Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

Facing Anorexia


Lean or Anorexic?

Tonight I watched a profoundly disturbing intervention on A&E with a stick-thin woman suffering from anorexia. She is 5’8″ tall, weighs 94 lbs, and eats 800 calories or less a day, and thinks her belly is distended when you can see her bones. They look so sharp and angular that you could use them to cut things.

She is a twin and seeing her on screen in contrast with her healthy sister was particularly hard to watch. It was so obvious to me and my friend watching with me (and 99% of other people) that someone so skeletal looked scary and unhealthy. It was really hard to watch her talk about how she doesn’t deserve to eat, how she has rituals around stretching out the food as long as possible. Her clothes were baggy but they still didn’t disguise her true body shape. Her hair looked awful and her eyes were haunted. Her family was afraid that she would die soon.

Part of me watched in appalled discomfort as she justified her not eating, her appearance, her self control, her right to do what she wanted with her body. Because I know I say some of the same things, only I’m challenged by my obesity, not my anorexia. I’ve had fears that my family would stage an intervention with me — we love you, we need you to live and be healthy, we need you to see that you are killing yourself with food.

I’m afraid that I would not deal with it well. However true it is, there is nothing I haven’t told myself. So instead of allowing myself to be carted off to a treatment center to eat bread and water and have counseling for 90 days, I would probably stuff my face and cry.

The show was sobering and left me with much to think about. I can still see her face.

4 thoughts on “Facing Anorexia

  1. my therapist sees US – all day long 4 days a week.

    We are all at various stages of undereating and overeating – different flips of the same dice/coin.

    At any given time she has someone IN patient somewhere.

    She has had two deaths in a year (that I know about). I don’t know the particulars at all – I just know that it happened – twice.

    I think that I know exactly how you felt looking at the show – I see the same thing – in person – once a week as I watch the person with the appointment before me leaving the office – she is slowly getting better – each week there are slightly less clothes. Now there is no hat with a hoodie over it. It is sort of like watching a butterfly coming out of her wrappings/nest. This person does not cause me anxiety now – she did a year ago – but she is moving forward – and I can let it go and put it back in her hands and not take it too much to heart.

    There is an eating disorders (heavy weight, lots of fat rolls) woman that takes water aerobics with me in the summer. Her severly anorexic daughter comes to watch. The relationship is self destructive – the mother perpectuates the daughter’s disorder in a LOT of really obvious ways. I have a hard time getting those two out of my head (and we are now almost to February and I haven’t seen them since August). These two have been in the same place for two years (at least) – daughter on the brink all the time – same relationship – same disordered thinking – these two are not getting better and I do take them to heart. . .

  2. I’m not sure that I see the value of an intervention because, as you said, the person is just left with a new source of pain and a deeper need to escape.

    I think the initiative for any real change has to come from inside, from a sense that we love ourselves too much to continue with self-destructive behavior.

    I’ve been feeling at sea with my own weight-loss efforts and just generally stressed out and frustrated. I remember that in March, when I went to NYC, i was feeling pretty confident about myself. It is amazing to me because that person seems so far away from me now. It doesn’t seem to take much to throw everything out of whack again. I’m struggling to find the person who acted in her own best interest and to remember what she was like.

  3. We focus way to much on weight. It’s so interesting to see both sides of the spectrum. I don’t think that your family would stage an intervention. I bet you don’t even need it. I recently read in an article that Qualtrics, a top survey company found that 53% of Americans think they are obese. This is alot and I think it demonstrates the emphasis we as a society place on weight.

  4. I hope you don’t mind me posting – I am an eating disorders dietitian. I read a lot of pain in your post, and I would like to support you in that going to a treatment center, should you ever decide to do so, would not include bread and water for 90 days. You are probably right that everything you hear at an intervention you have probably told yourself before, but surely not everything you would hear in treatment. Most of my patients are telling themselves horrible things about how out of control they are, about how they have no willpower, they are failures, they are unlovable, they are stupid – horrible things that no one would tell to anyone else. And this is equally from patients who are underweight, overweight, and normal weight. They are utterly surprised to hear another person, an expert like myself, tell them that truly they are very smart to have found a way to escape from their issues through eating or not eating food, that they don’t lack self control, and they are certainly not bad or unlovable based on what they eat, what they weigh, or anything else that has happened to them. Treatment is not supposed to convert you into a new person, it is supposed to peel away the things that are not helping you any more so that you can find the person you want to be underneath. I hope that you will consider treatment, whether it is with eating disorder specialists on an outpatient basis, or in a treatment center if that is what you prefer. Ideally your family won’t need to have an intervention, because then you can make the decision for yourself, and stop hearing all the negativity for good. I would be happy to help you find an expert in your area if you would like. Best wishes,
    Jessica Setnick,MS,RD,CSSD
    Author of The Eating Disorders Clinical Pocket Guide

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