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 went straight into treatment after the candy dish incident. 


Nope. 


However, after the initial shock of the incident wore off, it took a stronghold on me, and I could not shake it. My father in law’s words followed me around like an unwanted shadow. They were with me as I showered in the mornings, bringing extra attention to my concave stomach and jutting hipbones. I heard them as I got dressed each day, reminding me to cover my arms, and hide the veins that protruded through my skin. His voice echoed as I obsessively checked my refelction in the mirror, and tried to convince myself that the body Neil saw was not the body everyone else saw. Do I look like walking death? Skeletal? The possibility buzzed around my psyche, but I would bat it away like an annoying fruit fly as I was not ready to face what Neil being right might mean.   

My parents 50th wedding anniversary party. Before hand my mom said, "you look pretty today Sher, you don’t look....sick.” (With my sister, above, celebrating my parents, below)

“Do not ever leave me alone with him. Ever!” I shouted at my husband. We often spent time with both of our parents for family get-togethers, and I wanted to make sure I was perfectly clear that in no way was I going to put myself through that again. 


My husband pursed his lips as if he had just eaten something sour and blinked slowly at me. I could sense he was trying to find the balance between supporting the woman he loved without hurting the man he idolized, hoping my anger would pass like a thunderstorm in the tropics. I was pissed that he was not as outraged as I over the whole incident but not surprised. My husband avoided conflict like it was a colonoscopy. Over the eighteen years we had been together, our disagreements often comprised of me yelling, Marc shutting down, and both of us ignoring each other for the rest of the day. 


Without feeling my husband’s support, I turned to my friend Lori as an ally in my self imposed war with my father in law.


“WTF?" I vented as I explained the saga to her during one of our weekly walk and talk’s where we would solve life’s problems amongst the tree lined paths in our neighborhood , “who does he think he is?”


“Well, Sher, “ Lori said in a gentle voice, “ do you think he may have a point? You are so thin.” 


Lori had danced around the subject of my weight several times over the years. Friends since college, we had been through a lot together and she knew I could be touchy when faced with feedback of a personal nature.   I imagine she never pushed too hard, for fear it would fracture our friendship. 


Friends since college, we (with Lori, Megan and Polly) refer to ourselves as the “Core Four.” I put these ladies through the wringer. (2015)

“I cannot believe you are taking his side,” I said, picking up my pace, trying to hide the hurt in my voice. I wanted Lori to tell me he was an ass, out of line, and wrong. I wanted to spend the hour talking about how I was okay, and he was the one with the problem.   


I was desperate for someone to agree with me. I found myself alone in my anger. I was fighting not only Neil’s words but against something else, a feeling that was pushing at my edges trying to gain access to my conscious brain.


When I allowed it to get too close it caused me so much pain it took my breath away.



  • sherrisacconaghi

“Take some chocolate.” My father in law said as he offered the candy dish to me.


It was impossible to exit my in-law’s house without passing by the crystal bowl on the entryway table overflowing with M & M’s, foil-wrapped chocolate crème mints, and Hershey’s kisses.  My husband, Marc, was taking one last handful as we walked toward the door to leave and, as usual, I walked past with no intention of partaking in the treats. 

“No, thanks. I’m fine,” I said picking at an invisible piece of lint on my favorite black sleeveless sundress, praying he would let the conversation drop.   

“You need to eat!” He shouted, a demand, not a statement, “you are a skeleton!”


Neil’s words expressed the opinions many, including me, silently held about my body.

At five foot eight and ninety-eight pounds, I had developed an emotional armor from the comments made by random strangers on my thin frame, their opinions about my body thrown at me like darts at game board, but Neil’s comment hit the bullseye.

Pressured silence filled the foyer, like a balloon pumped with too much helium. Surely my husband would step in and tell his dad to back off.  I waited for what felt like five minutes, unsure of how to respond.  The tick of the grandfather clock nestled in the corner of the adjacent living room was pounding in my ears.  My heart beating so rapidly, I was sure it might shoot through my chest at any moment.

“You look like walking death!” Neil shouted, filling the silence, his face flushed, and his hands shaking, causing the candy to spill from the bowl he still held in his hand.

