Is Joe Schrank Chris Christie’s New Psychic?

Bad DoctorOn The Fix, a site he co-founded, Joe Schrank  wrote a piece called “Chris Christie, The Addict?”  Based on the question mark in the title you might assume that this is a piece wondering if Chris Christie has some kind of addiction – I know I did.  It’s not. This piece is highly problematic in a number of ways, let’s look at some of them: (thanks to reader Elizabeth for letting me know about this!)

Lets start with the obvious: His apparent-to-the-naked eye eating disorder.

The only thing apparent to the naked eye is Governor Christie’s body size.  Mr. Schrank bills himself as an “addiction specialist”  In further research he seems to have studied clinical social work and  done all of his work in alcohol and substance abuse.  Maybe he’s just out of his depth, but anyone who studied clinical social work and bills himself as an “addiction specialist” should know better than to simply make assumptions about people based on how they look.

 In 2013, Dr. Connie Mariano commented that Christie was vulnerable to stroke, heart attack or diabetes and that his health was a legitimate voter concern should he actually make a 2016 run at the White House. What did Christie do in response? He lashed out at the good doctor, saying, “She should shut up!”

Governor Christie’s response to Dr. Mariano was because she was doing the same thing that Mr. Schrank is doing here – acting like a psychic instead of a healthcare professional.  Dr. Mariano made multiple assumptions about Governor Christie’s health from across the country, she’d never been in the same room with him let alone the examined him.  As we well know, studies of health and weight that control for behavior find that behavior, not body size, is the best predictor of health.   Now Mr. Schrank has decided to do the same thing with Governor Christie’s mental heath that Dr. Mariano did with his physical health. I hope Governor Christie’s response to him is the same as it was to Dr. Mariano.

Chris Christie suffers from an eating disorder.

So Mr. Schrank IS a psychic!  Perhaps he’ll comment here and give me tomorrow’s lottery numbers.  His evidence is entirely based on Chris Christie’s weight.  He has absolutely no knowledge of the Governor’s behaviors or thought patterns.  Eating disorders are complicated and varied and there are specific diagnostic criteria.  In case you’re wondering, a cursory glance at someone’s body is not the diagnostic criteria for any eating disorder.

With Christie, we’re at the metaphorical moment when he can no longer deny that the drug test has shown opiates in his system.

Or maybe he just ate a poppy seed muffin.  What the hell?  The idea that Gov. Christie can’t deny having an eating disorder because he is fat is the same thing as having a positive drug test (because those are never wrong *sarcasm*…) is beyond problematic.  As a clinical social worker and an addiction specialist, Mr. Schrank should know better than this.

Many people who suffer from addiction have…

Addicts also like to…

like an alcoholic…

The concept of food addiction is a very controversial one, not least because – unlike drugs or alcohol – everyone would die without food.   Food addiction is not recognized by the DSM V and even if it was,  it could not be diagnosed based on body size.  You simply can’t diagnose addiction or mental illness based on how someone looks.  In the many, many, comparisons of alcoholics and Chris Christie it’s important to realize that Mr. Schrank is actually comparing people’s whose behaviors meet the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse to a man who is simply fat.

I think Mr. Schrank is out of his depth here, prattling on about things that he doesn’t understand The problem is that the discourse that all fat people have eating disorders is damaging, not just to people who are diagnosed with an easting disorder based on how they look and don’t have one, but to people who have eating disorders but have trouble being properly diagnosed – for example fat people with Anorexia and thin people with Binge Eating Disorder.  There are many issues with eating disorder diagnosis and treatment in this country (a topic for another blog post perhaps) and I think it would be dandy if people who are clinical social workers, and therefore should know better, didn’t make things worse through articles like this.

I’m not a fan of Governor Christie, but I want discussions about campaigns and government to be about policy, not prejudice.

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Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 11:21 am  Comments (26)  

26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It REALLY pissed me off what they did to Christie. Basically FORCED him into weight loss surgery to try to salvage his career. Shameful behavior from the ignorant herd. I’m finding the same thing myself. I really have no friends anymore. None of them will accept me as the “bad fatty” who thinks HAES is the way to go.

