At the LA Podfest, which convened this past weekend, Christy Harrison spoke with comedian and actor Marc Maron, whose IFC comedy series is going into a second season. (The interview is 11 minutes long and contains explicit language.) While not as famous as Maron, Harrison is a media power in her own right, a nutritionist and food journalist based in Brooklyn, who is consulted by the New York City Department of Health on dietary choices in hospitals and homeless shelters. She has recently begun a podcast series called “Food Psych with Christy Harrison,” which explores the intersection of food and psychology.
During their talk about emotional eating and stress eating, Maron describes his mother as a “professional anorexic” who reacts with panic to the presence of overweight people in her vicinity, and that includes her sons. In one of this own podcasts, Maron said that for the first part of his life, he felt that his mother “saw him as her fat.”
But the sharing of body dysmorphia didn’t end with childhood. More recently, with Maron in his 40s, his mother said, “I don’t know if I could love you if you were fat.” As an entertainment figure, he is often interviewed, and was chastised by his mom for reporting her weight to the press as 119 pounds, when in reality it is only 116. Maintaining that weight is, he says, her full-time job.
The job, it seems, was sometimes done too well. He remembers a time in his childhood when his mother’s weight fell below 100. He was brought up to be phobic about butter and cheese — “anything other than nonfat yogurt” — and, he says, he has “a paralyzing fear of double chins.” Not surprisingly, Marc Maron’s mom was an obese child, and the family dynamic illustrates how effectively such issues as eating disorders can be perpetuated down through the generations. (Astonishingly, his father was a doctor who loved sweets.)
In this short interview Maron, who has dealt with alcohol and hard drug addictions, doesn’t really get into the possibilities of food as an addictive substance, which would have been a fertile area for additional exploration. But he does comment, “The act of eating, the feel of eating, tasting things is pretty exciting.”
Now, here is a fascinating detail. Discussing the reduction diets that employ a point system for different foods, Maron remarks:
If you really do Weight Watchers cleverly, you can just never stop eating.
In other words, it’s apparently possible to munch on lettuce and celery all day without violating the rules of the diet — and, by implication, that’s exactly what some pursuers of weight loss do. Doesn’t this sound exactly like a body-focused repetitive behavior? It’s not eating for nutrition. It’s mechanically doing something in the manner of a programmed automaton, like an audio-animatronic figure in an amusement park diorama, rather than a sentient being.
It’s the type of casually expressed and seemingly insignificant clue that needs to be given attention and investigated. Unless, that is, unbeknownst to us, somebody has already found the answer and put an end to the childhood obesity epidemic.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!