SKINNY

The Truth Behind the Lies Of An Anorexic Mom

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Note:  This blog contains descriptions of eating disorder behaviors.  Although I have tried to be mindful in writing about specific behaviors, there are parts of  that may be difficult to read for those actively struggling with an eating disorder.  For support please see the "resources"page on this site.

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  • sherrisacconaghi

"It hurts so bad," I screamed, throwing back the sweat soaked covers and bolting upright in bed. My heart sank when I glanced at the clock, and it read 1:21 AM. The night seemed endless.


"Still your tooth? "Marc mumbled, half asleep but trying to be supportive.


"Yes, I can't take this anymore," I moaned as I got up and headed toward the med cabinet for yet another handful of Advil that was already ripping at my stomach lining. "This is hell."


For the past three weeks, I have been struggling with tooth pain. A recently filled cavity, turned into a root canal that needed a crown, ultimately morphing into a sinus infection. I've been subsisting on a diet of Advil and antibiotics while my dentists and endodontist have drilled, poked and scraped away. Even as I write, there is still a dull ache that makes me nervous to chew on the left side of my mouth. I do not trust that the pain will not return.


I take meticulous care of my teeth. Dental checkups every six months, flossing nightly, brushing with the timed beeps of my electric toothbrush. Recently, I even gave up Tootsie Rolls because they were not helping my anti-cavity cause. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to repair damage that years of starving myself has created, but, as my dentist has gently explained, some damage cannot be undone.

Part of my recovery process was learning to value myself enough to repair my teeth, but the irony of having to eat more while my mouth was under construction was not lost on me. (Coincidence? A random conference in our hotel, and yes I had just had two teeth pulled. Vegas 2017).

There have been moments these past few weeks when my head has ached from pain and my stomach rolled from all the medication that I let myself wander down the well-worn path of regret—replaying the "if only's" that threaten to muck up my positive mojo and toy with my recovery. If only I had not allowed myself to starve my body for so many years. If only I didn't ignore the warnings of doctors that I was forcing my body to use itself as fuel, my bones, my muscles, and yes, my teeth. If only I focused more on taking care of my insides and cared less about my outside appearance. If only I had the balls to have stopped the anorexic behaviors every time I promised myself I would.


But the reality is, I didn't. And there are consequences to that. Sometimes I forget about adverse outcomes because despite what I put my body through, right now, I am healthy. My body is strong. I have regained muscle and have been able to arrest further bone loss with proper diet and strength training. My hormones are online, my relationship with my husband is solid. I have a fulfilling career and friends whom I adore. And man, my boys, there are no words to express how grateful I am for the fun, loving (although at times, exasperating) relationship we have now. Every year I maintain recovery, the despair of living with anorexia becomes dimmer, and more distant.

This latest tooth incident put a damper on our beach trip, but, if i’m going to be in pain, this is the place to do it. (Cannon Beach, OR, 2021).


But this past month has served as a reminder that I did not come through the disease unscathed. There are residual effects of anorexia that will leave an imprint on my life forever. Maybe the recovery Gods know something I don't. Perhaps they sent this difficult tooth issue to remind me to stay on the right path, to take care of myself, and to take nothing for granted. Because the reality is, the consequences of my anorexia could have been much, much worse.

  • sherrisacconaghi

"You should get a burger," my husband Marc said to me last weekend. We were in the Moda Center for a Portland Trailblazers playoff game with my son and my dad, and we were all dispersing to find our food of choice to take to our seats.


“Nope," I replied, giving him my signature eye roll, "I'm going to get my favorite," referring to the sweet beet bowl at Plum Tasty that I had come to love when at Blazer games.


"Oh, come on,”Marc said, teasing me,"we are at a ball game."


"And?" I said, curious as to where he was going to go with this little game of his.


"And burgers are what you are supposed to eat at a hoops game," he said as I turned and walked away from him.


Supposed to eat.


Six years ago, when I had entered into treatment for anorexia, Marc's comment, teasing or not, would have sent me, heart pounding and hands sweating to the nearest burger line. I was so desperate to be "normal" to escape the feeling of being the weird one that I would have tried to choke down a burger like I thought everyone else did. After all, I was in a crowd of 20,000 sports fans whom I was sure had it all figured out. Burgers. Pizza and beer, a lot of beer, were what I convinced myself normal people consumed at a sporting event.



Funny how much I relied on the silent guidance of strangers to determine what was right for me. (2018)

For years part of my recovery process was watching people. I studied my dinner club, some eating raw oysters while others daring no seafood at all. I pretended not to watch my tennis teammates at our match luncheons, a few of the women munching gooey chocolate chip cookies before their match, others not eating a bite until after. I noted my yoga buddies roll up their mats after class, some making a beeline for the treadmill, while others headed out for coffee. I watched strangers in sidewalk cafe's while on my after-dinner walks eating a late-night meal and noticed my girlfriends on our getaway trips, some up early and ready to hike with me while others sleeping in and spending the day by the pool. And then there is my husband, preferring to snack his way through the day, not needing to eat a meal at all.


