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Restaurant for anorexics


albiston
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the article

The Berlin eating out scene has always been marked by unusual and sometimes far fetched concept restaurants, but Sehnsucht's (the restaurant's name) philosophy seems more philanthropic.

"The concept has been especially created with an anorexic in mind," said Sehnsucht's manager, Katja Eichbaum, 32, a former office clerk who battled with her own disorder for 15 years. "Anorexics have to be taught that eating out can be fun." All portions will be "normal sized" and the restaurant, also attached to a refuge and advice center, will be open to non-anorexics as well.

Could it really, commercially, work? What do you think?

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Let me be serious for a minute about anorexia.

I heard that someone was getting some really good results in treating anorexia, not as a psychological problem (i.e., a subconscious revolt against a parent figure, etc.) but as a problem that is fundamentally physiological in nature. This is based on an hypothesis that arose from the observation of some animal groups, namely that under certain circumstances some birds and other creatures would stop eating, due to mating season, or competition for habitat, or something. In other words, some instinct was triggered. So anorexia in humans is also now thought to be the failure of some instinctual trigger that is a residue of our evolutionary heritage. So the therapy shifts from issues of guilt and rebellion to overcoming a defect in a physiological mechanism. Apparently, there has been considerable success in this approach-- as we are aware that anorexia is very difficult to treat, this is a plus.

I heard this on some science show, and found this quite interesting.

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Well, I guess that's better than a restaurant for bulimics. Can you imagine the restrooms?  :shock:

LOL! I have respect for the seriousness of eating disorders, and we discuss that seriousness quite often here at eG...

But Suzanne, that is too funny! Thank you so much for the laugh. It sure is good to lighten up sometimes about this sort of thing.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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The article is sort of puzzling. It treats the restaurant as yet another theme-park novelty but suggests that the owners think it has therapeutic value. Which is it?

I spent some years being borderline anorexic, serious enough to have seen doctors for the condition. Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine a special restaurant being helpful in any but the most incidental sense. If you happen to be able to have an enjoyable meal in a restaurant, that may be a small step in helping you overcome the disorder, but why not a regular restaurant? This notional business about separating the idea of the food out from its nutritional content does not seem like the kind of thing that will help at all, rather the opposite.

Edited to add: in the words of the article, the menu "deliberately distances dishes from the ingredients they contain," so my last sentence may be a misrepresentation," but I find the whole thing quite vague.

Edited by Tess (log)
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So the therapy shifts from issues of guilt and rebellion to overcoming a defect in a physiological mechanism. Apparently, there has been considerable success in this approach-- as we are aware that anorexia is very difficult to treat, this is a plus.

I heard this on some science show, and found this quite interesting.

That is interesting, and if it works, great! But if it's really a defect, why was anorexia unheard of on the East Coast of Malaysia when I used to live there? I've always thought of anorexia as a culture-bound disease (bound to more than one culture, perhaps, but not universal), and still do.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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That is interesting, and if it works, great! But if it's really a defect, why was anorexia unheard of on the East Coast of Malaysia when I used to live there? I've always thought of anorexia as a culture-bound disease (bound to more than one culture, perhaps, but not universal), and still do.

Michael,

I don't know what you have encountered, but there are documented cases of anorexia dating several hundred years back in European culture - that is to say, not a society that encouraged women to be thin......I understand that you have leved ina culture where it does not seem to be a problem, but I would ask you whether or not this was not simply a matter of it being something that was not to be discussed......Even living in a 'western' society that is supposedly far more accepting of eating disorders, I know of several women who are either anorexic or bulemic and who felt humiliated at the thought that their families may even have suspected......and we're suppesedly tolerant of this sort of thing.

To my mind, the restaurant's concept is great. Do I think that it'll work? - no. But I'd like to think that it may help the plight of those suffering from bulemia and anorexia......

Forget the house, forget the children. I want custody of the red and access to the port once a month.

KEVIN CHILDS.

Doesn't play well with others.

