The Illusion” Teen Anorexia: Tollie Schmidt “Empowering Greatness Creating A Dream-Infused Life”
You hear about Mary-Kate Olsen and her struggle with eating and about supermodels who are known for their skin-and-bone structures. You may even know a really thin girl at school who eats close to nothing and who everyone whispers about being anorexic.
But anorexia is a serious eating disorder that many people don’t know much about.
People who have anorexia nervosa starve themselves, maybe even purge after giving in to the temptation to eat. However, this disorder, which starts with diet and can lead to death, may be caused by genetics.
“There is a biological connection,” said Julie Wilson, therapist at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. “Teenagers with an eating disorder, their offspring has a seven times greater chance of developing an eating disorder.”
Even the brain of someone with anorexia is different from the brain of a person without the disorder, she said.
“The structure of the brain of a person with an eating disorder would be different, the chemicals would be different, and certain parts of their brain would be inflamed.”
Yet the main key to anorexia is dieting.
“Teenagers have a 12 times greater chance of developing an eating disorder if you diet,” Williams said. To be classified as anorexic, a Teen must be below 85 percent of her ideal weight and have three missed menstrual cycles, Wilson said.
According to psychcentral.com, there are two types of anorexia.
– The first is the better-known restricting type. Its sufferers starve themselves and become obsessed with looks and weight but do not purge.
– The second is defined by binge eating and purging. These people also starve themselves but sometimes will eat and then purge like a bulimic. They may also use laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
“Teenagers purge to self-punish,” Wilson said. “The biggest reason to purge is about weight. It’s a mind-set of ‘I can eat whatever I want to and then get rid of it without suffering the consequences,’ which is people’s misperception.”
Some teenagers with eating disorders find sneaky ways to hide their disease.
“It’s harder to hide if you’re anorexic as opposed to a bulimic, but some can be crafty,” Wilson said. “They wear layers of clothing so they look bigger than they are.” They eat too fast or too slow, she said, play with their food, use condiments to hide flavors or cook for other people but don’t eat. In her novel “Unwell,” author Leslie Lipton tells of her own struggle with anorexia.
“I basically told my parents that I was eating at school,” she said. “I would purge after dinner when I said I was taking a shower, and I made sure I didn’t get dressed in front of my mom so she could not see what I was doing to myself.”
Like many teenage girls, Lipton said she started to feel uncomfortable with her body when she hit puberty and observed the behavior of her skinny friends.
“My friends were eating lettuce when I was eating hamburgers, and that was when I first started to realize that maybe that was why they were so skinny,” Lipton said.
Lipton’s parents found out and forced her into therapy and doctor’s appointments. That led to “dessert torture” – her parents forcing her to eat ice cream every night.
“It was absolute terror,” she said. “Eating this bowl of ice cream, which sounds absolutely insane now, made me think I would gain 20 pounds right then and there. It was one of the worst moments of my life.”
Lipton said she could not see at the time what had happened to her.
“I would look in the mirror, and I didn’t see what I looked like. When I was at my lowest weight (my friends) saw skin and bones, and I would see fat.”
Teenagers with anorexia are never quite satisfied.
“The thinner you are and the thinner you become, the more dissatisfied you become, the more unhappy you become, and the more obsessive (about weight) you become,” said Wilson of Research Medical Center.
Most teenagers with anorexia starve themselves to reach a “perfect” weight. But there are other reasons.
“I kept telling myself that I would be happy if I was thin. When I wasn’t happy, I just told myself that I must not be thin enough,” Lipton said.
Lipton was hospitalized and did not think she could ever be healthy.
“I didn’t think I could get better. I thought I would live with it forever,” she said.
Recovery is never easy.
“The moment when (I) realized (I) wanted help was the hardest,” Lipton said. “It’s a hard realization. The eating disorder is the only thing to rely on and the only comfort.”
Patience, support and encouragement are important, Williams said. Sometimes a person can recover without help, but Williams said it is very rare.
“They need nutritional counseling,” she said. “The most important thing is to gain insight and interrupt the behaviors.”
Full recovery can take five to seven years, Wilson said. “The average inpatient stay is about three times.”