Friday, May 08, 2009

Guest post: One woman's story


This moving guest post, written by a 36-year-old reader, expresses vividly one young woman's slide into disordered eating and then an eating disorder. Her story involves a family that unwittingly triggered her ED. For every family like this, there are many others who do not value their children's thinness above all, and who don't contribute to pathology. So while I don't agree with her conclusion that "It's hard to have an eating disorder without the support of family and friends," I know from my own family's experience just how much validation and--as she points out--admiration comes your way just for being thin. Many of us don't realize we're validating pathological behaviors. I hope this will be a wake-up call for some.

A few months before my younger sister's wedding, she jokingly challenged my older sister and I to lose weight. My younger sister is very petite. She has always been very skinny. My parents (especially my mother) adore her.

At the time I was going through a spiritual crisis and felt a loss of control. I decided to go on a calorie-counting diet. I felt I couldn't control other things in my life. But I COULD control what I ate, and I could control how much I weighed.

It started fairly healthy. I bought a food scale and allowed myself the minimum amount of calories that experts recommend. My feeling is I'd get to my goal weight for the wedding, and when that was done I'd go off the diet.

I started off this diet as someone who has never really been overweight. I just wasn't thin like my sister. My weight was within the recommended ranges.

By the time the wedding came around I was thin. My parents were so proud. My dad even made comments in private about how he thought my beauty overshadowed the bride's. I received so much attention. I felt so proud. One of my parent's friend's kept praising me about my amazing willpower. One aunt did express concern. She said I looked too thin. I remember loving this attention.

At the wedding, I ate...a LOT. After weighing myself I realized that I couldn't just go off the diet. All the weight would come back. I'd have to stay on the diet for life. I told myself that was fine. I'd go on breaks sometimes and eat what I want.

My life and happiness became centered on these breaks which usually occurred on holidays and trips. Food became the center of my life. Nothing else could really excite me or make me happy. I'd spend hours and hours looking at restaurant and food websites.

Meanwhile, I kept wanting to lose more weight. Soon I came to the point where my weight at my sister's wedding seemed fat to me.

I don't think I had a body image distortion problem. I knew I was thin. I didn't look in the mirror and see a fat person. I saw a beautifully thin person. (Now though I look back at these photos and I AM thinner than I imagined).

The wedding had been in May. By Thanksgiving, I was underweight. My birthday was around this time and has a gift my mom took me shopping. She was so proud of my weight loss--bought me clothes to show it off.

At Thanksgiving, I opened my presents. Everyone wanted me to try the clothes on. Even though I was underweight, they had bought me clothes that were still tight. I could wear them, but I knew if I gained a little weight, I could no longer wear them.

I wasn't a teenager during all this. I was a mother with a four year old son and an aunt with two nieces. I think a part of me knew I had a problem, but another part of me denied that. I remember seeing someone horribly thin jogging and thinking. I am NOT like her. I'm okay.

I didn't want to die and leave my child an orphan. I told myself I was fine. I told myself there was a difference between eating disorders and strict healthy dieting. But I think a small part of me knew I was fooling myself. Maybe? I'm actually not sure.

The dieting continued. The numbers on the scale got lower.

During the beginning of the dieting, I had begun walking. I'd put my son in a stroller and do a long walk everyday. (or almost every day) My parents were very impressed with this. I received a lot of praise. Eventually, I bought a pedometer and made outrageous rules about how much I'd have to walk each day. I'd do this by never sitting down. I'd just walk and walk around the house--constantly. I remember having guests over and wanting them to leave because I was too embarrassed to obsessively walk in front of them. I felt they were intruding on my walking time.

I made rules for myself such as you can't eat another piece of food until you walk a certain amount of steps.

I started wanting to take more breaks from the diet. I made rules that if I was at a certain weight I could do this. I started drinking herbal laxative teas in hopes that this would make me lose those extra pounds. I didn't have much luck. My system was so slow at that point. I stopped having daily bowel movements.