    • You have friend here. Never forget that.

      • Pluralize that – it’s totally friends that you have here.

        Also, F-them! Be honest and true with yourself. Good friends who will respect that will join with you!

        • That’s what I *meant* to say. I typoed that. :)

    • I don’t think anyone forced Christie into having surgery. That was his choice and as far as I know he has never said publicly why he had the surgery.

      To quote the man himself, “I don’t care” why he had surgery, or what he looks like. He’s ugly inside where it counts.

      As for those people who won’t accept you, they weren’t/aren’t really friends. Just shallow, superficial people who probably suffer from low self esteem. They are to be pitied.

      • Hi…

        I disagree about Christie. When the fat bashing first came to a head in the media, he went on camera telling the world about how he is basically the healthiest fat person you have ever met. He was defending his fatness just as a HAES supporter would defend it – not that he necessarily was even aware of HAES.

        Then, as Ragen pointed out, Dr. Connie Mariano (a former white house physician) went on CNN and slammed Christie for being fat, predicting that he could die of a heart attack or stroke due to his obesity. All that without ever having seen him in person, let alone having examined him. Very ignorant, unprofessinal.

        Christie replied, telling her that unless she has examined him, she should just shut up.

        These are not the actions of a man who was contemplting weight loss surgery before all this happened.

        I firmly beleive he was forced into it. The politics of the situation made it clear that, if he did NOT do something like that, his political career was over. Or at least any hopes of the presidency were over.
        Now, how is threatening to end somebody’s career, somebody’s livlihood, NOT forcing them?

        • Since he was just re-elected governor, clearly his career was not threatened. I believe his presidential aspirations are shot, but that has more to do with his hubris than his weight.

          I totally agree that no one should be spouting off about his body and health. That is between him and his personal physicians. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. :-)

    • I really don’t have any friends either, and except for my son, my family pretty well has nothing but criticism for me.
      Sometimes it seems we have to lose people to gain ourselves, which is sad.

  2. This pisses me off.

    It reminds me of the sexist attacks on Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. I hated the promulgation of sexism, but it also seemed so pointless. If you want to discredit them politically, they both have plenty of issues that have nothing to do with gender.

    Chris Christie’s weight has nothing to do with running for or holding political office, and anything that attacks him based on his weight is pure fat phobia. If you want to discredit him as a presidential candidate, let’s talk about his bridge scandal. Or the many instances of his acting as a bully. Or his crap policies. Seriously, let the guy talk for 10 minutes, and you will find a valid, political reason to oppose him.

    • Agreed. And you can find one no matter which side of the political fence you’re on. Going after him for his weight is just lazy, when anyone of any political stripe can find a legitimate reason to oppose him based on a 10-second google search.

  3. As someone who has fought against eating disorders for three decades under every body type and is currently trying to find accurate, informed medical and psychological help, I find this more frightening than the ED itself :/ whomever hold his license needs to yank it.

  4. I dislike this guy’s politics and I keep saying I hope he doesn’t run, as it will force me to be defending him from bullshit like this for years! There are plenty of reasons to dislike Chris Christie’s politics, and I suppose there are likely plenty of reasons to dislike the man himself (although, none of us would know them), but his weight is not one of them!

  5. I so detest it when people start attacking politicians based on completely irrelevant issues. She can’t govern because Vagina! He can’t lead because Fat! Black! Gay! Catholic! Mormon! Atheist!

    When deciding whether or not to vote for a politician, there’s one thing I look at above all others: policy.

    If I like what that politician stands for, I will vote yea when that name comes up on my ballot. If I dislike what that politician stands for, then I will vote nay.

    I know that if Chris Christie came up on my ballot here in California, I would vote against him. I dislike his policies. I also don’t think he has a diplomatic bone in his body, and diplomacy is kind of useful in a President.

    But his body shape? No, that doesn’t enter into the equation for me. And no, it doesn’t indicate either physical illness nor a mental disorder. It’s just a waistline. Get over it.

