She started with a diet, but she almost died.
At age 16 Anne weighed 110 lbs. But a boy told she wasn't asked to a school dance because she was fat. He was teasing but she was inclined to take it seriously. And she started counting calories.
First, Anne skipped lunch. When swimming suit fashions appeared in stores she dropped breakfast. She obsessively weighed her food and calculated the calories that she consumed. By summer her daily intake had plummeted to some 300 calories a day. Anne weighed 93 pounds. Her knees, elbows and fingers often swelled uncomfortably. She complained that her fingernails broke easily and her hair had split ends. When her friends and parents deplored her emaciated frame, Anne deplored "the ripples of fat" on her legs and her stomach.
She adamantly refused to see a doctor until she fainted while boarding the school bus. In the fall, she cut her forehead; her parents took her to the emergency room. Appalled by her emaciation, the physician said Anne suffered from anorexia nervosa and immediately admitted her to the hospital.
Laurie a 9th grader, loved parties especially when she discovered her own answer to weight control. After gulping down several doughnuts and cupcakes and an entire bag of chips she slipped into the bathroom and made herself throw up! It was the ideal compromise between her inability to control her eating and her desire to lose weight.
But after several months of bingeing followed by self induced vomiting, Laurie's throat hurt constantly and her dentist urged her to brush more thoroughly because her teeth were in poor condition. Worse, she could neither stop her binges nor keep her food in her stomach after a normal meal.
When she developed a serious ulcer, she finally admitted her binge-purge routine to her doctor. He diagnosed bulimia nervosa and sent Laurie to a psychiatrist, who created a treatment plan that would help her return to healthful, normal eating habits.
Deborah developed Anorexia Nervosa when she was 16. A rather shy, studious teenager, she tried hard to please everyone. She had an attractive appearance but was slightly overweight. Like many teenager girls, she was interested in boy but concerned that she wasn't pretty enough to get their attention. When he father jokingly remarked that she would never get a date if she didn't take off some weight, she took him seriously and began to diet relentlessly- never believing she was thin enough even when she became extremely underweight.
Soon after the pounds started dropping off, Deborah's menstrual period stopped. As anorexia tightened it's grip she became obsessed with dieting and food and developed strange eating rituals. Every day she weight all the food she would eat on a kitchen scale, cutting solids into minuscule pieces and precisely measuring liquids. She would then put her daily ration in small containers, lining them up in neat rows. She also exercised compulsively , even after she became weakened and faint. She never took an elevator if she could walk up steps.
No one was able to convince Deborah that she was in danger. Finally, her doctor insisted that she be hospitalized and carefully monitored for treatment of her illness. While in the hospital, she secretly continued her exercise regimen in the bathroom, doing strenuous routines of sit-ups and knee bends. It took severally hospitalizations and a good deal of individual and family outpatient therapy for Deborah to face and solve her problems.
Lisa developed bulimia nervosa at age 18. Like Deborah, her strange eating behavior began when she started to diet. She too dieted and excreted to lose weight, but unlike Deborah, she regularly ate huge amounts of food and maintained her normal weight by forcing her self to vomit. Lisa often felt like an emotional powder keg -- angry, frightened and depressed.
Unable to understand her own behavior, she thought no one else would either. She felt isolated and lonely. Typically, when things were not going well, she would be overcome with an uncontrollable desire for sweets. She would eat pounds of candy and cake at a time, and often not stop until she was exhausted or in severe pain. Then, overwhelmed with guilt and disgust, she would make herself vomit.
Her eating habits so embarrassed her, that she kept them a secret until, she depressed by her mounting problems, she attempted suicide. Fortunately she didn't succeed. While recuperating in the hospital, she was referred to an eating disorders clinic where she became involved in group therapy. There she received medications to treat the illness and the understanding and the help she so desperately needed from others who had the same problem.
Pam is in her late teens. She is a perfectionist. She is as emaciated and bony as a prisoner of war or famine victim, but she insists that her belly sticks out and she wants to lose a little more weight.