About a year and a half after it all started, I received comments on my Livejournal blog from an anonymous stranger. An LJ friend had recovered from an eating disorder and was disturbed by my constant public recording of my weight. She approached another ED friend and they gave me a mini-intervention. She said it seemed like I had an eating disorder. She talked about my issues of control. And she scolded me for recording my weight. She said all this might be a trigger for someone.

I was furious and disgusted with her.

A few months later my sister (the thin one) approached me about the eating disorder. I actually don't remember my response. I can't remember if I denied it, or if by this time I knew I had a problem.

Eventually though I got over it.

I put away the scale (food and body). I stopped wearing a pedometer.

I stopped dieting.

I was disturbed to find myself quickly returning to my old weight, but I have grown to be mostly okay with it.

I have taken the scale back out, but I never weigh myself more than once a day. I also NEVER punish or reward myself based on my weight. I accept the number and realize there are so many things about myself that are much more important.

For the most part, I'm happy with myself.

I'm no longer obsessed with food. I like to eat, but it's definitely not the center of my happiness. My husband is a bit of a foodie and I actually get bored now when he starts going on and on about food.

I have had setbacks. My husband's friend went on a diet where you fast every other day. I read about it, decided it was safe, and tried it too. I lost a few pounds, but found myself obsessing about food again. I decided this was unhealthy and quit after a few weeks.

Every so often I have days/nights where my self-esteem sinks very low...usually caused by some interpersonal conflict. I get very depressed and feel worthless. I make a vow that in the morning I'm going to go back to strict dieting. I think this is less about being thin though and more about feeling self-destructive and needing a sense of control.

Fortunately, in the morning I usually come to my senses and eat normally.

When I first came to terms with my eating disorder--around the spring of 2007, I emailed my family about all of it. I told them about how I now know I had an eating disorder and I'm going to stop the negative behaviors. I expected to get sympathy, concern, and kudos for wanting to overcome my problem. That is not what happened. One of my brother-in-laws didn't believe I had a disorder and told me that. He told me I was just very dedicated. That's all it was. I put my mind to something... a goal and I achieve it. During the ED times, he'd frequently ask me how much weight I had lost. He was so impressed and gave me a lot of attention over this.

My dad showed no concern or regret for what happened to me. He merely scolded me for confessing that I had not gone to certain family outings because I had wanted to avoid food. (in the beginning I was one of those who would happily watch other people eat--even make huge desserts for others, while I ate a piece of fruit or nothing. But later this became harder for me and I sometimes avoided social events so I wouldn't have to jealously watch other people eat). Family togetherness is very important to my dad and he was horrified that I'd choose not to be with family.

After getting the email, I had shocking encounters with my family. Although I told them I was no longer dieting, they still sometimes acted as if I were At one time, we had some kind of celebration that involved cake. My BIL said not to worry. He had fruit for me! Even after I told them my problem and that I'm not on a diet any longer, he went out to get a special meal for me. I was horrified and hurt. I felt they were trying to push me back to the diet.

Another time, we were all about to have cake. My mother turned to me and said something like "Are you going to have some, or are you dieting?"

I was so disgusted that they'd say these things knowing I had an eating disorder. I would think they'd be HAPPY to see me eating.

For the past two years, I have resented their reaction...but I resent a lot about my family. For some reason, the past few weeks I've been thinking about it and wondering why they didn't give me more support.

My mom is on the Jenny Craig diet. I saw her eating a JC cake, and started thinking maybe I should go back to dieting. Maybe this one would work for me because it doesn't involve counting. I know it would be dangerous for me to do any diet where numbers are involved.

I brought it up to her in the car. I asked if she thought it was an okay diet for someone who has an eating disorder. I confess that I think I wanted to see her reaction to the eating disorder thing. After that email, we had never discussed the issue. I guess I wanted to see what she thought.

Well, I found out. She told me she didn't think I had an eating disorder. She says almost everyone goes through yo-yo dieting and if I had an eating disorder probably most women do. She asked...isn't it just as bad to keep eating and gaining weight. Isn't that a disorder?

