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Starving for Perfection
Photo: Morguefile
I am your average 17-year-old; healthwise, at least. I get plenty of exercise, and I get subconscious workouts by going dancing and mall-trolling with my friends. I eat pretty healthy. I drink lots of water, and I steer clear of chemical additives. I feel good about my body. I love my curves, and I think supermodels are scary-looking.

That’s why people are so surprised when they learn that two years ago I nearly died from anorexia.

Sometimes I almost forget that the memories I have of running six miles on an empty stomach, counting every calorie I consumed down to a stick of gum, and wishing that scientists could genetically engineer reduced-calorie lettuce are real…but that was actually me.

In reality, it’s not surprising that I became anorexic. I was never a skinny kid growing up, but I was always a perfectionist. I never quite liked my body, but I always loved Hilary Duff’s. So, when my parents divorced and I developed a pretty nasty case of depression, my bout of anorexia seems like it was pretty well in place.

Relatively Innocent Diet

Although it started out as a relatively innocent diet, after three months I had lost almost 30 pounds, and six months later I was down to an emaciated 90 pounds—on a five-foot-three-inch frame. I had succeeded so well in ignoring my hunger pangs that I had completely lost my desire—and ability—to eat. I withdrew from my friends, baffled my family with my compulsive exercise and eating rituals, and almost completely forgot about schoolwork.

I consumed less than 600 calories a day (the same amount of food some people eat for breakfast with a bagel and a tall glass of juice), and was running compulsively on the cross-country team. By the time my body began to deteriorate (my hair started falling out, my skin was dry, and I was always tired), my mother realized what was going on and made sure I saw a therapist and a nutritionist.

But after a long recovery (gaining weight back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done), I am energized. Because I’ve felt the pain of anorexia (probably much of it from the pressures of having to be a “beautiful girl”), my faith in myself has been revitalized. I am very active in teaching girls and young women about learning to love their bodies—even though society is so set on telling them that “thin is in.”

Today, health and happiness are my main objectives. I work to keep my body going, I make sure that I have time to relax and do the things I like, and I always take care of myself. I learned the hard way that taking out my frustrations with my life on my body is not the way to go. Now I’m committed to making sure that other young people don’t face a similar fate.

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By Liz Funk. Reprinted with persmission from Listen magazine, October 2006. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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