Fighting Anorexia is fight against self

Starvation changed my life.

Instead of attending softball practices, football games and friends' houses after school, I went to nutritionists, doctors and psychologists' offices.

I didn't go to school dances because I wasn't allowed to exercise. I didn't pursue sports because I didn't have the energy to climb two flights of stairs. I didn't walk with my friends to get ice cream in the summer because I didn't want them to know I was afraid to eat. I didn't leave the house too close to 7 a.m., noon or 5 p.m. because I didn't want to miss my chances to eat without guilt.

I suffered from a disease known as anorexia nervosa, and it was taking over my life. The scale told the story: 120, 117, 115, 110, 104, 98, 93, 90.

In the beginning it was just a crusade to get healthy. I became a vegetarian, stopped eating sweets and incorporated more fruits and vegetables into my diet. I was exercising four or five times a week and grew more satisfied with the way I felt when going to bed at night. But everyone knows that feeling good and feeling like you LOOK good are two different things.

Eventually, my caloric intake averaged 400 or 500 calories a day. This seemed like a normal progression; my descent into starvation was so gradual that I never once questioned how strict my diet had become.

I started seeing a doctor when I could no longer fit into a size zero. My longtime doctor tried to push me into gaining weight by threatening to send me to the hospital. He tried to solve the problem without thinking about the psychological effects. I switched doctors because I wasn't going to be punished (i.e., fed through a tube in my nose) for what I didn't understand.

I'm not claiming innocence. I was the original cause. But when you're anorexic, it's hard to view the disease objectively. It's even more difficult to recognize that you're suffering from it. That took a long time for me to admit.

A rotation that included three visits each weeka nutritionist, a doctor and a psychologisthelped me get better. They knew what I was going through and didn't push me beyond my limits.

Eventually, we got to the root of the problem. Anorexics tend to be hard-working overachievers, fastidious and goal-oriented. Often, the bottom line is about control: I felt like I couldn't control my future, but I could control what I was putting into my body.

The continuing distortion of the female ideal by the media also is a deep-seated cause.

"I can tell a girl that what matters is what's going on in her head and heart, but when she turns on the TV, she sees what matters is how you look," said sociologist Traci Mann.

From Calista Flockhart on television to the random Versace model in Vogue, women are bombarded with physical "perfection."

Magazines and movies glamorize this waif-like appearanceforgetting to mention that anorexia causes osteoporosis and shrunken organs, not to mention death.

Starving, like nicotine, is addictive. Quitting isn't as easy as putting down your cigarette. Any smoker who has tried to quit will tell you that.

Like nicotine, starving will kill you. I was lucky.

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