I told her I'd rather be a few pounds overweight than have an eating disorder again.

I basically then learned she feels to have an eating disorder you have to be in the hospital close to death. She feels because I was never officially diagnosed by a doctor, and was able to gain the weight back on my own, I never had a problem in the first place. I think to her what I did back then was GOOD. The bad thing I'm doing is now--not being thin anymore.

It is really hard to struggle with something, overcome it the best that you can, and then be told you never had a problem in the first place.

I think eating disorders are unique in that instead of getting sympathy and concern....you get admiration.

When I got home from being with my mother, I cried on my husband's shoulder. We talked about the past and how neither of us knew I had a problem back then. I think he feels some guilt. He saw some old pictures of me and realized how thin I had been. He hadn't realize it back then. Then he told me about his friend (the same one who went on the fasting diet). He told me he's concerned with her because she has stopped eating. She is now a very low clothes size. She's in an emotionally abusive relationship. Her boyfriend said something like "I usually date women who are thinner than you." My husband's friend has major relationship and self-esteem issues. She obviously has serious problems. But despite knowing all this, there's this small part of me that's jealous of her. There's a small part of me that admires her.

Anyway, that's my story.

From my experience, I think family members play a big role in eating disorders. I may be going too far in saying this, but my motto is "It's hard to have an eating disorder without the support of family and friends."

I can imagine it's worse for teenagers who actually live with parents. But as an adult, I have a very troubling co-dependent relationship with my parents. They live close by and we see them frequently.

If I had advice for family and friends of people who are dieting, it would be this:

1. Know the signs of an eating disorder and know when your relative/friend is going too far.
2. Do NOT make big deals about someone's weight loss. Do not give them extra attention over this. Find other things to praise them about.
3. Do not point out that a dieting person is eating. Don't say things like "Oh, I can't believe you're eating that" or "Are you off your diet?"
4. Do not praise them for their willpower. Don't praise them for their excessive exercising or their ability to eat an apple while everyone else eats a huge sundae.
5. Do not take them shopping to award them for their weight loss. If parents do this, they should at least buy things that are a little big so the person can grow into them. Do not buy things as small as possible--giving person idea they MUST stay at this weight.

I know ultimately I'm responsible for my own health. It was my fault I had these problems and it's up to me not to return to them. But I do think certain family situations contribute to these problems. For me, it was having a family that highly values thinness, fashion, and beauty.

As a teenager and young adult, I wrote multiple novels and screenplays. My parents gave me much more attention and praise for the weight loss.

Having a skinny sibling who is clearly the favorite also contributed to that. I felt if I got down to her weight, they'd love me like they love her. And in some ways, it did work.

You know ....I think about what contributed to my recovery. I want to say it was the Livejournal visitor or my sister. But you know who probably made me come to my senses. JK Rowling. On her website, (http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/extrastuff_view.cfm?id=22) she has a great essay about eating disorders. I'm a huge fan of hers and I think reading that helped me realize I was doing a bad thing not just to myself but to my son and nieces.

I started thinking what kind of message am I sending to these two little girls. They already have one very skinny aunt. What if they have two? And what if one of them is constantly dieting and exercising?

When you have an eating disorder, you're not only hurting yourself. You're hurting anyone who might see you as a role model. It's great to be a role model, but be one for something that's great. Don't be one for self-destructive behavior.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I identify with this writer's experience very much. My mother and extended family have always praised thinness and even told me I looked great when I got off the plane one year--returning home mid-semester because I was so sick with mono and complicating infections that I couldn't stay in school. Seeing as I had a constant fever and was becoming jaundiced from liver failure, I have to imagine it was the weight loss.

Now I am nearly 30, and am trying to come to terms with my body the way it is. But I dread going home to visit my mother. She's the most wonderful woman in the world, but she can never stop thinking about fat, and can't help but size up everyone and judge their bodies. I wish my mother were a little more enlightened about the whole thing (like you, Harriet!), but she's been obsessed with weight for 60 years--I doubt she'll change. My struggle now is to feel so justified and comfortable in my body that I won't feel a pang of self-hatred when she says, "you're going to eat all THAT!" Or when she fails to say "you look great."