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Michael,

I don't know what you have encountered, but there are documented cases of anorexia dating several hundred years back in European culture - that is to say, not a society that encouraged women to be thin......I understand that you have leved ina culture where it does not seem to be a problem, but I would ask you whether or not this was not simply a matter of it being something that was not to be discussed

I doubt that's possible. Gossip in the village told everything about everybody (just by listening to my landlady talk to my mother and whichever other women may have been visiting, I knew about all the alleged love affairs in the village, for example - and sex outside of marriage was not only illicit but punishable by a heavy fine that was and is sometimes enforced in neighboring villages and larger cities), and it's really hard to imagine that everyone wouldn't have known if there was someone refusing to eat her rice and getting ill. The only person I can remember that we knew was malnourished in the township got malnourished not because she wasn't eating enough but because she would eat only cake, so that's all her mother fed her. (The Malays among whom we lived tended not to force children to do things they didn't want to do.) She got beriberi (vitamin B-1 aka thiamine deficiency), I think, or/and pellagra. We also knew a really poor widow or divorcee whose daughter was a classmate of mine, and they always seemed to be hanging on by a thread, but that was due to extreme poverty, not an impulsion to starve themselves while plenty of food was available to them.

In terms of the history of anorexia in Europe, let's not forget that there were some saints who starved themselves to death, such as St. Catherine of Siena. This subject is complex, but I have yet to see clear evidence that anorexia exists in all cultures. Another delicate subject is the much higher percentage of women than men afflicted with anorexia. I'm no expert on genetics, but if I remember correctly, sex-linked hereditary traits tend to be expressed more readily by men, because - again, if I remember correctly - it often takes only one X chromosome for them to show full symptoms, whereas women often need both X chromosomes to express (or fully express) the trait. Examples: sickle cell anemia, thalassemia. There are some exceptions, though: Female-Specific Genetic Diseases. And I wonder whether perhaps, now that Malaysia is much wealthier and Malaysians are much more apt to be fat, there are now cases of bulimia and anorexia, where there seemingly may not have been in the past.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Michael, that is interesting, and I'm wondering if cultures with less incidence of eating disorders are cultures with less sexual abuse. Do you have an idea about that in Malaysia? Professionally I found that the majority of people with eating disorders had traumatization in their history, usually incest.

With regard to cases of anorexia dating several hundred years back in European culture, we know that sexual abuse in Europe dates back.

As with just about everything in this day and time, it is more complex and many more factors go into it, not to mention the vast amount of media influence. It's been several years since I worked with these problems, but I would still say it's a very small percentage that are physiological in nature. I wish that was the case; it would be easier to treat successfully.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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LOL!  I have respect for the seriousness of eating disorders, and we discuss that seriousness quite often here at eG...

But Suzanne, that is too funny!  Thank you so much for the laugh.  It sure is good to lighten up sometimes about this sort of thing.

Thank YOU. I too have real sympathy for those who suffer from eating disorders, and worried my comment might be considered too flippant. (For all I know, others are bristling at it; please, I meant no offense.)

But aren't eating disorders based on concerns about control of one's own life? So I wonder how any restaurant -- which by definition removes most of the decisions from the diner -- can be of help.

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Thank YOU. I too have real sympathy for those who suffer from eating disorders, and worried my comment might be considered too flippant. (For all I know, others are bristling at it; please, I meant no offense.)

I hope nobody is bristling. There has to be humor in even the most serious issues. In fact, often the more serious the subject, the more need there is for humor. I for one understand that your humor probably means you have a great amount of sensitivity. But anyway, again thanks for the comic relief.

But aren't eating disorders based on concerns about control of one's own life?  So I wonder how any restaurant -- which by definition removes most of the decisions from the diner -- can be of help.

Very good point!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Michael, that is interesting, and I'm wondering if cultures with less incidence of eating disorders are cultures with less sexual abuse.  Do you have an idea about that in Malaysia?  Professionally I found that the majority of people with eating disorders had traumatization in their history, usually incest.

That's interesting; I've never heard that before. What I've always heard is that it's often associated with an obsession with perfection and an unconscious desire for young women not to grow up (starve yourself and you eventually stop menstruating, e.g.). If your observation is cross-culturally accurate, we should probably expect more eating disorders to be expressed in Malaysia nowadays, as the incidence of child-rape - previously something that was just about unknown in Malay villages (or at least the ones I could have heard news of), though possibly because people may have previously been more reluctant to speak up about abuse by teachers and other authority figures - has seemingly skyrocketed, if the sensational stories in the Malaysian press and figures on reports of abuse are to be believed.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm not surprised when people outside of the counselor community haven't heard this. It's not something that most of us who were abused in any way -- physically, sexually, emotionally, etc. -- publicly talk about a lot. People are much more willing to share that they are obsessed with perfection and overly concerned about their weight and appearance and such things than to share their history of abuse. It's not exactly cocktail party conversation. :smile: And, there is a significant number of survivors who honestly don't remember their abuse.

