Author and journalist Deborah Kalb grew up watching her famous father on CBS News, NBC News, and as the moderator of Meet the Press. In 2011, Deborah appeared with her father and co-author, Marvin Kalb, on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV where they discussed their book, Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama (Brookings Institution Press), with moderator and television journalist Ted Koppel.
On Monday, January 26, 2015, Deborah called me to discuss my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately. The first thing Deborah said was, “I loved Johnnie Come Lately. Your characters are so well drawn.” She also told me how much she enjoyed the journal entries woven throughout the narrative. To read our full interview, please visit Books Q & As with Deborah Kalb.
Deborah Kalb is a freelance writer and editor. She spent two decades working as a journalist in Washington, D.C., for news organizations including Gannett News Service, Congressional Quarterly, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill, mostly covering Congress and politics. Besides co-authoringHaunting Legacy with her father, Marvin Kalb, she is also co-author or co-editor of two books published by CQ Press (The Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents; and State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush).
What an honor to be featured in Terri Barnes‘ popular column in Stars & Stripes! After Terri read an advanced reader copy of my forthcoming novel, Johnnie Come Lately, she offered to endorse it and she also requested an interview. We talked for over an hour. Please click the red link to read the story she gleaned from our conversation.
“The Kitchen family could be any wholesome All-American family, and like any family, they have secrets. In Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers brings to life an extended family that could be yours or mine. Their secrets will draw you into this book, and Rodgers’ characters — from Johnnie Kitchen to her lovable chocolate lab, Brother Dog — will jump off the page, grab your heart, and won’t let it go until the very end.”
Terri Barnes, author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and a columnist for Stars and Stripes
Terri’s full bio:
Terri is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and is the special projects editor at Elva Resa Publishing. A well-respected columnist, Terri is the writer and creator of the weekly Stars and Stripes column Spouse Calls, which first appeared in 2007. Now published in print editions worldwide and online, Spouse Calls serves as a voice for military spouses and families, through personal stories, incisive interviews, news analysis, and interaction with readers. Terri has been a member of the Washington, DC, press corps and has contributed to several other books about military life. Her work has appeared in Air Force/Army/Navy Times, The Huffington Post, and Books Make a Difference, as well as newspapers, magazines, and base publications in many of her adopted hometowns around the world. Her other media appearances include CNN Newsroom, Positive Parenting with Armin Brott, and Semper Feisty Radio with USMC Life.
As a recovered bulimic going on twenty-eight years, I have a responsibility to reach out to others and offer hope. I wrote the following note after receiving a message from someone who asked for my help.
It’s okay if you’ve stumbled after going several days without binging. Remember, you’ve simply taken one step back. The situation is not hopeless and you are not helpless. You pick yourself up and take two steps forward.
Don’t beat yourself up. Clear your head and find the good in yourself and others and keep moving forward.
Another tool to getting better is to reach out to others in some way. Service to others is such a healing balm. Maybe check on someone you know who might be lonely. Or have you ever helped serve food at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen?
Serving food to the needy can help you redirect the way you see food. Again, food is nothing more than fuel for our bodies.
It’s when we turn it into a weapon to use against ourselves that our relationship with food gets all twisted.
Today at this moment, regardless of whether you binged two days ago or two minutes ago, pick yourself up and move two steps forward.
You will get there.
You are worth the journey,
Kathleen adapted her Family Circle story for Her War Her Voice:
Social media’s “thigh gap” trend not to blame for eating disorders
Originally published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, Journal Inquirer, Manchester, CT
by Kristen J. Tsetsi
The website wikiHow, which offers step-by-step instructions on how to build a door, drive a car with manual transmission, and accept not having children, also explains how to achieve thigh gap.
Thigh gap, an aesthetic desired by a segment of young people (primarily females), is a space that exists between the thighs even when standing with the feet together. It’s a look somewhat common among very skinny runway models that might occur naturally in people with wide-set hips, but which is otherwise difficult to achieve without extreme and unhealthy weight loss.
It might seem because the thigh gap is currently trending online that this is some newfangled danger threatening America’s children, but what is more likely is that it’s simply another way for people with eating disorders to measure their weight loss, one eating disorder expert said.
“I think checking thighs is one of many what we call ‘body checking’ behaviors,” said Rebekah Bardwell Daweyko, licensed professional counselor and programming director of the Walden Behavioral Care Center in South Windsor, Conn. “People of all ages who struggle with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or pathological body image stressors do behaviors we call body checking. Often we see people who measure their wrist with their fingers, or they check themselves in the mirror multiple times a day, or they utilize other methods. Thigh gap is just another body checking behavior.”