I do wonder how long it will take, though.

Anonymous said...

Today at work my coworkers had a thing for me because tomorrow is my birthday. One of them is a man who's just returned to work after a liver transplant. During my little shindig, after everyone sang "happy birthday" and we ate brownies and I read my card he started talking about how he'd been losing weight and had to get all new clothes as he'd gotten rid of all his "skinny clothes" years ago.

I made a joke about it. "All my clothes are fat clothes," I said. And everybody laughed, though there was some discomfort in the room.

(I weigh over 300 lbs. My coworkers are either thin and athletic or large like me and deeply ashamed of it.)

I told someone earlier today that it is impossible to be fat and not feel like you have only 2 choices when dealing with "the outside world:"

1. Fight tooth and nail and butt heads with ignorant people to maintain your dignity

or

2. Bow and scrape in order to maintain their favor, by talking about your fatness only in terms of how awful it is and how much you want to lose weight, or how hard you are trying to lose weight, or how you plan on working to lose weight.

I just generally pick the former. Sometimes, though, it hurts so much to just automatically be pegged as inept or somehow less than everyone else in so many situations, without any basis to that.

Sorry to rant. I'm just feeling it today.

littlem said...

The more people tell their stories about what actually happens and how EDs can start, the more hope we all have, I think.

GP, thank you for your courage posting.
And thank you, Harriet, for giving her the space to post.

Harriet said...

Anon 1,

Our mothers have so much power over us. How I wish some of them used their powers for good rather than evil. Sometimes the best we can do is break the cycle. I'm proud of you for articulating your feelings so clearly.

Anon 2,
No one can make you feel ashamed without your permission.

I say this NOT to blame you but to encourage you. The only way to not feel shame and stigma is to refuse to feel them. If you act like the proud and beautiful person you are, people will treat you that way. Not all of them, not all of the time, but enough.

Be strong. Take care of yourself.

Cassandra Says said...

This all sounds awfully familiar. In my case it's my Dad who enforces slimness, and was even before my Mom died. He still asks me "how my weight is doing" every time I talk to him, even after being asked to stop. I was a brilliant kid academically, and good at some sports, but it was always made abundently clear that my Dad valued me most of all for being pretty, which he seems to think reflects well on him for some reason. Cue distorted thinking that's with me to this day.

I really don't know what to do about the way in which families reinforce disordered eating behaviors by praising their members for losing weight even when it's clear that it's being done in harmful ways.

BTW, littlem, this is OT but I've seen you say before that you work in the music industry, right? Talk about a triggery place for women with a history of ed...anyway, I've been working more and more in that field recently too and it would be cool to have someone who gets it to compare notes with. If you see this and are up for chatting could you email me? Email is cassandrasez at gmail.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post, obviously not due to the content but rather for the courage of the writer.

How does someone do a guest post? Is it open to everyone? For instance, could I send you something I have written and if you approve it would you publish it?

Thankyou.

Harriet said...

Cassandra Says,

In our culture the cult of thinness is usually reinforced multiple ways. I suspect for someone who's vulnerable that it's nearly impossible to not be triggered. So the challenge is to find yourself a community of folks who don't reinforce that and who don't feel that the size of your waist is more important than anything you could possibly accomplish. I hope you've found the beginnings of that community here.

Anon,

If you're interested in doing a guest post, send me an email off the blog at harriet at harrietbrown dot com. I'm always open to other voices here.

Gwen said...

This is a heartbreaking story. I think it shows why it's so important to validate a person's admission of "I have/had an eating disorder". If someone feels that their eating is or was disordered, then it is/was disordered. If food and eating causes pain to a person, then that is an important symptom. I can relate to the poster in that during the early stages of my illness I received a lot of positive feedback about the weight loss. Eventually, there was concern mixed with the praise. I got the help I needed, eventually, on my own. I think some members of my family were surprised that I had an official problem as they just didn't realize it had gone that far.

