Walking a Thin Line This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

“God, why am I so FAT?” “I have no self-control.” “Help me NOT EAT DINNER. It’s ­always so hard not to – my mom makes these yummy meals and while they’re sometimes healthy, sometimes not … I still can’t eat tonight. I’ve had WAY too much food today.” “I don’t think I have enough will power. Any thinspo* would be great right now.”

These are real quotes I found on a blog for girls with anorexia or bulimia. There they compare what they do and how they feel with people who understand. As I read their comments, I realized that they have their own state of mind that’s so different from mine that it is incomprehensible to me. What is really going on inside an anorexic’s head? What causes people to starve themselves?

“Molly” is at the top of her class, she’s popular, she gets all the guys, and she’s head cheerleader. She works so hard to be the perfect child. But there are some girls at school who are thinner than she is. Determined to be best at that too, Molly tries every diet she can find, and nothing seems to work. She has no idea what to do next.

“Alice” seems to have the ideal life. But at home, everything is wrong. The second that Alice walks through the door, she hears her mother screaming as her dad confronts her yet again about her drug addiction. ­Alice tries so hard to get her parents to notice her and show that they care. She has to do something drastic.

Last year, “Erin’s” sister was diagnosed with anorexia. Erin used to idolize her sister; she was perfect. Everything that Erin did was because of her sister. But all of a sudden, she’s not so perfect anymore. Erin can’t even begin to grasp that fact. Maybe she’ll try to be anorexic too.

Girls who suffer from eating disorders may come from very different lives, but they have a similar problem. They believe they’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not noticed enough, not skinny enough, or are unable to accept a change. And just one little push can send any of them over the edge.

In one study, three out of four women said they were overweight, even though only one of them actually was. Four out of five women in the U.S. are unhappy with the way they look. Eighty-one percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. More than half of average-weight white teen girls think they’re fat.

Women feel so much pressure to be thin that the healthy idea of thin is no longer appealing. A study showed that approximately 40 percent of women wanted to look like a person who is 10 percent to 20 percent underweight. This is not healthy. Adolescent girls are more scared of gaining weight than of being ­diagnosed with cancer, a nuclear war, or losing their parents. Since when is being skinny more important than family?

But being anorexic or bulimic isn’t all about being thin. For some, it’s a way to stop growing up. They are getting older, and their bodies are changing. They are ­developing hips, thighs, and breasts, and no longer look like they did when they were happy youngsters. In order to maintain their youth, some girls get rid of their womanly shape by not eating. All of the things that scare us about growing up, from leaving our homes to relationships, terrify these people. By starving themselves they seek to stop time.

Anorexia often happens to people with emotional ­issues like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive ­disorder, body image distortions, poor impulse control, and substance abuse. If you have any of these, you are at an increased risk for anorexia.

If you know someone who is dealing with an eating disorder, first contact their parents or another adult you trust. Then try to talk to them about it. Perhaps start the conversation with “I care about you a lot and I’m starting to see that …” or “You seem to have a lot of things going on. Do you want to talk about it?” If they don’t want to talk, that’s okay. Remember, a few words can go a long way.

Some believe that anorexics and bulimics are freaks. They’re not. They’re just normal people who go through tough times. Whether due to peer pressure or the desire to be noticed, they feel the need to be skinny and don’t eat. Some even find satisfaction in being hungry.

Through my research I attempted to understand the mentality of those who suffer from eating disorders. But a familiar quote comes to mind: “It takes one to know one.” And if that’s the case, I never want to understand it fully.

* A thinspo is a picture of a bone-thin celebrity that helps inspire someone with an eating disorder to stick with it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 20 comments. Post your own now!