Obviously it's not a direct cause-and-effect thing, but it is a statistic about those who go into treatment or counseling for the problem.

Enough of that... I'm not trying to educate the public, but I do like to discuss something I find really interesting from the perspective of this community of food lovers. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge about the Malays. I'm not sure if the observations from my professional experience is cross-culturally accurate.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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That's interesting; I've never heard that before. What I've always heard is that it's often associated with an obsession with perfection and an unconscious desire for young women not to grow up (starve yourself and you eventually stop menstruating, e.g.).

. . .

But what of the growing number of male anorexics? After all, eating disorders are not limited to one gender.

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But what of the growing number of male anorexics?  After all, eating disorders are not limited to one gender.

No, they're not, but if the percentage of men among anorexics is increasing, that would seem to be further support for the notion that this is something other than a genetic trait. There must be some cultural reason for it, something about current societal conditions in countries where this phenomenon is on the increase among men. What that would be, I couldn't say.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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No, they're not, but if the percentage of men among anorexics is increasing, that would seem to be further support for the notion that this is something other than a genetic trait. There must be some cultural reason for it, something about current societal conditions in countries where this phenomenon is on the increase among men. What that would be, I couldn't say.

Much of the same psychological and societal factors as for women.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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i think if you were to enter an anorexic/bulimics bedroom you would find pictures of skinny models pinned on the walls for admiration - in fact - i know this to be the case since living with one for a while

You are making an assumption about anorexics based upon one persons battles. In fact-i know this to the be case since I was one for a while. And no pictures graced my walls.

Eating in restaurants when you are in recovery is another hurdle that must be overcome. I doubt this restaurant will do much to help people. Frankly, when I was ill I doubt I would have set foot in the place for fear that everyone was watching me and what I ate.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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When young men starve themselves, does that slow or reverse secondary sex characteristics (facial hair, etc.)?

Good question, and I can answer based only on the males with anorexia that I have known... that would be no, about them.
i think if you were to enter an anorexic/bulimics bedroom you would find pictures of skinny models pinned on the walls for admiration - in fact - i know this to be the case since living with one for a while

You are making an assumption about anorexics based upon one persons battles. In fact-i know this to the be case since I was one for a while. And no pictures graced my walls.

I agree. I think a lot of people base assumptions and generalities upon their own personal experiences, whether the experiences are their own or those of somebody close to them. It's natural and understandable to do that, but often the assumptions are not the case for others.
I doubt this restaurant will do much to help people.  Frankly, when I was ill I doubt I would have set foot in the place for fear that everyone was watching me and what I ate.

I thought about that sort of thing, in my doubts about this restaurant.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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  • 1 month later...

ABC News article

if a dining hall for anorexics sounds like a bit of an oxymoron — or a chapter from a Victorian advice book on how to force-feed starving, overwrought ladies — the staff at Sehnsucht will have you know you're wrong.

For one, many members of the staff have at some time suffered from an eating disorder .... the place is designed to make dining a pleasurable — and not stressful — exercise.... The menu, for instance, steers clear of describing dishes, preferring instead to stick with generic, nongastronomic names. So the lobster bisque is called "Hallo," the cappuccino creme dessert is "Seele" ("Soul"), and rack of lamb is quite simply "Ravenous."

Portions, says Kilian, are neither gigantic nor minuscule, merely "normal." And while the restaurant serves wine, staffers — drawing on their own experiences — expect herbal teas to be far more popular. And there's absolutely no mention of calories anywhere on the menu.

Your thoughts?

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Being familiar with eating disorders, I almost can't begin to get my head around this.

Eating disorders are incredibly complex and can have very different causes. It is a bit strange to start a restaurant that caters to those with a very serious psychological disorder. And I am not implying that the existence of a restaurant like this would perpetuate the problem.

Maybe it is almost missing the point. For while food becomes the focal point or the tool of the disorder, it's ultimately not about food at all, it is about other issues, like control and self-esteem. Also, one thing that people with eating disorders learn is that they can't always have total control over food. And maybe this restaurant perpetuates that part of the disorder.

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This is a much better article with the rationales for some of the issues mentioned ...

Guardian UK article

"We're here to encourage girls to eat and make it attractive to them again. We want them to get a gradual feel for food, through lovely smells and tastes. It may take time, but it works."

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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We discussed this restaurant a few months ago.

[Moderator's note: Thank you for the link. We've merged the two threads and removed the link to the old thread as they are now one.]

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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