Obviously, family comments and attitudes can trigger an eating disorder in susceptible individuals. That is beyond dispute. But like you said, Harriet, more often than not family is the first line of defense against an eating disorder and can be a sufferer's biggest ally (and this is true even if that same family unwittingly triggered the disorder in the first place).

Harriet said...

Good point, Gwen. I know plenty of people who had trouble convincing friends and family they had a problem. I know of fat people whose doctors missed diagnoses of cancer because they didn't take seriously the patient's concern about losing a lot of weight without trying to.

And we are so damn used to seeing ultra-thin women--on TV, on magazine covers, on billboards, online--that unnatural thinness has become normalized. We are a visual culture and we can't underestimate that; I notice its effects on myself. One more reason to fill your eyes with normal-looking women, i.e., women of a range of body shapes and sizes.

deeleigh said...

I that know this - the reaction of the guest poster's family and friends - would happen to me if I did what the she did. I would get nothing but praise and support for continuing the disordered habits. And, the habits probably wouldn't make me thin. They'd just make me less fat and closer to "normal." But, I find it really shocking that this could happen to someone who went from thin to very thin. How fucked up is our culture?

Harriet said...

Rhetorical question, right?

Bron said...

Thank you so much to your guest author for writing that post, and to Harriet for putting it up. It really struck a chord with me, particularly as someone whose ED struck when I was in my late 20s, so older than is stereotypically the case. I also had the experience of a mother who thought I looked great at the point where I looked skeletal, and still doesn't realise that it wasn't a 'new me' but a very sick one.

It's so wonderful to have this little corner of the web where we can come and feel normal for wanting a healthy relationship with our bodies, and for not wanting to diet. Thank you to everyone for reminding me that dieting, thinness and despising your body aren't normal, despite the message we're bombarded with every day.

Cassandra Says said...

Harriet - It was actually reading this particular blog that finally made it click in my head that yeah, what I went through in my teens actually WAS an eating disorder. So yep, you're doing a fantastic job of approaching the subject in a rational, empathic way.

Mostly it just drives me crazy to realise how common these issues are. I mean I suppose given the cultural environment there's no way they wouldn't be, and it's lucky that most people don't have the genetic loading to develop full blown anorexia, but I'm starting to think that almost every woman I know has some sort of lingering low-grade issues with food.

I'm not quite sure what to do about work environments that are somewhat triggery when those environments are rewarding in other ways. So far all I've come up with is being aware that the environment could potentially be triggering and taking careful note of my own reactions, making sure to take a closer look at those that feel like they're coming from and ED sort of place.

peggynature said...

Seriously, this story is very concerning, because I can see how easily this exact situation can (and probably does) happen to just about anyone.

Family and friends DO tend to be more supportive of weight loss efforts, and less educated about the very real risks of eating disorders (and what those disorders look like in reality, as evidenced by the fact that the writer's family thought that someone had to be in the hospital on tube feedings to be considered eating disordered.)

I'm very glad you shared your story, anon. More people need to know what eating disorders actually look like, so we can all play a part in helping people to get better. Best of luck to you, and congratulations on your recovery process. You are very strong to do this in the face of all the pressure you feel from your family, not to mention society at large.

Anonymous said...

This woman's story is sad and painful, and I'm glad she has recovered and is leading a happier life. However, I think she should be a little less confident about what the cause was of her disordered eating, particularly about the blame she lays on her parents. First of all, it is not at all clear that families or parents cause eating disorders. Although I don't think any of us should necessarily accept without question what leading experts say, I also don't think we can ignore the dozens of leading researchers who have said, for example, in the Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Eating Disorders (Third Edition), published by the American Psychiatric Association, that "No evidence exists to prove that families cause eating disorders." http://www.psychiatryonline.com/pracGuide/pracGuideTopic_12.aspx Anectdotal stories don't prove causation, because there are many other factors, besides the family behavior, that might have caused the illness.

