The Skinny: a webzine for anorexia and bulimia
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The Skinny: a webzine for anorexia and bulimia

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Trying to Understand Anorexia

an essay by Susie Thurmond

Once a vigorous, lithesome young girl, Susie lay quietly among an array of tubes and sterile machines. She was not hospitalized due to a tragic illness or from an accident. Rather, she exemplifies one of the many cases of self-inflicted starvation that sadly affects one percent of our nation's women. You may know or even be an anorexic.

Why do these girls torture themselves by denying that most basic human need: food? Teenagers are supposed to have fun and eat ice cream, pizza, and jelly-belly's. Most do, but some become stuck in one of the most difficult psychological maladies to overcome. The answers are varied, but for now we will deal with the most common issue contributing to the disease: pressure.

Pressures to be a "super-girl" begin at a very young age nowadays. Whether inflicted by demanding parents, the media, coaches or teachers, the result for the anorexic is a serious lack of self-confidence. There are very high expectations for these girls to achieve. They often equate achievement with love. They become people-pleasers in search of the love and acceptance they so desperately crave.

I have a personal interest in promoting education about this disease. I am the Susie in the opening paragraph. Luckily, I am a survivor of Anorexia Nervosa and a form of bulimia called purging (not bingeing).

More than five times, I have reduced myself to a severely emaciated creature and almost died in the process. Months after languishing in a hospital ward being tube-fed, I still have great difficulty feeding myself. I sometimes do not believe I deserve to eat.

I see other girls who possess the same wasted, forlorn appearance. Warm smiles and hugs are what we yearn for, even if we push you away at times. We have just been hurt so much, we fear taking risks like accepting kindness or friendship.

I read magazines displaying perfectly proportioned, underweight models who are the "American Beauty Ideal." There are always low-fat cookbooks and diet books on the bestseller lists. Now, even Barbie has made a huge comeback! I watch TV shows featuring perfect families consisting of perfectly beautiful, slim members with not an extra ounce of fat on them. What kind of message would you expect a kid (or anyone) to form from this barrage of media influx?

Competitive by nature, I formulated a set of rigid standards to make myself the best according to the standards imposed by society. Again, the lack of self-confidence aided in my development of this distorted lifestyle. There are many psychological theories about mixed messages from parents, peer ridicule, and an emphasis on appearance by the family. The most basic flaw was thatI did not know how to love myself.

I worshipped my parents and strove to impress my idols by achieving high marks, acquiring awards and leadership roles. Of course, nothing I ever did seemed to be good enough. That is another difference between those who get anorexia and those who do not. Anorexic (and bulimic) families often do not know how to provide positive, unconditional encouragement.

This brief analysis, aided, of course, by many sessions on the couch (!)does not intend to place all the blame on society or family for the origins of this disorder. I merely set out to explore a few possibilities about why anorexia might manifest itself in certain susceptible people by using my case as an example.

The intelligent eating disordered girl striving for perfection never makes it. One, absolute perfection is impossible. Two, in working towards that perfection, which can never be obtained, the skinniest girl will ultimately perish. Only through re-learning to love and appreciate ourselves as the capable, independent women we are, can we overcome Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia.


On Tuesday nights, I sponsor a chat group focusing on body image. You are all invited. In order to join, please e-mail me at the address below. In the heading, write "Sign me up for the chat." Then, I will add you to my buddy list. On Tuesdays at 7pm Pacific Time, you will get an invitation to meet me in a buddy chat. Unfortunately, if you do not have AOL, I will be unable to include you.

Excerpts from my Book, The Butterfly
Click here to go to Effects on the Family

cllick here for Growing Pains

Health UpdateClick here to go to HEALTH

ED Book Reviews

Click to go to Book Reviews

Cooks Corner

Each month, a new healthy recipe will be added. The goal is to encourage you to try new or risky foods that are lowfat and healthy in order to broaden your diet. Especially for bulimics, it is hard to add foods associated with binges to the diet. However, it is important for self-confidence and recovery to work on adding food back into the meal plan to normalize eating patterns. Let me know if you successfully try these recipes. Also, feel free to send me your own lowfat recipes!

Ruth's Lowfat Lasagna

Ingredients: 3 c. nonfat ricotta, 1 tub lowfat cottage cheese (NF falls apart), 1 c. frozen spinach (thawed), 1 lb. ground turkey, 5 c. tomato sauce, about 16 lasagna noodles.

Boil lasagna noodles taking care not to break them. (About 8-10 min.) Mix ricotta, cottage cheese and spinach in a bowl. Set aside. Brown meat using non-stick cooking spray. Drain. Mix meat with tomato sauce in separate bowl. In a 13 X 9" rectangular baking pan, place 1 c. tomato mixture, then lay down 4 lasagna noodles, spread cheese mixture on top and keep repeating layers until you reach top of pan. Optional- sprinkle lowfat mozzarella on top. Cover pan with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Bon appettit! Guilt-free and Yummy!

Poetry:<;h3> Each month I will choose 2 poems submitted by my readers to print.
3 Honorable mentions. Good luck!

Click here for Poetry

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This page created on October 23, 1997

C. Wildes' very informative guide to ED info.
ANRED- a non-profit orgs. ED information
Something-Fishy: comprehensive guide to ED info
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