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 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)

  • sherrisacconaghi

“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

  • 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!”


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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