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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I’m f*%*king serious this time," I declared to my therapist Karen after the Hawaiian run and puke fiasco. "I am going to gain weight."

Relief flashed across Karen's face, "so you are ready to fulfill that promise?" Karen asked cautiously, referring to the promise I made over a year earlier, after my grandma died, to gain weight or go into treatment. A promise I had tried, and failed, to keep.

These two! They certainly gave me a lot to talk about in therapy, and sometimes a good excuse not to focus on my own stuff .(2014)

Karen’s expertise is in substance abuse issues. I had begun seeing her ten years earlier when I was desperate for help with my husband and our increasingly inharmonious marriage. She helped me set boundaries and find sanity in a marriage that had me, at times, feeling like a crazy woman. Over the recent years, Karen and I had begun to touch upon my regimented eating, obsessive exercise, and shrinking body weight. When the topic hit too close to home my heart would race, I would begin to sweat and I’d flee to safer ground. I would instead blame relationship stress with Marc or with my teenaged son as the reason I couldn't focus on my own self-care. When my life I will deal with it. Karen never pushed.

But for that post-Hawaii session I was resolute that it was going be all about my pending weight gain. I was full of nervous excitement, the kind you feel when you start something new, set a goal, or make a resolution. I'm over this” skinny” phase. I'm forty six for craps sake. I still believed it it was a case of mind over matter.

"I'm going to call it Project Ten Pound." I declared firmly to Karen, as if naming it would help keep the goal at the forefront of my mind. I believed ten pounds would make all the difference to my body and my life.

"Okay," Karen said enthusiastically, "what are your thoughts around how you might go about this?"

I shared my plan. I was going to (once again) add healthy fats into my diet, specifically two ounces of avocado a day, one TBLSP of olive oil at lunch and dinner. I would replace my nonfat yogurt with a full-fat brand, use eggs instead of egg whites and the BIG ONE, the thing I had not yet attempted to do. I was going to take one day off from exercise a week.

It was the first time I had ever shared with another person my goal to gain weight. My prior attempt a year earlier was just between me and my journal. But now I had a person. Someone I knew cared about me and would hold me accountable. I felt confident, relieved, and freaked out.

I wasn’t drinking Frappaccino’s but I was drinking A LOT of coffee. (2014)

I wanted to gain weight. I wanted to stop feeling so achy, tired, and cranky all the time. I was looking forward to a day off from exercise to sleep in, maybe read the paper or stroll through a farmer's market instead of lacing up for a long run. I wanted to get back to a place where I would allow myself to indulge in Friday pizza nights with the boys, my mom's homemade carrot cake, and creamy Frappuccino's. But as much as I wanted all of that, there was something else driving my desire to gain weight. Something I wanted even more.

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I’m going to throw up, I thought as I laid in the big, cushy, king-size bed, the bright Hawaiian sun peeking through the slats in the blinds. WTF I cannot be sick, I am on vacation. Deep breath, this will pass in a minute. But it did not pass. Instead, waves of nausea continued to ebb and flow throughout the morning, while I alternated between sleeping and wishing I could puke and get it over with.

“Mom, we are going down to the pool, are you coming?” Dylan asked impatiently from the bedroom doorway.

“Have Dad go with you. I’m not feeling that great,”, I croaked, “I’ll meet you down there in a bit.”

A look of concern passed fleetingly across his thirteen-year-old face. I knew what he was thinking, I was thinking about it too. Sick again on a family vacation. It had happened more often than not in the past several years.

Hawaii was (and still is), one of my favorite places. And although I did not care much for the Disney themed resort we had chosen for this trip, what it lacked in peace and quiet, it made up for in gorgeous paths for beachside running, kick ass beach fitness classes, and a surprisingly luxurious spa. Some of my favorite things.

A visit to the Pearl Harbor memorial was the purpose of this Hawaiian vacation. Here with a veteran of World War II, it was a powerful experience for all of us. (2014)

But as I laid in that bed, listening to the rhythmic pounding of the surf outside my window, the Hawaiian music floating from the pool area, and the joyful shrieks of children as they careened down the twisting slides, my own thoughts battled inside my head.

