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

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.

  • sherrisacconaghi

In 2016, when I told my sister, Lisa I was going into treatment for anorexia she wasn’t surprised.


“I used to tell mom I thought you might have a problem,” Lisa shared with me,” but she was hesitant to believe it, citing how much food you seemed to eat.”

I completed the half marathon in pretty good time, an accomplishment that only spurred me to push harder in all aspects of my fitness routine. Too hard.

It is a common myth that people struggling from anorexia don't like food, but in reality it's not about the food. For me, the cancer diagnosis in 2005, combined with the stress in my marriage, and my anxiety reducing exercise regimine, caused me to slowly become more structured and controlled over my diet. A practice that was about to get more extreme, due to a phone call I received in 2009.


“Sherri!” A friend and ex co worker of mine exclaimed when I answered the phone, ”the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) is starting an online program, I thought you might want to check it out.”


Years earlier Drina had moved from Portland to New Jersey where she had enrolled in the IIN program in New York City. While she was in the program, I listened enviously as she shared her experiences with me. The expert speakers, the multitude of dietary theories, and the creative ways she was learning to use food to boost mood, slow aging, increase energy and, manage weight were fascinating to me. God how I wish I could have access to a program like that I remember thinking.


After ending the call with Drina, I immediately made contact with an IIN admissions counselor to check it out. I was skeptical about the effectiveness of online learning (it was not quite the thing it is now), but by the end of that call, I knew I wanted in. The timing could not have been better as Brennan had started kindergarten which meant both boys were in school all day. Despite the substantial expense, Marc was supportive of my new project. Although the program was structured as a Health Coaching training program, my intent was to do it soley as a personal learning experience. I wanted strategies to apply to my own life in efforts to stay cancer free, boost my energy and to increase my endurance and strength. And being forty-one years old, the anti-aging info was intriguing too.

I've since set these aside for true crime novels but interestingly enough, I still hang onto them.

I jumped in with both feet. I began running early in the morning before the kids got up so I would have uninterrupted time during the day to study. I listened intently to lectures from the likes of Andrew Weil, Geneen Roth, and Dr. Oz. In the evening when I finished reading Green Eggs and Ham and Geronimo Stilton with the boys, I immersed myself in books such as Sugar Shock, the China Study, and In Defense of Food. I absorbed every dietary theory IIN threw my way, Vegetarian/Veganism, the Zone Diet, the 80/20 diet, Macrobiotics, the 5 Elements theory and many more.

The program did not promote any one way of eating and in fact, encouraged a holistic approach, emphasizing that no one diet works for everyone, the key is listening to the body. I couldn’t wait to start experimenting to find what might work best for me.

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