors before you," and claimed she was having unexplained pain. Um, no, there's a clear explanation for it. Dr. Drew just doesn't want to accept it.  

Let's suppose some guy went to a doctor, because he had diabetes. Then he went back to find out he has high blood pressure. Oh and then he was diagnosed with poor circulation. Would you think the guy is preoccupied with running to the doctor? No, there's often a strong correlation between conditions, and this woman's situation isn't unlike many women who suffer from either endometriosis and/or intestinal cystitis. But I bet you anything, if it had been a guy with a bunch of issues that are often strongly correlated, it wouldn't be therapy that Dr. Drew suggests. He would boldly state that HIS conditions ARE discernibly pathological, no doubt, because, you know, he's a guy.

I call bullshit anyway, because pretty much everything that the caller mentioned can be diagnosed by an ultrasound or some other legitimate diagnostic tool. Yeah, I have endo, and when I got an MRI for my hip injury, one of the first things out of the sports doctor's mouth was that he hoped I was seeing a gynecologist, because both the endo and the scar from a previous ovarian cyst were pretty obvious on the imaging. Hey, there it is, and it's not in my head!

There's so much that's upsetting about this situation that it's hard to know where to start or end. It used to be typical that women were ignored like this, but this is 2014! We know better by now, and any doctor who can't treat a patient fairly shouldn't be practicing. Assuming these types of physical conditions are in a patient's head or belittling her in any way is ridiculous. Oh, address why she's running to the doctor (when in reality she's not), not the fact that she's probably in a lot of pain and probably has to change her lifestyle due to actual, legitimate ailments that are easily diagnosed.

Fuck that. Really.

Of course he offered an "apology" because people were voicing their upset, but just as quickly, he's trying to make it seem like he didn't lump endometriosis in with his "garbage bag" of ailments assessment. Had he left it at the apology, I probably would have kept quiet on it, but now that he's giving everyone a wink wink I was just offering the apology for show sign, I'm not going to let it go. Not that my voice will be heard very well, but venting about what a shit move this was on his part will at least make me feel a little bit better.

I get that Loveline isn't supposed to be a show dealing with topics in any kind of overly serious way, and I get that Dr. Drew is more of an entertainer than a practicing physician. On the other hand, people do listen to what he says. In fact, he sometimes has some solid advice to give around addiction. He should probably stick to dealing with counseling pregnant teens and addicts on TV shows, though, because this was damaging to women in all kinds of ways. It's like he stepped back to a time when women were still diagnosed with hysteria. Nice going, Doctor.

On a somewhat separate topic, I did find it terribly sad and maybe a little bit ironic that it recently came out that his daughter has suffered from bulimia for years, throwing up multiple times a day, and nobody in her family was aware of it. Not that I'm giving him a pass on any of this, but Dr. Drew also battled cancer not that long ago, so I'm sure his entire family has been having a difficult time. He's fortunate that he seems to have recovered well and also that nobody told him his symptoms were imagined. I wish him and his family well, but I do wish he would just shut the fuck up.