Friday, March 8, 2013

Recognizing Anorexia Nervosa

I read an article today that made me incredibly sad. It was about a six-year-old little girl named Sophie, who developed anorexia in kindergarten. Kindergarten. She started restricting her portions of food more and more, exercised compulsively on the monkey bars, and even began throwing away her lunch and snacks at school.

And because the beginning stages of anorexia nervosa are not immediately physically apparent, no one knew. “She was slim, but not skeletal,” recalls her mother.

Be kind to your body. You'll only have one.
One night, Sophie told her mother about her problem, telling her, “Mommy, I have a problem… I am hungry all the time and I can’t eat. A voice in my head is telling me not to eat.” She was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in the first grade, after not gaining weight for ten months straight and dropping from the 60th percentile to the 19th percentile for her weight.

Sophie is eight now, and is doing well. Her parents got her treatment from a specialty center and continually monitor her eating at home and school. Sophie was also diagnosed with mild obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.

I’ve always thought of anorexia as a mostly society driven problem; I knew that there was a psychological component to eating disorders, but I never realized that sometimes they can manifest without the individual even really understanding what’s going on. Sophie, at six, didn’t know why she felt she couldn’t eat.

Many people believe that eating disorders are a choice for individuals… but the truth is, I think it’s less of a choice than we realize. Anorexics can realize what’s going on, can fear for their life, can see that what they’re doing to themselves is wrong—but they can’t always stop doing it. And as a society, I think we could be a lot better at understanding that and being more supportive to those who suffer from eating disorders.

The girl with the eating disorder is often the last to know she is ill.
Becoming the new feminine ideal requires just the right combination of insecurity, exercise and anorexia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 10 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, which have the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric illness. But despite this, the thinspiration movement continues to grow online, promoting eating disorders as a way of life.

Anorexia isn’t always immediately visible to us, especially at the beginning. Many individuals who suffer from anorexia may never look like that skeletal image we hold in our minds, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Here are some of the behavioral signs and symptoms of anorexia:

  • Obsession with food, weight, calories, dieting, or exercise
  • Constant anxiety of gaining weight or being fat even when healthy or losing weight
  • Refusal to eat with or around others
  • Extremely self critical, anxious, depressed, or irritable. Is a perfectionist
  • Self worth is determined by appearance and weight, loss of desire to engage in social relationships or activities
"You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed.
And you are beautiful."
Image from
I am certainly someone that values eating healthy, exercising, and generally being aware of overall health—but I hope that I’ve never given the impression that thinner is better, no matter the cost. Because it isn’t. We were all made differently, and more important than being “thin” or “skinny” is being healthy and happy.

Love yourself. Love your body—and be nice to it. You only get one.

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