There's a saying attributed to Wallis Simpson,Duchess of Windsor: you can never be too rich, or too thin.
We know she was being witty, but eating disorders are no joke. It's already disturbing to know that there are sites on the web aimed at (negatively) aiding and encouraging eating disorders, but the fact that their numbers are increasing is very disturbing indeed.
The report about these sites reminded me of someone I worked with a few years ago - she had what appeared to be a near-perfect life: a great husband, three beautiful and successful daughters, good health, a paid-up home and no crises.
Always brimming with confidence and good humour, she arrived at the office one afternoon looking as if she'd aged overnight. I made her a cup of tea and asked her what had happened.
Her youngest daughter, aged 14, a quiet child, had become even more shy and withdrawn. Assuming that it was just an adolescent phase, my colleague let her be, hoping it would pass. But something bothered her (mothers' instinct?) and, after a few months of observation, she violated her daughter's privacy by going into her room while she was changing.
Nothing could have prepared her for the blade-thin skeletal shadow hunched on the edge of the bed. Ignoring tears and protestations, she whisked her daughter off to the family GP. He dealt with the child gently, but was so concerned about her vital signs (blood pressure, dehydration etc.) that he had her admitted to hospital that afternoon.
Turns out he knew his stuff, that doctor. My colleague's daughter remained in hospital for nearly two weeks, starting with ICU - she was severely malnourished and dehydrated as she had been virtually starving herself for months.
How could her mother have missed it, you're probably wondering?
In a busy home where working parents and student sisters have different schedules, it's easy for mealtimes to get disrupted - throw big clothing and secrecy into the mix - and there you have it.
That was just the beginning. After many years of therapy, of two steps forward and three steps back, of this family pulling together while feeling that it was being blown apart - things are slowly starting to look better. Read here for more info on anorexia nervosa.
(Joanne Hart, Health24, June 2010)