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Eating Disorders

The following is an article that appeared in Teen Voices Magazine
Volume 3, Issue 4

Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Compulsive Eating

These conditions affect thousands of teen and young adult women. They are serious emotional disorders that can threaten your self-esteem, your relationships, your health and even your life.


Dear Teen Voices, I am sending this poem for Teen Voices as it deals with eating disorders/body image - an issue of great concern among teenagers these days. I am a graduate student in a program called Creative Arts in Learning. My focus is giving voice to issues through poetry, movement, the visual arts and storytelling. Creative expression has helped me through my recovery from an eating disorder.

Glamour Queens In Size Two Jeans

by Nathalie Gottlieb
Somerville, MA

Who are those glamour queens in size two jeans?
Making me look in the mirror
And hate what I see
Making me ugly and awkward
Making me eat rice cakes
And whatever it takes
To be like those glamour queens in size two jeans
And who are they anyway?
Making me punish myself
hate myself
hurt myself
Because I have no will
Like those glamour queens in size two jeans
And who are they anyway?
Making me eat my sorrow
eat my emptiness
eat my broken promises
eat because it hurts too much to cry
because its easier than fighting
because its easier than sitting down
On the warm solid earth
Taking a deep breath
And connecting to the warm solid earth
And loving me
And who are they anyway?
Those glamour queens in size two jeans
Making me feel alive when I'm thin
And disgusted when I give in
To the temptations of sin
And WHY is it sin to
Feed our bodies
To FEED our bodies
To NURTURE ourselves
To LOVE bodies
To CONNECT with ourselves
To BE ourselves
And NOT one of those glamour queens in size two jeans.



by Nicole Diamond
Chicago, Illinois

She counts her calories at lunch,
Measure her self-worth
By the numbers on the scale.
The flattering new dress she bought
Hangs in the closet unworn,
Waiting while she sheds
The extra pounds.
When he kisses her,
She worries that his hands,
Tenderly carressing her waist,
Are secretly measuring her fat.

She stares into the mirror
At the failure before her.
She gets As in every subject,
Never sits alone in the halls,
Always has a boyfriend,
But can't seem to lose enough weight
To make herself beautiful.
The models in "Cosmo"
Only make her feel worse,
With their sultry smirks,
Through perfect lips,
Form a perfect face and body.

Friends tell her how slender she is;
She's sure they are insincere.
She skips dinner, too much homework
And exercises until she feels dizzy.
The weight drops slowly,
2 pounds, 5 pounds, 10 pounds,
But still the mirror
Tells her she is fat.

She wears bulky sweaters
And baggy jeans,
Hiding the weight, and the ribs
That lately seem
To show through her skin.
Her fingernails have
Started to turn blue.
Mornings when the alarm rings,
She doesn't have the energy
To reach over and silence it.
One friend asks her if she's okay,
After she nearly faints during class.
She smiles wanly and nods;
She's too tired to speak.

She weighs less
Than any model in a magazine,
Still she doesn't think she is thin enough.
Her mother asks her daily
What she wants for dinner,
Not accepting that whatever food
Goes down her throat
Travels the reverse journey
Ten minutes later.
She shivers with cold all the time now.
Her boyfriend has stopped calling.
Models seem to jeer at her
From their magazine covers.
She weighs less than she did
In seventh grade;
The excess fat still clings to her.

But she is determined
To diet her way to happiness-
Even if it kills her.



What is an Eating Disorder?

by Cheryl Alkon
Brookline, MA

"I eat the same thing everyday: yogurt. I love the way it tastes. It's the perfect food," says Amy, 23, of Boston, Massachusetts. As we talk, she carefully spoons fat-free plain yogurt into her mouth. By the end of the meal, she will have downed a pound of yogurt. For lunch. Nothing else. This meal resembles almost all of what Amy has been eating for months. Yogurt, yogurt and more yogurt. Occasionally, she'll eat a bagel or drink some coffee.

Last July, a former gymnast named Christy Henrich, 22, of Independence, Missouri, died from multiple organ system failure. The organs in her body-heart, liver, lungs-simply stopped working. Christi trained for years as a gymnast and hoped to make the Olympic team in 1988 and 1992. When she failed to qualify in 1988 her weight dropped almost 30 percent, until she was forced to retire from gymnastics in 1991. She died three years later.