  6. So, Chris Christie is “addicted to food”. Well, fair enough. So am I. Addicted to oxygen, too.

    Or maybe I’m just addicted to continuing to remain alive.

    Make no mistake, I’m a fairly conservative libertarian, and I have absolutely no warm fuzzies for the guy. But the idea that his weight automatically equates out to a mental disorder is patently ridiculous.

    I’ve no idea what Mr. Schrank’s credentials are (or Dr. Mariano’s, for that matter). What I do know is that making a public diagnosis of someone you’ve never treated or examined is essentially malpractice, no matter your field.

  7. As a soon-to-be social worker, I am appalled at the grandiose and patently false assumptions this person has made. This is not what social work is.

    • I was going to say, as a licensed clinical social worker I feel the need to apologize on behalf of our profession. This is indeed not what we are about. Among our professional values are vowing to do no harm, honoring self-determination, and helping others recognize and approach challenges with their strengths. I was also taught to recognize that diagnosis can have both risk and benefit, and not to apply them to a client without their consent (assuming they even fit the criteria for the diagnosis in question).

  8. I am an actual therapist. Also a fat woman married to a fat man, and I come from a whole fat family and have lots of fat friends and fat clients (actually family/friends/clients of all sizes). I can confirm that not all fat people have diagnosable eating disorders – in fact, relatively few do. And yes, I think those two should have their licenses reviewed for a number of reasons.

  9. Huh. THIS licensed clinical social worker is skeptical.

    While I can find online that Mr. Schrank “studied social work” at two different graduate schools, and calls himself a social worker, I can’t find any evidence that he actually graduated with a degree, completed the licensing process – which includes two exams and many hours of direct supervision by a senior clinician. People who go through that process typically refer to themselves as a “licensed clinical social worker”.

    But if he is, in fact, an LICSW, he should know that it is extremely inappropriate, unprofessional and unethical to diagnose someone who you have not actually met and evaluated. There’s a lot more I could say about someone (supposedly) with their expertise in addiction diagnosing someone with an eating disorder, but I think I’ll stop here.

    Yikes!!

  10. As a new therapist I noticed many more experienced therapists were set in their ways. It didn’t matter what the client said, they knew what was really the problem anyway. Funny how they all had their favorite niche diagnosis. Much like this man and his food addiction.

    And once again I am surprised that someone who really has no apparent professional basis (accepting Lisa’s research above) gets air time from the media. Just because he convinced someone he is an expert…

    What I’m noticing more and more is that we are a very bigoted country…and the population to be reviled is easily changed as the tides. It’s sad…

    • I suspect you’re right. He has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. (With a heaping side of “projecting his own issues” to boot.)

      And with no professional basis for a mental health diagnosis, well… it’s about as much credence as I’d given my podiatrist if he was trying to diagnose and treat my fertility issues. Which is to say, pretty much none.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly about the politics. Although I would not vote for him, his weight has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with it.

    The irony is that several people “in the know” speculated that part of the reason Christie defeated John Corzine was that Corzine took some cheap shots at Christie. I can’t remember the exact quotes, but it was something childish about Christie “throwing his weight around” in the political arena. I was very upset at the time.

    (in regards to the other issue, I had to change psychiatrists once because he was a little too obsessed with weight.)

  12. Sadly, another Doctor who puts profits above people. And he does seem to be a licensed medical social worker as Joe Schrank is listed on ZoomInfo has have a MSW from the Univ of Southern California.

    He must be wanting to get his own tv show like Dr. OZ or Phil, because targeting a fat politician gets him lots of attention. Great for his wallet but not so great for the further marginalization of fat people.

    • An MSW is a masters in social work.

  13. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    Not a fan of Christie’s politics, but people need to back the flea dipped flock off when it comes to his weight and health, which is none of their damn business!
    Looking at Chris Christie, my initial impression was this:
    Now, that looks like a strong, take-charge kind of guy.
    Which he is, give the devil his due.
    If I hear one more fool make a crack about Christie’s weight as if it had anything to do with his politics or any other relevant issue, I swear I’ll give ‘em a foot-long blazing buffalo sub for a suppository!


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