Just get up and move, you will feel better. No, you are sick you need to rest. Come on, you aren’t going to miss a beachside run. No, seriously you need sleep. You cannot just lay here. Get up! I can’t ! Go out and take a run and then you can come back and rest.

Laying there was just not an option I was going to accept. I knew it wasn’t rational but I couldn't stop myself. I crawled out of bed and willed myself out the door. And ran. Five miles along the beautiful Hawaiian shoreline, begging my legs to keep moving and my stomach to stop rolling, enjoying none of it. Checking my watch every couple of minutes and asking myself, why the hell are you doing this? Forty-five minutes later, I allowed myself, sweaty and lightheaded, to head back to the resort, into our condo, and directly to the bathroom to throw up. And lying depleted on the bathroom floor, I felt it. I was at the place I knew I would arrive, eventually.

Even my posture screams “don’t look at me”. This was the picture I used years later, when I finally got help. I taped it to my mirror as a reminder to stay in treatment, no matter how hard. Because this body was not reflective of the person I knew I was inside. ( 2014)

I have absolutely no reserve for this, I wrote later that night in my journal, I cannot weight less than I do and stupid me I went running feeling like shit. I hate how I look, I hate how much people stare at me. I hate how I look in photos, I look freakish. I need to make changes, but how?

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Until recently, I had a voracious sugar free gum addiction. For years I carried pink packs of Trident bubble gum everywhere I went. I stashed them in my purse, my glove box, and my tennis bag. It started about eight years ago when I was trying to maintain the weight I had lost and needed something to keep my mouth occupied so I wouldn’t reach for more chocolate (another little addiction). Over the years, it also served as a stress reliever, a time-waster, and, it wasn't long before I constantly craved the sickly sweet chewy little gems. It was a habit that left my jaw sore and my stomach gassy and distended. I had tried half-heartedly over the years to kick it with no success. Until this past October, when I had enough of feeling like crap, and I was pissed the gum had so much control over me, so I decided to quit. For real. Since I was headed on a girl's trip to hike in Zion National Park, I figured it was the perfect time to try to go cold turkey (although my travel buddies may not have appreciated my timing). And it worked. I quit. Because I could. I had a full functioning healthy brain that said: "Hey lady, it's making you feel sick, so stop doing it!"

No gum was consumed during the taking of this photo. I begged my kids to take it away right after. Tempting little demons.

That wasn't always the case.

"I cannot believe I let myself get this bad," I said to my dietician Gretchen. Again. We often started our sessions this way, with me berating myself for allowing anorexia to become a thing for me, "why didn't I stop this before I made myself so, so…. Sick!

“Oh sweetie, you have been living with two brains, she explained, “the normal Sherri brain, and the anorexic brain. They have been fighting for space in your head, and for years, the anorexic brain has been dominating and protecting the illness."

I knew my behaviors caused my body to shrink, but I had no idea my brain had shrunk as well, changing its shape, its chemical structure and its ability for rational thinking.

Slowly over the past decade my anorexic brain (I nicknamed AB while in treatment) became much louder and bossier than my Sherri brain, aka SB (creative I know). Even when I became aware I needed to make changes like eating more and moving less, I was never able to do so for more than a day. AB was very persuasive.

When my hair was starting to fall out leaving clumps in my brush and clogging the shower drain, I chalked it up to an allergic reaction to my new hair color. After my period stopped arriving month after year, I Googled and found that amenorrheawas common in runners. Chipped and cracked teeth were a result of too much sugar, my skyrocketing cholesterolwas hereditary, and my poor digestion was due to stress, being dehydrated and the fact my body didn't care for hidden preservatives. I had a rationale for everything.

Yes, I had a doctor I saw often. She suggested I add avocado in my diet. Yes, I had a dentist I saw every six months. He shoddily pieced my teeth back together. What I didn't have was a healthy brain to scream at me, "Hey lady, it's killing you, stop doing it."

Self conscious of my thinning hair, I began to wear a lot of hats. (2013)


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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