Much of the media focus on the thigh gap trend blames social networking sites like Twitter and Instagram for fueling the thigh gap obsession among teens because they provide platforms for sharing pictures of emaciated thighs, which could help lead to eating disorders. But according to Daweyko, the emergence of eating disorders in individuals is a bit more complicated than that. Social media makes it easier to share ideas and learn new tricks, she said, but people who have an eating disorder will find a way to act out the disorder with or without social media.
While much of what a “thigh gap” search returns on Twitter is criticism of the trend, there are some Twitter users whose posts about thigh gap are expressions of longing for the elusive look. One Twitter user, whose Twitter name is “Sigh” flanked on either side by a heart and whose handle is a letters-and-numbers variation of the words “broken soul,” wrote in her feed, “You know what I would love? My thigh gap to still be visible when I sit down.”
When contacted through Twitter and asked why she wanted that gap, her reply was, “I just would rather have skinny legs rather than big thighs. They just seem nicer to me. I just feel like I need one to be skinny.”
She said she wasn’t emulating a famous person or a model, and that she hadn’t seen anyone in real life who had a thigh gap. “I just feel the need to have one,” she said. She added that she had seen typical “thinspo” images, or images of skinny women that are also called “thinspiration,” but a scroll through the 13-year-old’s Twitter feed suggests there is more to her desire for the skinny thighs than a need to conform to whatever images are circulating on the internet. For instance, she had a strong reaction — “That made me cry. Thank you so much” — to a YouTube video of a man speaking to the camera about the effects suicide can have on friends and family. It was sent to her by a Twitter follower in response to one of her tweets, which read, “I want these scars to fade on my wrist. if I need to cut that will be on my stomach. I dont have the confidence to wear crop tops so why not.”
Several anti-thigh gap posts on Twitter attempt to reassure girls that they’re attractive when their thighs touch, and that famous beauties like Beyoncé don’t need thigh gaps to be desirable, but those reassurances are likely to be ignored. Daweyko said it’s a misconception of people with eating disorders that they’re motivated by vanity.
“Things can start out that way, but there’s a nature vs. nurture component to it,” she said. “Nature loads the gun, but nurture pulls the trigger. People don’t have eating disorders because of the media.”
Another Twitter user who said she wanted a thigh gap has the Twitter name “Fading and Broken.” Asked her age via Twitter, she said she was 15. Her profile picture is a photograph of a young woman, not herself, with an emaciated shoulder, and her photo gallery is filled with thinspo images and text graphics communicating feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. She tracked her fasting periods — “I’ve fasted for a day, eighteen hours, and fifty-six minutes” — and wrote that she wanted to weigh 100 pounds, to have a thigh gap and hip bones, and to be “beautiful” and “thin.” In an earlier tweet she wrote, “Death seems more inviting than life will ever be.”
Eating disorders often go hand in hand with psychological disorders, and some people are simply susceptible to forming eating disorders in much the same way some people are susceptible to forming drug or alcohol addictions, Daweyko explained. There may be someone in the family with a history of depression and anxiety, perhaps a toxic relationship with parents, or some other family disturbance. Maybe they weren’t taught healthy coping skills, Daweyko said, or maybe they were abused at some point and no one believed them.
“Maybe they had the perfect storm happening, they decided to go on a diet, and it started out as, ‘I’m going to lose five pounds.’ Then, before you know it, that turned into an addiction,” she said.
According to statistics compiled by the South Carolina Department of Health, 95 percent of those with eating disorders, which include bulimia, bingeing, excessive exercising, and the rarer anorexia, are between the ages of 12 and 25. What makes teenage eating disorders so dangerous, Daweyko said, is that bodies that haven’t yet stopped growing are at risk of being stunted from malnourishment. Worse still is that anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, the department of health statistics say, and 20 percent of those suffering from it will die prematurely of disorder-related complications. Suicide is one of those complications.
The National Institutes of Mental Health classify eating disorders as treatable medical illnesses, but the South Carolina Department of Health statistics said 80 percent of females who access treatment don’t receive enough, and only one in 10 people suffering from an eating disorder receive treatment at all. Whether a person seeks treatment and then recovers is dependent on several factors, Daweyko said.
“It depends where they are in their willingness to change. We have different stages. If someone doesn’t see a need to change, it’s not likely they will just because someone wrote a comment on a website. People change because something happens,” she said. “Maybe a medical scare, or parents become aware of it and push them to. People don’t change because they see the light. They change because they feel the heat.”
When asked what will happen once she achieves her thigh gap, whether she’ll be happy with how she looks, the Twitter user named “Sigh” said she already has a gap. She just wants it to be wider. “Same with normal weight,” she said. “Like once I hit my goal weight, I’ll want lower.”
“Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the semi-autobiographical novel ‘Pretty Much True...,’ the story of waiting for a loved one at war that has been called ‘shimmeringly powerful’ by NYT best selling novelist Caroline Leavitt and ‘a story suffused with a brightness that shines truer than the truth’ by journalist and television news commentator James C. Moore.