What if She Shows Signs of an Eating Disorder?

There was a fair amount of bantering and joshing, and they all knew how to make good comebacks. But I didn’t, and I sensed that was because I was stupid. I didn’t fit in; at least not the way they wanted me to. It was all very confusing. Looking back, I’d guess that my insecurity somehow drifted to thoughts about my body, even though I wasn’t aware that this was happening.

“At the beginning of my diet, I wasn’t married to it. In fact, I didn’t feel strongly about it one way or another. At the time, I was grabbing at straws for anything that might account for the friendship problem or, better yet, correct it. For want of a better explanation, I somehow latched on to a half-baked idea that maybe I was too heavy. I had no idea how much I weighed when I started my diet, but that was beside the point. Looking back, I devoted so little forethought to the idea of reducing that I can scarcely call it a ‘plan.’ Being overweight seemed as good a guess as any for why they were treating me like an outcast. And if there was a chance-even a remote one-that a diet might make me popular, maybe it was worth a try.

“At the end of camp, there was a long bus ride home. My three former friends were in the bus too, but I didn’t sit with them.
Mom met me at the station. When she saw me, her jaw dropped.

At the time, I hadn’t a clue that I was developing an illness. I didn’t start my diet with an intention to hurt myself; instead, I conceived it as a way to fix what was wrong with me. I wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with me; I just knew it was a lot.”


David B. Herzog, M.D., Debra L. Franko, Ph.D., Pat Cable, RN


David B. Herzog, M.D., is the Harvard Medical School Endowed Professor of psychiatry in the field of eating disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and the director of the Harris Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Debra L. Franko, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology at Northeastern University and the associate director of the Harris Center at Massachusetts General Hospital
Pat Cable, RN, is the director of publications at the Harris Center.

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