Like a dog chasing its tail, I spent hours upon days trying to catch onto normal. Finally, I thought when I figured it out, I was confident I would fit in, find happiness, and be cured.


But I didn't find normal. Shocker, I know. It has sucked in a way because it has made my recovery much harder. No normal means there is no formula I can follow and no rules I can play by. There is no secret club in which if I just find the code, the doors will dramatically swing open, and I will be IN.


I've had to learn to sit still, focus and pay attention to myself. Then, relearning what I want to eat rather than what I should(or shouldn't) eat, exercise in a rewarding and not punishing way, and recognize that it is okay to have preferences that differ from others. I have had to stop looking outward for what feels good for me and trust I have the answer within myself. Then, one day at a time, having the courage to do what I want rather than what I think I should. That continues to be the hardest part.

A Sweet Beet bowl and a red blend ...at a ball game. And I lived to tell about it. (Moda Center, pre COVID 2020).

But, I have learned I can eat a warm bowl of lentils, beets, and sweet potatoes in the middle of a sporting event without my face up on the big screen with the word "outcast" imposed over my head.


And that is a huge step indeed.






  • sherrisacconaghi

“I am not eating that," I said adamantly to my dinner club group. We were sitting at a popular Russian restaurant in town tossing around food suggestions from the menu, when Sandie enthusiastically suggested the braised rabbit.


"We can get other stuff too," my friend Heather said, reacting to my distain, and continued on with suggestions she thought I might like.


Part of me wanted the group to push me. To ignore my rabbit denial and coerce me into trying it. They, of course, never would, but they had also never had to. The group had heard it all before, my initial refusal, my nose wrinkling up in a "that's disgusting "way when food that made me uncomfortable was selected. Yet, every time I consumed what was brought to the table.


It was my rule.


I love rules. There is a security in knowing there are expectations and, being a firstborn, competitive perfectionist, I will strive to meet if not exceed them. It is why anorexia and I worked so well together.


I can only eat eight hundred calories a day. Done.

I must run ten miles today. No problem, I’ll do twelve.

Breakfast cannot be later than 8 AM. It will be ready by 7AM.

The scale cannot go above one hundred pounds. I'll stick to ninety-nine, just to be safe.


And although it is that rigid rule-bound thinking that got me into my plight, I found that it also helped to get me out. And Dinner Club is a significant one.


When the idea of Dinner Club was created, I was four months into treatment, and no one in

Dinner Club travels too! (The Henry, Phoenix, AZ, 2018).

the group had a clue I was wrestling with and in treatment for, anorexia. I desperately wanted to be a part of this "club" as I loved spending time with these four ladies. Women I had initially met through tennis and soon formed a close friendship with off the court. The plan was, every month, we would try a top-rated restaurant in the Portland area. Choosing only those with rave reviews, delicious farm-to-table ingredients, and creative menus. To get the most from each experience, we would get small plates and share. I was excited at the thought of it. But, I was petrified at the actual doing of it.


"I'll just order my own thing, right? I said to my therapist Kirsten when I proudly told her I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone by agreeing to be part of Dinner Club.


"What is more important here?" Kirsten said, making a point more then asking a question, "the food or being part of the tribe?"


After years of feeling different, freakish, and isolated, I decided being a part of a tribe was worth the discomfort of facing down my fear of food. But I was afraid when our first dinner club night arrived, I would not be able to follow through. Fearful, I would cave and order my own meal. Something safe. And worst of all, I was afraid they would not invite me back.


So I made a rule. On Dinner Club outings, I would eat or at least try whatever was ordered. No excuses and no exceptions. Once a month for two years, I focused on following my new rule and breaking my old ones. Conquering fried chicken, I ventured into lamb, daring a bite of quail and chanced a brisket taco. With trepidation, I choked down octopus waffles, and with joy, I devoured date cake (the best dessert ever!).



Actually, no matter what we do, food is usually involved. (Portland Rose Garden, 2021).

For two years, as I became more rooted in recovery, Dinner Club outings became easier. More natural. I found myself thinking less about the food and more about being with a fantastic group of women, until the rabbit. I was pissed that night when we left the Russian restaurant, and I had not tried it. I broke my rule, but more importantly, having been out of treatment for eight months, I feared I might be getting complacent and falling back onto my old habits.


But I see now that the dinner outing was significant. By refusing the rabbit, I wasn't at risk of a setback. On the contrary, I was on the brink of a breakthrough.



Lamb Neck at Arden Quail at Imperial Date cake at Joolz



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