Anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a lack of self-esteem, an intense fear of becoming obese, and self-induced starvation due to a distorted body image (Durham, 1991). Anorexia can occur later in life, but it is most common in girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. According to the Center for Change, recent estimates suggest that 1% of Americans within this age range will, to some degree, develop anorexia and 10-20% will eventually die from related complications.
I have experienced this deteriorating disease from a bystander's point of view. After making a pact with my friends to get physically fit for the summer, the four of us exercised and dieted daily for nearly four months. I never thought that this effort to become healthy (or just look good in our bikinis) would have such dire consequences. While everyone ended this exhaustive diet plan, one of my friends became obsessed with her body image and without our knowledge, gradually developed the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. She went unnoticed for several months because she masterfully disguised her eating habits by consuming large quantities of fruit, vegetables, and salads in our presence while secretly fasting at home. Moreover, in spite of her attitude toward eating, she took an avid interest in buying and preparing food for us. Looking back, I think that we were all anorexic to some degree. Personally, I was 16 years old, 5'7 and only weighed about 105 pounds. If I had lost a couple more pounds, I would have been 25% below my normal body weight, which would be enough to also diagnose me with anorexia nervosa (Shaw, 2002).
The majority of people who suffer from anorexia begin, as we did, with an innocent diet that gradually progressed to extreme and unhealthy weight loss (Shaw, 2002). Unlike normal dieting which stops when the desired weight is reached, people who become anorexic attribute
positive feelings... [continues]
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