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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.

  • sherrisacconaghi

"I completed your soccer registration today," I told my son B last week as we were standing side by side in the kitchen preparing our snacks. I knew I could have just let him do it, but as an almost senior, it was the last time I was registering a kid for high school sports, and I felt melancholy over it all.

"Does that mean you are going to come to my games?" he said, raising his eyebrows as if daring me to react.

"Brennan, how many of your games have I missed in the past four years?" I snapped, taking a defensive tone, his words ripping at my heart like a scab from a wound that had not yet healed. "None," I said before he could even answer, "that is how many I have missed."

"I don't know mom,” he said with a teasing lilt to his voice, you might find a cycle class to go to instead.”

"B, this is the second time you have brought this up lately," I said, referencing a similar conversation we had a couple of weeks prior, “is this still an issue?"

As if I had to ask.

Part of my recovery from anorexia included unlearning the destructive habits that I had in place for over a decade. Rituals meant to provide a structure and sense of control that made me feel safe from a life that felt very unstable. I relied on obsessive exercise to keep at bay the anxiety that constantly hummed through my body. I needed the minimal and predictable food rotation to keep my body comfortable, so I did not have to feel any of it, emotionally or physically. I ensured my exercise, nutrition, and sleep occurred at precise times to provide a predictability in a home where I felt none. Taking care of my eating disorder was my priority, at times even over my kids, and I justified it.

I made some games, but not enough, not nearly enough. (2014)

B won't notice, I said to myself during cycle class, the music pumping so loudly it reverberated through my body as my legs pushed the pedals harder and faster. As if I could ride away from the overwhelming guilt for not being at his game.

B said he doesn't care if I am there, I repeated in my head as I sat alone at the kitchen table while my family was at B's game, eating my perfectly portioned and timed meal. I was taking small bites but tasting nothing but the bitter flavor of self-hatred for caring more about food than I did about supporting my son.

But he did notice, and he did care.

Just as crucial as unlearning destructive habits, successful recovery has been dependent on the understanding that my eating disorder did not only take a toll on my mind and body, it weighed on my whole family, especially my kids. I have had to find the courage to give them the space to be angry, hurt, and resentful, not only for all the worry I caused them, but for making them feel, at times unsafe and unloved. I have been steadfast in my determination to regain their trust and to be there for them physically and emotionally, even when they push me away. It has been the most challenging yet most therapeutic part of my recovery process.

I am work in progress, but I will always show up for these two. (2021)

I suspect that B's jabs at me in the kitchen were his teenaged boy way of letting me know I still have work to do. He was telling me needs me to keep showing up for him. And it reminded me, just as my recovery is ongoing work in progress, so is his.

  • sherrisacconaghi

Arrogant and self-absorbed. That's what she called me.

I was finishing up my weekly grocery shopping trip, which included picking up some items for my Mother In Law. As the cashier was ringing up the items and my husband was bagging them, I noticed I had grabbed the wrong type of bread for MIL's special diet. I signaled to the checker I was going to run and exchange it.

"I'm sorry, can I sneak past you?" I said to the woman behind me in line. She huffed and rolled her cart, and her eyes, so I could get past. I sprinted back to the bread aisle, grabbed the correct loaf, and ran back, worried I would be holding up the line.

"Sorry again, can I get back in," I said to the woman who had now placed her items on the conveyer belt and inched up closer to the cashier. Then, sensing her irritation, I smiled and said, "I apologize for this. I know I am annoying."

"I wouldn't call you annoying," she shot back at me," I would call you arrogant and self-absorbed."

With her words, a familiar feeling instantly encompassed my body, leaving me embarrassed and off-balance. Not sure how to react, I looked up at the checker, who kept her head down and kept scanning, then to my husband, who kept on bagging.

"Wow, "I said, looking her briefly in the eye, her scowl confirmed she meant her words. I hurried to pay, and got the hell out of there.

"WTF was that?" I vented loudly to my husband when we hit the parking lot.

"She's a crank," Marc said, brushing it off as no big deal, "don't let her get to you."