My eyes widened, and I felt my cheeks start to burn. Sharon, Neil’s wife, held her hand to her mouth as if she was trying to stop his words by stuffing her own.  My husband and Sharon looked at each other, neither making eye contact with me.  I felt a bead of sweat start to trickle down my back as I sent my husband a pleading look, silently begging him to make his father stop before any more of his words shot towards me like bullets from a gun.


“Dad stop,” I heard Marc say as I turned and ran out of the house to the car.   My black flip flops scraping the ground, making my exit more of a shuffle than a run, relieved that Marc was following closely behind me, as part of me wondered if he would stay to console his dad or leave in support of me. As we drove away, I turned to see my father in law standing on the front porch, his face drained of color, his eyes looking toward the ground.  I, like a shaken can of soda, exploded into tears.

“Who the fuck says that to someone?” My words stuttering through violent sobs,  “how could you let your father treat me like that?”

“It caught me off guard,” Marc stammered. “I didn’t know what to say.”

“Do you think it is true?” I choked, “do I look that bad?”

My husband stared silently at the road in front of us, his hands gripping the steering wheel as if it were a life preserver, and he was a drowning man.  


It didn’t matter; I knew the answer.



A family birthday celebration for Neil’s 80th birthday.

My father in law was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s at the time.  His internal filter impaired by the disease, making his comments more genuine, like a child who speaks their truth without the awareness of social acceptability.  Neil expressed what he, and others, saw when they looked at me.  


Neil passed away a year after the candy dish incident, an aggressive form of cancer sadly taking his life before I had the awareness or the opportunity to thank him for his part in saving mine.



  • sherrisacconaghi

Please tell me this gets easier. I texted to Katie, a woman I had met in my recovery group the first week in treatment. Although twenty years younger, she was light years ahead of me in the recovery process.  


I had reached out to Katie in despair. Sitting at my kitchen counter eating lunch, frustrated, and disgusted by the way the waistband of my favorite jeans were cutting into my slowly expanding stomach. I was trying to choke down the other half of half of a turkey sandwich. It sat staring back at me from the plate, daring me to eat it like some schoolyard bully, and I desperately wanted to get away from it but I had made an agreement with my dietician earlier that week that I would not stop eating my meals until I was uncomfortably full. And I hated it. 

Thoughts of my great turkey escape plan were disrupted by the ping of the phone, my hand brushing over my eyes to wipe tears of frustration that were blurring my vision. It gets harder then it gets easier, Katie’s response read. It sucks, and I’m sorry.


I dreaded the feeling of being full. I spent over a decade of my life, avoiding it. I can count on one finger the time I let my guard down; the details stick out in my mind like splotches of black paint on a white wall. It was Thanksgiving , a night traditionally known for overeating, sitting back in your chair, loosening your belt and complaining about being full. Well, for most people, not me. That year we had decided on an extended family dinner at a lovely seafood restaurant in town. I was wearing black Tribal pants, a bronze crepe blouse, and our server was a single mom named Teresa who was fantastic. The restaurant was loud but the view of the city was spectacular. I had passed on the traditional turkey dinner they were offering and opted for grilled halibut and steamed vegetables. Comfortably not full after my light dinner, I had no plans for dessert. We all agreed to share several items amongst the table. Some pumpkin pie, pass. A piece of berry cobbler, pass. A slice of key lime pie, OMG. The oversized creamy, tart confection was so tempting I caved and had just a bite, unraveling any self control I had managed to maintain throughout the meal. I ate the whole piece before I even had a chance to stop myself, leaving the restaurant full and distended and numb. I woke the next morning full of regret and disgust as if I had a one night stand with the bartender not a slice of pie.

Key lime pie night, commemorated in our family Christmas card that year. As if I would ever forget.

I strived for hungry. I craved hungry, like I imagine a heroin addict lusts after their next hit. There was something about feeling hungry, that made me feel euphoric. Even if I had a shitty day, felt disconnected from my husband, lost a tennis match, or had an ugly argument with my son, in moments of hunger, those bad feelings floated away, kind of like being slightly drunk. The buzz leaving me believing that I could do or be anything. I love my life; I am so lucky, the world is great and I am perfectly fine. I would find myself lost in the rituals of making meals, drawing out the process allowing the chopping, weighing, and measuring to consume me, my stomach rumbling with the anticipation of eating my plate of roasted vegetables yet hesitating not wanting the feeling of happy lightness to end. I was an addict, and hunger was my drug.  





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