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

"I am not anorexic,” I said to the doctor with a defensive, how dare you, tone. I believed those words. To me a person with anorexia was frail and weak, someone who spent hours in the bathroom puking up carrot sticks. That was not me. In my mind I was a fit, athletic woman, who had never even thrown up a cracker, AND I was a health coach for God’s sake. I knew how to nourish my body. How dare this man accuse me of being an anorexic. I was pissed, in retrospect probably too pissed. He had hit a nerve I didn’t yet realize existed.

With the Sunriver adventure drawing to a close, my kids headed back home to Portland with the neighborhood gang while I was helplessly stuck in a Central Oregon hospital for days of fluids, catheters and blood transfusions.

“We are coming to see you", my mom demanded when Marc called to tell her about my situation, “we are so worried.”

“No mom, stay put, Marc is here and I will be fine. I can handle this, blah,blah blah.” It was my cancer speak all over again, resisting help and pushing away those who cared about me. The difference in this case was embarrassment. I felt shameful for allowing myself to get so run down and sick. Not to mention, I was completely freaked out. How did I get so close to dying without even realizing it?

During my stay at Chateau de St. Charles Hospital, I watched the nurses watch me. I was curious if doctor Judgy McJudgerson had passed along his anorexic observations and if I was going to be on some sort of “food watch”, however it didn’t appear that anyone gave two hoots what I ordered off the hospital menu or what I left sitting my plate (which actually wasn't much as the food was really good). This only served to re assure my position that the good doctor was off his rocker. In fact, not only did the staff take no notice of my diet, the nurses were impressed by my desire to push myself to move around. I begged to be allowed take walks around the hospital corridors, dragging my IV drip, even if it depleted me. I was frustrated by lying in bed doing nothing but reading, sleeping and eating. In fact, eating and not moving made me more uncomfortable than the pain from swollen angles and infected lungs. I wanted to get out of there and get back home to my kids, my exercise, my food, and most of all I wanted to get to business, my business, The Mission of Nutrition.

Not one to let pneumonia deter me, while in the hospital I created my first newsletter. I wonder what the easy salads were?

Finally, after five days, I was cleared to go home with the understanding I would do nothing but rest for the next four to six weeks. Yep, sure, whatever. I was just so happy to get out of there. Release day I woke early, ate my last egg sandwich, and eagerly traded the faded pastel gown for my own clothes. Clothes I found to be shockingly snug after putting them on.

“Um excuse me,” I said to the nurse as she passed by my room, “could you come here for a minute?”

“What’s up Hun?” She said distractedly.

“This!” I said frantically motioning to my flabby, stomach and bulky thighs. “When will I get my body back?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said, giving me a once over with a confused look.

"My body!" I yelled as if raising my voice would make her understand my question, “this is not my body!”

  • sherrisacconaghi

Oh, it’s going to be one of THOSE kind of runs today I remember thinking as I was slogging through mile two of a planned eight mile run. The kind of run where my legs felt like cement blocks making it feel as if I were running through quicksand. I pushed through the remaining six miles, determined to get in a full workout before embarking on a day in the car.

Long car trips were becoming increasingly difficult for me in 2010. In fact, sitting still for any period of time was uncomfortable, my body often felt restless, and a feeling of anxiety rising if I couldn’t get up and move. But on that particular day, Marc, the boys and I were headed to Central Oregon for our annual neighborhood weekend to Sunriver resort. It was worth the four-hour drive.

Part of the Sunriver posse. I am so grateful to these guys for taking care of my kids, even if it meant a twelve mile bike ride for which Brennan, front and center, looked less than thrilled.

I loved our Sunriver trips that included several families from our neighborhood, all with kids around the same age. Every year I looked forwards to our lively happy hours, sipping cocktails and sharing gossip while our kids climbed trees and played hide and seek amongst giant boulders. I enjoyed taking the kids on bike rides through the resort to the local bakery followed by big kickball games, sometimes in the snow. Good times filled with laughter and fun so I was pissed when I went to bed that first night after dinner feeling achy and chilled. Crap, I never get sick, why now! Not to mention I had an early morning run planned the next day. Running in central Oregon was one of my absolute favorite things to do. A runner’s paradise with its fresh clean air, and tree lined pathways that hugged the rambling Deschutes river. After a poor night’s sleep, I woke the next morning, and went down for breakfast determined not to miss my run, or the big group bike ride to the waterfalls planned for later that day. But with my head spinning and my skin clammy I had no choice but to crawl back up the stairs to bed where I floated in and out of a hazy sleep, waking only when the kids would pop in to bring me homemade get well cards and fill me in on the day’s activities.

