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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"Keep asking yourself questions," my therapist Kirsten encouraged me, find the one that takes you to your edge. Makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s where the work is.”

This was the approach used during treatment to keep me moving forwards with recovery. But there was one question. One I skirted around and stuffed down because the mere thought caused me so much distress. One I was certain if I acknowledged would take me, not only to my edge, but up and over the top of it.

Have I been a good mom to my kids?

The reality is, from the time they were very young, my boys have had a mom who has struggled with an eating disorder. Since I didn't recognize I had a problem, it never occurred to me they would sense something was off. Even as I began to toy with the idea I might have an issue, I took assurance that they were too absorbed in their own little lives of Pokemon and Star Wars to notice what might be going on in my own. But they noticed.

It began in little ways. When the boys were young it was easy to incorporate my healthy eating habits into their lives but as they hit mid-grade school they started to push back a little. They became more vocal about their dislike of my green smoothies, the homemade whole grain power bars, and the overabundance of steamed broccoli that crowded their plates. But ultimately, I still had a lot of control over what they were offered. Anxiety kicked in when things came into the house I didn't plan for. Gooey brownies from grandma Sally, chewy frosted sugar cookies from grandma Sandra, and, leftover birthday cake from a friends in the neighborhood. I told friends and family the “kids didn’t need it." In truth, its not that I didn’t want the kids to have that stuff, it was that I wanted it. Badly. Just looking at a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie or whipped frosting loaded cupcake could set my heart pounding, the saliva pooling in my mouth like a starving dog in front of a T bone steak. I wanted to devour one but feared I would ultimately end up eating the whole plate. So much of what came into the house went either into the trash or wrapped up and tucked into the back of the freezer out my sight.


I did enjoy cooking. Recipes for easy, healthy, family friendly meals were one of the most popular requests from my clients so I experimented. On the boys anyways. As a result I found myself making two or three different meals every night. For example I would make the boys a meal of cheesy ground turkey tacos or baked parmesan chicken tenders. I steered clear of making them anything that might tempt me, so lasagna, burgers, and pesto anything were a rarity. For myself each night, I prepared a safe meal of steamed fish and roasted veggies and Marc, being a man with a very picky palette who prefers to snack throughout the day would often times just request a small salad for himself. Slap on an apron and call me Flo, but I felt if they were happy, I wouldn’t get any flack about what I was (or wasn’t) eating. It worked for awhile. I knew my body felt good when I ate my light, simple, clean meals and I convinced myself if I ate a bowl of pasta or, God forbid, a juicy burger, it would make me feel full, bloated, and uncomfortable. And I needed to feel physically comfortable because emotionally I was anything but.

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I was apprehensive about going public regarding my struggle with anorexia. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find the words to adequately explain the disease. That I would be seen as a vain, shallow person who only cared about being skinny. I waited to share my experience until I knew I was strong enough to take any feedback that I might get from “outing myself” and letting people see my imperfections. Anorexia thrives on being perfect.

My cancer diagnosis in 2005 caused me to tighten up my clean eating routine, but the near death hospital experience unleashed any remaining control tendency that was still bubbling below the surface. When I was struck with pneumonia, I believed I was at the peak of healthy. A running, talking, kale loving, quinoa eating, antioxidant rich supermom. How the hell did I get so sick? It made no sense to me and I so badly needed it to make sense. In retrospect, the answer was looking me right in the mirror but at the time I didn’t see that.

I tore into my post pneumonia life with a new vigor. I made a list of life and health goals and set morning intentions daily to keep me on track toward achieving them, taking to heart a motto I had learned in my nutrition program. ” If you take better care of yourself, your desires naturally come true and life becomes more fulfilling”. Through the process, three desires kept emerging.

1. Increase my running routine.

2. Ramp up my health coaching business/get a fitness certification.

3. Improve my diet (yes really.)

Honorable mentions included: More patience with the boys, go back to Hawaii and remodel the kitchen. By the beginning of 2011 I was well on my way of achieving most of those goals.