EW12342 said...
Jun. 14, 2015 at 8:28 am
This is really good, but not just girls suffer with eating disorders.
FaeNotMyName This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm
Thinspo isn't just celebrities - rather it is any message that promotes eating disorders, whether it be a picture of rib bones protruding or "Keep calm and don't eat". That being said, I appreciate the message you're sending in this article (no sarcasm).
Lady-Milano said...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 5:06 am
great article.
october34 said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm
This was great! I never thought that I had a perfect body or was skinny. I always hated my thighs or didn't think I was proportionate. Now my friends point out to me that I'm way too skinny. Whenever we go shopping together I still have to go searching for size 10-12 in the childrens section while they go in the juniors. Most times I'm embarrassed about my weight and I usually say I'm 105 lbs when I'm only 90. I'm almost 13. My best friend weighs 110 and I think she's perfect. Why can't I think ... (more »)
Katiehollibaugh said...
Apr. 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm
i am doing an project in my Language arts class. and i choose this article because, i didnt think that soo many teens/young ladys. struggle with this problem and how sad and disturbing this is.
pinkowl said...
Apr. 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm
WOW, what a good job you did in this article. it got me to thinking! i am really into how the brain works, and you did a great job at clarifying it. i loved the last paragraph- it was a perfect way to end this!
kelsee727 said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm
I agree with your last paragraph. I never want to actually feel how awful it is to be an anorexic or bulimic. This article makes me more aware of myself though. I have anxiety, which I guess puts me at an increased risk of becoming anorexic. I've always been a bit obsessed with losing weight. I have friends who jokingly say they are fat when in fact they are thin. Though it doesn't matter if you are fat or thin. What matters is if you are healthy. If you are fat by eating healthy then chill. It ... (more »)
vinny said...
Dec. 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm
Well part of that problem is that they are just not active. They probally go home do hmoework and go to bed. I am a Cross Country runner for Delaware and you get more hungry or feel fater when you don't work out. 1/4 of my frends are like that, I took them out for a 2 mile run and they feel grate. they haven't done that so called DISSORDER AGAIN. It isn't a dissorder it is just what they eat and how they are active.
403jaa said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm
This article has talked some sense into me.I feel Like I am too skinny and small for my age.My family and some friends always tell me to try not to gain weight, but when I am hungry I want to eat. Throughout all the hardships and setbacks, I try to focus on my health and build my confidence. I hate being a size 0 or 1 sometimes thinking about my weight depresses me and ruins my day.I have low self-esteem and doubts about myself.
Purplefilly said...
Sept. 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm
I have a friend who has tried every eating disorder there possibly is. Everyone knows about it. Everyone. The entire school knows her name as "the girl who cuts herself in class with scissors and who goes to the bathroom to barf." I just can't help wondering why... I think you make a good point here.
BaileyBaby13 said...
Aug. 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm
This was really inspiring and helpful. Thank you for writing this.
JamieStarr said...
Jun. 21, 2010 at 1:20 am
this was very helpful for me. i have hyper thyroid and that means my heart works faster so i cant gain as much weight as others. so i am kind of bony. my aunt , wich i live with, tells me i need to eat more but i just cant gain weight. my friend and i did the test like thing to see if i really wasnt able to gain weight so we both ate a box of ice cream and i gain 1/2 pounds and she gain 3. so i found out that is really hard for me to gain weight. and as i was reading i realized you know alot aou... (more »)
J. Rae replied...
Jul. 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

Go to www.mypyramid.gov. It might help. Under the interactive tools bulletin click MyPyramid Plan.  It shows how much food you should eat and also I think it says if you have a healthy weight too.

I have a thirteen year old friend who is genetically stick thin. She weighs 80 pound and is five foot three. She can't gain wieght either.

idontgiveastacy said...
Jan. 18, 2010 at 6:11 pm
"Anorexia often happens to people with emotional ­issues like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive ­disorder, body image distortions, poor impulse control, and substance abuse. If you have any of these, you are at an increased risk for anorexia."
actually, there's a theory that eating disorders actually cause these things. they did a study with some healthy men and after putting them on a low calorie restricted diet they became more obsessed with their weight, ... (more »)
Shelby R. said...
Dec. 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm
This is a really interesting and informational piece. I really really appreciate it that you said people that suffer from eating disorders are not freaks. I've had one for about 3 years. It's really a struggle and I'm really happy you've shed some light on some of the true aspects of eating disorders. Thank you :)
emyxbaby said...
Nov. 17, 2009 at 9:14 am
This is really good. As someone who really struggles with anorexia, it was nice to hear someone elses point of view.
robrobrobin11 said...
Mar. 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm
This is a wonderful piece of writing and I like the "outsiders" POV. I know for me and my disease (not an eating disorder, it's called RSD, it's a nerve disorder, chronic pain) sometimes people not researching is better. I'd rather them accept that they can't understand. I think you sort of did that in this piece and I like that. I also wanted you to know, it could effect someone the wrong way as well, so don't let hurtful words bring you down, if you come across some. Keep up the... (more »)
shelbyy_51496 said...
Nov. 2, 2008 at 12:59 am
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this. I really appreciate you for not thinking people who may have an issue like this are freaks.
Megan said...
Oct. 24, 2008 at 2:02 pm
WOW I had no idea that so many people deal with this and are effected. It also helped me understand more about it.
mrd said...
Sept. 9, 2008 at 3:27 pm
disordered eating and body image problems run in our family. In response, my mother and I studied the topic and created a journal for middle school girls that covers the topics that have been shown to improve body image and self esteem.It's called How I Look Journal and it has been vetted by the National Eating Disorders Assoc. Reaching girls before it becomes a problem might have a greater impact than trying to treat once it becomes a problem. you can take a look at our journal at www.HowIL... (more »)
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