When I was 12 years old, I went on my first diet. I did not know that taking this action would lead, eventually, to a full-blown eating disorder which would nearly take my life at the age of 17. I struggled with my eating disorder- anorexia nervosa- in therapy, in a hospital, and eventually, on my own, for a very long time. In my twenties, I finally overcame it for good, and was able to maintain a normal weight, and eat normally, with great effort. It was a long, and very difficult struggle.
I have discovered with great dismay and disappointment over the past few years that there are numerous "pro-ana" and "pro-bulimia" websites, forums, chat rooms, and email groups on the internet. There are videos on youtube with stick-thin girls posted as "thinspiration" to encourage young women to welcome their eating disorder, and to try to become anorexic or bulimic. These sites claim that an eating disorder is not a disease, but is a lifestyle.
I can tell you from my experience that an eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice. It is an addiction, and it is a disease, just like alcoholism, drug addiction, or Schizophrenia. I did not choose anorexia, although I did choose to engage in risky dieting behaviors that led me to develop anorexia after some time. It saddens me and concerns me greatly that young girls around the world are not choosing to engage in those behaviors - with encouragement from others online - which will lead to a devastating disease that could make them chronically ill for life or kill them.
Another person who can, and does, tell people the truth about eating disorders is Nancy Bratt. Nancy is a women in her thirties, who suffered from anorexia and bulimia for many years. While she was in recovery, two years ago, her organs began to fail, and she found out she was gravely ill. She has now been given just a couple of months to live. Her family cares for her and maintains her website and myspace page, where they post updates about her conditions and requests for prayer and positive thoughts for Nancy.
I have promised Nancy that I will spread her story wherever I can. Anorexia and Bulimia can, and do, kill. They are horrible, devastating illnesses, for which there is no cure. They do not just fade away. It takes great effort to recover from an eating disorder, and many, like Nancy, do not make it.
This is Nancy's myspace page. You can read more about her story and contact her there. Please spread the word to others, especially anyone you know who is at risk or has already developed an eating disorder, that these illnesses are very serious and should not be taken lightly. There is nothing fun or enjoyable about suffering and dying from organ failure. Let Nancy's story educate others. This is a contribution she is making with her last days on earth.