I know of many families that have encouraged extreme weight loss but have not produced kids with eating disorders. At the same time, there are millions of families that have never encouraged their kids to lose weight or diet, yet have had children who have developed anorexia. Anorexia has been found in cultures, and in families, that prize body types other than those that are thin. Consequently, I think it is speculation to say that comments from family members, or praise for thinness, cause anorexia.
Also, I don't agree that it is "hard to have an eating disorder without the support of family and friends." In my experience, all families, when they realize their loved one has an eating disorder, fight very hard against the disorder; they don't knowingly "support" it. Even then, it takes a lot of hard work to overcome the disorder. Instead of saying that it's "hard to have an eating disorder without the support of family and friends," I would say that it's "hard to beat an eating disorder without the support of family and friends."
Everyone I know who has had anorexia has said it is devilshly difficult to beat. That makes me wonder about this woman's observation that she "stopped dieting" and "quickly" returned to her old weight. I don't know anyone who has had clincial anorexia nervosa who found the cure so easily. I'm afraid this one story could mislead readers into thinking the cure lies in simply and easily "stopping dieting" and "quickly" returning to a healthy weight. Harriet, your own story belies that. As you have shown, beating the illness takes extreme perseverance and tenacity. The cure doesn't come "quickly"; it comes, usually, after many weeks, months, or even years of difficult refeeding and modification of behavior.
Finally, it is sad to me that this woman concludes by saying "it was my fault I had these problems." I don't think it was her, or anyone's, fault if she developed anorexia nervosa or another clinical eating disorder. I think these are illnesses that are best treated with love, compassion, and, as the best scientific evidence shows, an absence of blame, either for oneself or others. For this woman to feel guilt for being at "fault" merely compounds all the other distress she has suffered.

Harriet said...

Hi Anon,

Well of course I agree with you! If you read my introduction to this poster's story, and then her own clarifying comment, it should be clear that I in no way think families are to blame for eating disorders. And I agree that it's very sad that people with EDs blame themselves. It's terrible and reinforced by society in all sorts of ways. And of course you are correct to point out that many families encouraging weight loss don't produce kids with EDs and others that don't (my own included) do.

If you've been a reader of this blog you will also know that I see EDs as being largely genetic in origin. My family has a strong history of both EDs and anxiety--both tightly linked to EDs. My daughter got the genetic loading for anorexia. And in our culture I think it's nearly impossible not to be triggered. So if you've got that loading in 21st-century America you're pretty much screwed.

So you and I are on the same page here.

And I actually think our guest poster is too.

And I think it's great to talk about these things. The more talk the better. The more talk the less stigma attached to both the talking and the suffering.

So talk on!

Anonymous said...

I am the person who this guest post belongs to.

I want to start off by saying that I'm NOT okay right now. This week has been a huge struggle for me.

It is really hard to be told that you do/did not have a problem when you have struggled so hard to overcome it.

I may be reading into things, but I get the sense that anonymous thinks I made all of this up...or that I'm not being fully truthful.

And I don't fault her for feeling this. I've read things online that I questioned before. But I keep my doubts to myself knowing that if I say something and that person IS telling the truth, my words of doubt are only going to add to their pain.

I do not know if I had a CLINICAL eating disorder. Okay? I was never diagnosed by anyone. I've read the criteria online for Anorexia. My minimum weight would qualify, but I never stopped having my period. I was never that physically sick.

I stopped it in time. And no it was not overnight. I didn't one day wake up and say "Hey, I'm going to be happy and not have an eating disorder anymore." If you read my story closely you will see this. It took months. But once I realized I had a problem and put a stop to it....the weight DID return quickly. Why? My metabolism was completely messed up. It was super slow. It became very easy for me to gain weight.

Why was I able to eat in the first place? Don't people with eating disorders have to lie in the hospital with IV's. Don't they have to be force fed by someone?

No. Maybe Anorexics do. Maybe they lose the ability to eat.