I didn't want to let it get to me, but it did.

I am no stranger to being on the receiving end of angry words. At the height of my anorexia, my emaciated frame sparked an array of reactions from sideways glances to blatant staring to name-calling;



Walking death

Over the years, the responses of strangers and some friends weighed on me until the shame of living with my “secret" became so heavy that it was hard for me to find the courage to get out of bed to face my day, let alone the people in it. I couldn't imagine anything worse than the possibility of withstanding another day of shocked glances and harsh words about my appearance. And even though the stares and comments were hurtful, a small part of me understood. Their words aimed at me were nothing I wasn't already saying to myself.

I can now manage the off-the-cuff comments that still trickle in from time to time. They feel more like a poke than a deep stab, and I can brush them aside and get on with my day. Like a boot camp, I believe the years of absorbing the grueling narrative about my body tried to break me down, but in some ways it made me stronger.

But the mean words from the cranky grocery woman got to me. It felt so personal. I let it ruin my day and question my actions. It stumped me because unlike being thin, I have no doubt that I am neither arrogant nor self-absorbed.

I've thought about it a lot since the Albertson's interaction a month ago. Weirdly I’ve come to realize, my distress over it is a good thing. I'm taking it as a sign that I have evolved. First, I am shifting my focus from how I look on the outside and now focusing on the person I strive to be on the inside.

Now what is more challenging than having a stranger rudely judge my appearance, is having someone blindly question my character.

I may not be arrogant and self absorbed but my kids do like to point out that sometimes I live in my own world. (2021)

  • sherrisacconaghi

"Hey, B, "I said to my son as he was sprawled out on the couch in the family room staring at his phone, "I headed to the Adidas Employee store, wanna come with?"

"No thanks," he said, continuing his very important Snapchat convo without even looking up.

I paused for a moment waiting for him to continue, to tell me why he couldn't/would't/didn't want to join me as an Adidas pass doesn't come along every day. But he didn't elaborate. And I appreciated that.

In general, I'm not a get-together instigator. But when COVID first hit and we were stuck in isolation, I realized I was missing one thing—playing tennis. Not only did I miss the physical outlet, but I missed the connection with my friends, many of whom I regularly saw on the tennis court. So when the restrictions allowed, I was ready to play. But with no organized clinics or matches, I realized that if I wanted to play, I would have to make it happen. I became the Marie Kondo of tennis, sending out multiple texts a day asking others to play in effort to organize matches and find my joy. It became a challenge to fit the correct number of people into the available time slots; Sometimes it was last minute in between rain showers, and I just wanted a quick yes or no to my inquiry to availability or interest. But I got much more.

I can’t. I am taking my parents to the airport.

I wish I could. I have a hair appointment.

Sorry, I have to pick my dog up from the vet.

No, I have physical therapy....a garden club meeting......a birthday lunch.

I get it. Stopping at “No" is hard.

I spent years saying no to get together’s, or events for many reasons. The food selection, the timing, and my ever-increasing discomfort at the sideways glances over my emaciated frame kept me confined to my small, safe group of friends. I became a master of declining invitations and requests with long, drawn out excuses, usually using my kids and their pressing needs as my cover. I was uncomfortable saying no without turning myself inside out to explain myself. I felt exposed without the armored protection of excuses to cover my insecurity about...everything.

Over the past several years, I have finally become more at ease with who I am (and the fact I am fifty-ish has helped). I have become more comfortable with simply declining the many things that come my way. Primarily to stuff, I can't do, and sometimes things I don't want to.

No, but thank you for including me.

No, but I appreciate the offer.

No, I'm unavailable.

Truthful, straightforward, and kind feels right to me and respectful to the person asking. So please invite me, but if I can't, I will spare you info about my brow wax or my newsletter deadline and just say no.

Although I’ll rarely say “no" to playing 🎾 (2020-21, along with my fellow Yes-ers).



Thanks for your interest in Skinny: The Truth Behind The Lies OF An Anorexic Mom. I'd love to connect with you so feel free to get in touch and I will get back to you soon!

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