Her friendships have changed. Her family is worried. They think she looks skeletal and urge her to eat more. But that just makes her defiant, so she hardly touches the food on her plate. Pam thinks about food a lot, and cooks for others. But while food fascinates her, eating repels her. So she feeds her dinner to the dog, hides it, or throws it out when no one is looking. When someone is watching she may eat, but may later take a laxative or an enema. Occasionally her willpower falters and she binges, but after wards she vomits or fasts with added determination.
Losing weight makes Pam feel in control. Her parents have always demanded a lot and she expects a lot of her self. After Pam shed the five ponds she wanted to lose, she kept dieting and exercising rigidly. She is plugged in to the idea of putting as little as possible in her body. It gives her a sense of power, even superiority, to know she can live almost without food; she can resist what others find irresistible.
From 120 pounds, she is down to below 90. She's lost some weight as well as weight. Some of her skin is scaly. She feels cold and is bundled up more. She has problems sleeping and suffers from constipation and sudden muscle cramps. When her periods stopped Pam wondered if her whole system was shutting down. But she hadn't felt too comfortable about menstruation or the prospect of a future pregnancy anywise. What finally scared Pam is that she went from feeling super energetic to be debilitated. And when her sister came home from college, she took one look at Pam and started to cry.
Jessica's weight is pretty normal. Her friends don't even realize that she has a problem. But Jessica knows that she is a compulsive eater, and she feel depressed, disgusted, and guilty. At times that guilt sends her back to the kitchen where she eats a box of cookies, a bag of donuts, a half a pie or a quart of ice cream. She scarcely pauses between bites because she doesn't want to acknowledge what she is doing. After a pig out, Jessica goes to the bathroom and vomits.
At first she thought throwing up was a great way to eat her favorite foods without gaining weight. That was back when she has to use her finger to make herself vomit. Unfortunately, her unhealthily whim led to frequent self-induced vomiting, and now when she bends over food comes up on it's own. Her mouth hurts and sometimes bleeds and lately Jessica has been depressed by her feast or famine eating patterns. Her fixation with food has gotten in the way of her social life. It has also diverted her attention from her other problems.
Jessica spends a lot of time in the kitchen and in the bathroom. She binges about a dozen times a week. Sometimes she gorges on spaghetti, crackers, and bread instead of sweets. Sometimes she gets rid of it by using a laxative, enema, or diuretic instead of vomiting. But her weight doesn't fluctuate much - which frustrates her more. (Food is quickly absorbed so bulimic only half of what they eat)
Her mother thinks that Jessica simply has a healthy appetite. No one suspects that Jessica has a problem because she covers her tracks. She hides her food. When she wants ice cream she doesn't go crazy at Carvel. She has two cones there then goes to Swanson's, Steve's, Baskin-Robbins, and Dairy Queen.
Once she stole $20.00 from her mothers wallet for food. That made her feel terrible and that made her binge extra. She wishes she could stop, but sometimes she panics, and is afraid that she has forgotten to eat normally.
Meghan is overweight - and hates it. Her friends think she is to lazy to diet and some former friends tease her. Meghan knows her weight is out of control. She doesn't just overeat at meals, after all, she goes on frequent hours-long 2,000 calorie plus binges. Afterward she feels discussed and guilty. But unlike a bulimic, Meghan does not try to throw-up of take enema or run to the gym. She doesn't have a purge of choice. At 5' 6" and 240 lbs. And climbing she worries that she will wind up obese.
Meghan hates her body and sometimes herself, and when she eats wildly, she tries to numb the negative feelings that overwhelm her. Once in a while she will go on a diet, but it is a yo-yo -- before she knows it she is sabotaging herself on another binge.
Her doctor tells her she needs to loose weight. Her mother does too, but her mother drinks to much, and has been preoccupied with her own weight ever since Meghan was little. Meghan herself knows that she isn't fat because of indifference or genetics or thyroid problems. She knows she is overweight because she is troubled. What she may not know is that will power alone won't get her back on track. She need therapy, maybe even a low dose of antidepressants.
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