But I had never stopped eating. As you can read in my story, I would take breaks from the diet and eat huge amounts of food. SO I had never lost my ability to eat.

As for this line (it really hurts me and makes me angry).

"In my experience, all families, when they realize their loved one has an eating disorder, fight very hard against the disorder; they don't knowingly "support" it."

Well, guess what? My parents didn't. They didn't give me one ounce of concern or support over this.

They do not believe I ever had a problem--well, at least my mother didn't. I can't speak for the rest of my family. In their case, I can only read clues, suspect and make assumptions.

Anyway,

I have enough invalidation from my family.

I came to Harriet because I was very upset by the conversation I had with my mom. I just wanted to tell someone my story. She asked me if I wanted to do a guest post. I agreed to it and now I deeply regret that.

I should have known better. I should have known by doing this I'd be opening myself up to the same crap I get from my parents.

Harriet said...

Dear Guest Poster,
I am so so sorry you feel that way.

There is no such thing as "all families." There is only your family, and my family, and each of our families.

When I said that anon and I were on the same page, I overlooked that line that clearly gave you so much pain.

Please re-read the other comments. I think you will hear a lot of validation there. You're not alone. You're not the only person who has had this experience.

If you want me to take down this whole thread, I will do that. But I think your story has helped a lot of other people--those who have commented and those who haven't--feel less alone. You've done a good thing. I wish it hadn't caused you pain.

Jeannette said...

Guest Poster, you have been very brave. You are not alone in your experience. Read the earlier comments. You did a good thing, writing that post.

Your story resonates with my experience. I am someone too who was not diagnosed at a "clinical" level, probably only because I started eating again before hospitalization was required. (It wasn't, in itself, a good thing. However,it probably saved me.)

My family has never, ever spoken about this time in my life/our lives.

My mother has dieted all of her life. My father continues to equate beauty with thinness. A typical compliment is "You look good. Have you lost weight?"

To this day I do not keep scales in my home. I'm afraid I would not be able to stop myself.

My biggest regret is not asking for help with this. I probably have absorbed some of that mentality... afraid thatI won't be taken seriously, because I don't need an IV.

Of course the point should be to get help for people before they get to the IV stage!

My biggest fear is that I'll pass this onto my children. That's something I wish there was help with. How do I know I'm being sane with them? What do I need to watch out for?

Anyway, thank you for posting and to Harriet for her work here.

Elizabeth Patch said...

I completely empathize with your guest blogger, Harriet. I come from a family of skinny women, and yet have suffered off & on eating disorders my whole life, because I believed I wasn't thin enough, and received very positive feedback whenever I slipped underweight. I have taught high school art for 20 years. Year after year, I've overheard my female students endlessly obsess about their appearance. And when girls obsess about their appearance, the #1 complaint I hear (outnumbering hair, face, skin or clothes by a mile) is "I'm so fat". Teaching is a largely female profession, and you can guess what predictable pointless topic comes up at every lunch table: diets! I have watched helplessly as one of my girls died from complications related to anorexia a few weeks short of graduation. Eating disorders are a destructive, pervasive part of our society, and every person that tells her story is doing a favor by shining a light on this extreme aspect of negative body image and self-esteem.

Pixll said...

What a phenomenal story! Thank you so much for sharing that here. So many of the things just really strike a chord with me. I felt so compelled to comment that I signed up for an account, just so I could own what I had to say.

I hate how it is that the world celebrates thin, when so often it's not healthy - physically or emotionally to be that way. I hate how people who are trapped in this cycle of self abuse get congratulated for it, and shunned for 'letting themselves go'. I hate too that we all have this idea that to have a valid problem with food we all be tiny little stick people attached to a tube. It's just not that simplistic. I am furious, just angry beyond words at how our world detroys us, bit by bit, day by day with this bullshit.

Guest poster - you have phenomenal strength. To push against what it is that smothers so many of us.

I wish you love and luck for your future. You are and inspiration.

Pixie