"I don't eat normally," says Jennifer, 23, of New Jersey. "I can eat an entire box of cereal at one sitting." While in high school, Jennifer sold candy as a fund-raiser and would eat the candy instead of selling it. "I tried to sell the ones I didn't like, but I thought about it and felt, well, it's chocolate and wafers. They can't be that bad. And they weren't," she says. "Food kills all my feelings. I stuff myself until I feel nothing."

Amy is a recovering anorexic, someone who suffers from an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. Christi suffered from both anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Jennifer is considered a compulsive eater. These conditions are known as eating disorders and they afflict people who are obsessed with food and fat. Sufferers end up dealing with a warped relationship with their body image, their weight and food.

There are three different kinds of eating disorders. People who eat very little food or stop eating altogether suffer from anorexia nervosa. Those who make themselves throw up after eating a lot of food have bulimia. And when she stuffs herself with food all the time, she suffers from compulsive overeating. All three disorders are serious emotional disorders that have life-threatening consequences.


According to the Anorexia Bulimia Care, Inc. and the National Associations of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, there are many symptoms that characterize each disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Deliberate self-starvation with a weight loss of at least 15% of the normal body weight
  • An intense fear of gaining weight
  • Refusing to eat, or eating only very small portions
  • Distorted body image (for example, thinking you're fat, when you're actually thin)
  • Absent or irregular menstruation (missing several periods in a row)
  • Exercising compulsively
  • Excessive facial/body hair
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Hair loss


  • Preoccupation with food
  • Binge eating (eating a lot of food at one time), usually in secret
  • Purging after a binge (vomiting, use of laxatives, diet pills, diuretics, excessive exercise or fasting)
  • Frequent dieting
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Compulsive Overeating

  • This syndrome is characterized primarily by periods of compulsive gorging or continuous eating. While there is no purging, there may be fasts (not eating anything for several days) or repetitive diets. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate or severe obesity.
Eating disorders develop for a number of reasons. Some times, a person can have psychological, interpersonal or social problems that may lead to feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety, loneliness. These feelings can push someone into developing an eating disorder.

"Food is something you can control," says Leslie Simeoni, program coordinator of Anorexia Bulimia Care, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "With other problems, such as boyfriends or parents, you can feel out of control." In anorexics, food consumption can be monitored and controlled, while bulimics see purging as "a form of cleansing, getting the bad out," says Leslie. Compulsive eaters, Leslie says, stuff their problems down along with bowls of ice cream. "Food becomes your way of handling problems," she added.

"Eating replaces a lot of feelings," says Jennifer. "My top priority is my eating problem. It doesn't make me think about other things, like my family, finding a job, applying to graduate school...my life."

If you think you may have an eating disorder, or know someone who has one, it is important to get professional help right away. The most effective and long-lasting treatment for an eating disorder is some sort of psychotherapy. This involves finding a doctor who understands eating disorders who can help the sufferer to understand why she uses food in the way she does and how she can change her behavior. "If food is your way of handling problems, it is good to talk to get to the root of that problem," says Leslie. A good doctor will help the sufferer pinpoint the problems that cause the disorder, as well as the symptoms of the actual disorder.

Another form of help can come from support groups or group therapy. "It's good to have support, because it is difficult to pull yourself out of it," says Leslie. It can be very helpful to talk things over with people who understand what you are going through.

If you or someone you know shows signs of an eating disorder, you can find help by telling a parent, teacher or another trusted adult about the problem. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, you can contact a group that specializes in eating disorders. They can give you information about eating disorders and refer you to where you can get help. A few numbers are listed here; you may find others in your local area in the phone book or through your hospital's main number. Call your local hospital and ask to speak with someone in an eating disorders clinic or referral service. Some places to try:


Anorexia Bulimia Care (ABC)
Cambridge, Mass.
(617) 492-7670

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
Highland Park, Ill.
(708) 831-3438

Overeater's Anonymous
(Check in your phone book for a location near you)

Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center, Mental Health Counseling Department
Dorchester, Mass.
(617) 288-1140

Good Samaritan Hospital,
Pulyallup Valley Institute

(eating disorders program)
Pulyallup, Wash.
(206) 848-9088



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