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

If only. It was the mantra that played in my head as a teenager. If only my butt was smaller, I could wear Guess jeans, if only I was skinnier maybe (insert boy crush of the week) would ask me to the homecoming dance, if only I lost a few pounds I could run faster on the tennis court, if only,well, you get the point. In high school, I started to diet. The pork chop and coffee diet, the egg and carrot diet, shakes for breakfast and lunch followed by a Weight Watcher frozen entrée for dinner. I even joined my mom in the cabbage soup diet. Yes, I’d put up with being gassy if it meant being thin. However, as an active teenager who played on the varsity tennis team, I had an appetite. I enjoyed going to pizza with my friends after practice, not to mention the newly opened Haagen Dasz store in town. Needless to say, the diets didn’t stick for long. What I didn’t realize at the time was I was laying the groundwork for my unhealthy relationship with food and my body.

In college, at the University of Oregon, I was a walking example of the “freshman fifteen”. Late night pizza gatherings on the dorm room floor, a cafeteria with every sugar cereal denied to me at home (Captain Crunch….. Heaven), and drinking many red solo cups of warm beer in a fraternity basement. It added up. My already less than positive body image was plummeting and I had no plan. I knew I didn't want to diet but I didn't want to feel fat. I felt stuck.

Until my junior year. I was studying with my roommate, *Katie, (not her real name) in the library of the Gamma Phi house. Katie was munching on a carton of Chinese take-out and a jumbo chocolate chip cookie from Dunkin Donuts.

“How do eat all that?” I asked Katie, my stomach rumbling, feeling envious of my friend.

She looked at me with a half-smile on her face as if she had a secret she was dying to share. “I get rid of it,” she answered while making a motion to stick her finger down her throat.

“You mean like, throw up?” I asked incredulously. I had seen it on TV but never really met anyone who had done it before.

Katie nodded her head slowly and raised her eyebrows as if to say Wanna try?

Yes. I did.

A trip to Hawaii my freshman year in college. Oh how I dieted before that trip to feel bikini worthy. Would love to have those boobs now! ( The earrings can stay in 1987).

  • sherrisacconaghi

It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around certain facts about anorexia but I have begun understand some of it. The book Decoding Anorexia, (a must read for anyone struggling with this disease) helped me to untangle some of my thoughts and beliefs about it. It states;

“The research is clear: Anorexia nervosa is fundamentally based in biology. Up to 86 percent of your risk for developing anorexia is genetic.”

Eight six percent of a person's risk for anorexia is genetic

The book goes on to explain, “genes generally increase or decrease the risk of developing the disease. This risk is subsequently influenced by the environment in which people live”.

My environment. Is that what was responsible for my struggle with Anorexia?

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. Raised by a mom who seemed to be always on a diet and was the queen of the Weight Watchers program, pre-Oprah. She had that point system down solid. The foods we had around the house were what I describe now as “fake food” with no fat, no calories and no taste.

· Tab. Apparently, the best-selling drink of 1982.

· Nonfat milk. Its translucent blueish hue ruining my rice Krispies (sans sugar of course).

· Ice milk. A crunchier, form of ice cream with less taste.

· Peach Melba shakes. Is not a substitute to the creamy deliciousness of McDonalds.

· Bowls of radishes in water. Ok that is a real food but hardly to an 11-year-old.

While other kids had Twinkies and Doritos in their lunch my mom packed Lisa and I one Keebler cookie as our treat, except for Girl Scout Cookie season, then it was TWO thin Mints. Was I on a diet too? Should I be? According what was meant as family joking, yes.

“Hey Sher you look like you are trying to shove ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack my Dad would often say then chuckle to himself. (Yes, he did really say that!) A comment I heard many in regards to how I looked in my softball uniform, my dance costume, my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. Jeez thanks dad, because being a pre-teen girl isn’t hard enough.

As I began my recovery process from anorexia was willing to consider genetics and environment, but I wasn’t going to blame my parents (or radishes). Nope, I was not ready to let myself off the hook so easily.

  • sherrisacconaghi

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

I was not completely sold I had a problem when I made the appointment with a dietician in August of 2016. I knew I was very thin and I was becoming too accustomed to the double take some people make when they first meet me. At ninety-nine pounds and five foot eight, I was nervous on how this new dietician would react upon our first meeting. When Gretchen, a petite red headed woman, stylishly dressed in bold colors opened the front door of her office she greeted me with a warm smile, no hint of shock at my thin frame. Phew, Ithought, maybe this can be a one and done appointment, my mind already envisioning our conversation going in in a similar vein as those with my General Practitioner over the years.

“You know Sherri, you are fine you just need to gain a few pounds. Just eat more avocados and olive oil and see me again in a month”.

Ha! Wishful thinking on my part. At the end of our hour-long session, that was NOT what Gretchen said. Instead in a kind and gentle way but with a seriousness to her voice, Gretchen laid out the facts. It’s difficult to remember her exact words, the sound of my own panic pounding in my ears. I recall;

· Concerned for your life

· Malnourished

· Life-threatening and

· Treatment options

Words tumbling around in my head like letters in a Bingo game. I was having a hard time grasping this was me she was talking about.

Gretchen then leaned forwards in her chair, speaking in a deliberate manner, a look of compassion on her face, and said the words I will always remember “you did not cause your eating disorder, it is not your fault.”

My vision became blurry as the tears welled up in my eyes and threatened to spill out over my cheeks as I fought to hold them back. I wanted to believe this woman. I wanted to save face, to believe that I was not so vain, so weak ….so….so… stupid to get myself into this “life-threatening” position. But if it wasn’t my fault then who, how, why?


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