Interesting that I hung onto this. A reminder maybe?

“Marc something is really wrong,” I said to him when he returned later that night from the evening’s festivities, “I’m freezing and I cannot catch my breath.”


“Just take a hot bath and we will see how you feel in the morning,” Marc replied tiredly, it was late and it sounded like I missed quite a party.


I laid awake, shivering, lethargic and disoriented for several hours until I saw daylight peek through the crack in the drapes, and then insisted on going to the emergency room.

“I can’t imagine it’s something too serious,” I said to the ER doctor as, after what seemed like hours and too many tests later, he arrived in the exam room with a sympathetic look on his face. I was suddenly feeling foolish for creating so much drama over what was probably a reaction to something funky I ate.


“Well Sherri, you have double pneumonia, and you are anemic and dehydrated,” he said to me concerned, “and based on your anorexic condition, had you waited much longer to come in, well, we would not be talking now. Do you understand?”

Anorexic condition? Me? I was certain he must have had the wrong patient.

  • sherrisacconaghi

“I can’t imagine eating that,” I said to my dietician, Gretchen, when she suggested I attempt a challenge food. I was a few months into treatment and the food in question was a hamburger, something I used to love but I had long ago booted out of my diet, deeming it a fat filled cancer patty on a bun.


“What do you think will happen if you eat a hamburger?” Gretchen gently pressed on.


“I will make my stomach feel queasy and bloated” I answered adamantly, feeling my heart rate quicken just talking about it.


“Do you know that for a fact or could it be a story your telling yourself? Gretchen asked.


I really had no intention of finding out anytime soon.

A year ago today I was ready, with Polly by my side for support, to face Gretchen's burger challenge. I obviously lived to tell about it. Shocker!

Red meat was just one of the foods that went out the window after I enrolled in the Institutefor Integrative Nutrition in 2009. The program encouraged us to track in a journal how different ways of eating made our bodies feel. How it affected our mood, sleep, energy and digestion. This was the first time I had really paid attention to how my body felt. Up until that point I just ate what I thought I “should” based on whatever particular diet I was following, never checking in with how my body felt about any of it. I spent months tweaking, experimenting and journaling until I started to see connections between certain foods and the impact on my body and mind. I discovered ways of eating that made my mind clearer, helped me sleep better and improved my ever-nagging digestive problems. I felt like a kid with a remote-control robot, but instead of pushing buttons to make it move a certain way, I eliminated or added food in attempts to make it (well, me) FEEL a certain way. It was an incredible sense of control.



My obsession with food and exercise caused me to miss out on a lot of experiences, but I am grateful I always made volunteering in the boys' classrooms a "don't miss". (With Brennan and friends in kinders 2009)

For example, I found that eliminating red meat from my diet made me feel more energetic, so I tried eliminating pork, chicken and turkey too. When I discovered my digestion improved when I didn’t consume milk, I cut out cheese, butter and yogurt as well. And after learning what sugar does to the body, I avoided all white food whatsoever, subjecting not only myself, but my kids to black bean brownies and whole wheat dairy free mac and cheese (no doubt they will be talking to their therapists about THAT someday). I’m not going to lie, my journal depicts an impressively lean and clean diet, and one completely unsustainable for a woman who was running and working out for hours every day. As a result, my weight dropped another several pounds. But I felt so energized. I had just completed my first triathlon sprint, and after years off, I had started playing tennis again. I was happily convinced this is where my body wanted to be.

Through my experience in IIN, I wholeheartedly believed proper food and nutrition were game changers in body, mind and spirit and I was so excited to share what I had learned with others. I graduated from IIN with a Health Coaching certification, and adopting the tagline, “Inspiring Others Towards A Healthy Body and a Joyful Life,” I got to work. Well, almost. Unfortunately, my "healthy body" had other plans.

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