I recently got distracted looking at my workshop packets. I have admit they are pretty good.

It took almost six months to get my stamina back, but I was soon back up to my thirteen mile routes and had signed up for another half marathon to keep me motivated. I had a steady base of nutrition clients that I was coaching one on one and I was starting to do workshops in the community and, in addition, I studied and received a fitness certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. This would allow me to offer personal training to my clients as I was (am) a big proponent of exercise for overall health. As my life got busier, I became hyper focused on what I was putting in my body. Almost everything had to be homemade. I made my own granola bars using organic rolled oats, I baked my own bread using almond flour and flaxseed and I purchased a food dehydrator and began making my own fruit snacks, tofu jerky and kale chips. I started taking fish oil and ashwaganda supplements, stopped drinking coffee (gasp!) and increased my water intake. I also eliminated refined sugar (ok true confession, I tried to cut it out but my relationship with sugar is akin to that of Harry and Sally). And because I wanted to have ultimate control of what I put into my body, eating out, something I had always enjoyed, became something on the “don’t” list, determining that the excessive salt and preservatives made me feel bloated and lethargic and I had no time to feel crappy.

Once I identified my goals, I put a great deal of pressure on myself to achieve them. I didn't want to let myself or my clients down and I definitely didn't want to "fail" in front of my friends and family. However, I was not the only one feeling the heat.

Four generations. I wish my mom and grandma were here now, I think they would be proud...of all of us. (2011)

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“What’s wrong with being quiet, still, lazy? .” This was a weekly topic with my treatment team during my recovery from anorexia. I felt if I could answer that question, I’d discover a secret door, like Scooby Doo and the gang, and the mystery behind my disease would suddenly be revealed. If only life were as easy as a Saturday morning cartoon.

Even back in 2010 I was wrestling with stillness. Once home from Central Oregon, the recovery from pneumonia was a long process, made longer due to the fact I pushed myself too far too soon. The month long mandated bed rest lasted not more than a week before I started taking semi-slow walks down the street and doing some ab and arm exercises with light weights. Activities that exhausted me physically but mentally provided a lifeline that helped me feel less restless, helpless and lazy. I cannot lie on the couch and watch TV all day. That is not the kind of person I am. But in reality, I was afraid that was EXACTLY the kind of person I was. Being quiet and still, eating delicious homemade meals dropped off by friends as I watched movies and dozed on and off, while my parents took the boys after school, lovingly spoiling them between lacrosse practices and swim lessons. Yep, deep down I was scared I could get VERY used to that.

I weighed myself every day upon returning home. I was correct in my perception that when I left the hospital my body was much different than when I entered. Fifteen pounds different to be exact. After my tantrum with the nurse on departure day, I was assured it was just water weight from all of the fluids they had pumped into my dehydrated body. Regardless, I was not going to be satisfied until the scale was back down to the number it was pre Sunriver. So I watched. And my weight did drop steadily everyday as did my anxiety around it. With the assurance it was just water weight I had gained, I allowed myself a little grace when it came to feeding my body. I was hungry, ravenous at times. I knew it was my body trying to heal and begging for nourishment, and I did my best to respect that. My rational brain knew I had dodged a bullet in Sunriver, and although I refused to acknowledge that the pneumonia had anything to do with my low weight, I knew I had to take care of myself if I wanted to get back up to speed. So, I ate. Creamy carrot soup, cheesy lasagna, spicy Thai chicken pasta, and protein packed spinach omelettes. Food hadn’t tasted so good since the bean burritos from Taco Bell during my pregnancy. I could almost feel my body healing, and like a withered houseplant being watered, I was absorbing every nutrient and coming back to life. And after a couple of weeks, as I got stronger, I was itching to get back to my routine and, Marc and the boys made it known they were ready to have things back to normal too. However, things were about to become anything but normal.

Back on my feet and ready to boogie at the elementary school auction. Because who doesn't love the 70's? I still have the outfit if anyone wants to borrow it. 2010


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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