Is it Anorexia, Orthorexia, or the Female Athlete Triad?

Anorexia, Orthorexia or Female Athlete Triad

…continued from yesterday.

Every morning I would step on the scale and every morning the number went down. I wanted to lose weight, so it was a victory. Whenever people would tell me “You’re too thin” I would take it as a compliment. To me it was the same as if they had said, “You’re so beautiful!” My hair started to fall out, my clothes got loose and I felt tired and hungry all day, but I still wanted to be thinner. I remember one day my mom, obviously worried, finally asked me “How much do you weigh?” I gave an evasive answer but she took me to the bathroom and had me step on the scale. I weighed 105 pounds. At 5’8” that meant my BMI was at 16 (anything below 18.5 is underweight). I was a typical anorexic but I denied it. I just wanted to be skinnier.


Pedro and I discussed ways to pay for inpatient treatment, if Sarah should choose to get help at an eating disorders center. Since we still struggled to pay off Pedro’s cancer debt we hoped she wouldn’t choose our second option. We have since learned that our threat had no teeth in it because insurance companies have a warped standard for providing care for an illness of the soul.

Fortunately, she chose the mom and dad plan and agreed to eat again. I went with her to her first counseling session, and she made an appointment with a nutritionist. Slowly, she put on weight. At one of her doctor’s appointments, I remember the doctor telling her, “It takes about seven years to recover from anorexia and other eating disorders.”

Yeah. I don’t think so, I said to myself. She’s already improving. Besides, I thought, she didn’t really have an eating disorder: orthorexia isn’t as bad as anorexia and female athlete triad syndrome is more of a problem of being too athletic.

At the end of her junior year, we started weekly dates. Laura, Sarah, and I had decided to run a half marathon together in September, and Sarah wanted to set a school record for the annual Mt. Ellis Climb (a free-for all three-mile scramble to the top of a local peak), so we decided to start training for both events once a week.

Training involved hiking up a local hill each week and going farther and farther down the trail until we could easily hike to the top of Baldy (elevation 8,914) and beyond. After each hike, we would go to the local co-op grocery store and each choose a decadent (but healthy) dessert and spend forever savoring it and each other’s company. From the café tables, we had a perfect view of the rugged peaks we had just descended.

Sometimes a carefree attitude covers a world of pain.By August we easily hiked/ran the 20.55 miles along the top of the Bridger Ridge range—with 6800 feet of official elevation gain (more, since we got lost once and had to free-climb an extra ridge) and 9500 feet of elevation loss. Sarah had recovered her energy and vitality and proved that doctor wrong.

Four weeks later, Sarah blew the school records off the mountain when she became the first girl to ever reach the top of Mt. Ellis before any of the boys. Two weeks later, we all ran in the half-marathon and Sarah came in 5th for her age group. It seemed as if life had taken a turn for the better and Sarah had recovered from her brush with an eating disorder.

Sarah has always demonstrated creative talent that blows me away. She sings like an angel (whilst I need a bucket to carry my tunes around in). She creates intricate designs and artwork (I CAN draw stick people and horse heads). She auditioned for the senior play and won the part of Jo in a production of Little Women. Her ability to quickly memorize hundreds of lines of script and to enter fully into the life of Louisa May Alcott impressed everyone.

As her senior year marched to its inevitable conclusion, Sarah struggled a little with choosing a college major. Pedro had entered the throes of job-hunting, and by April he had accepted a position as principal at a small, private Christian school for Native Americans in northern Arizona. Life turned into a whirlwind as we started packing the house and preparing for a huge series of changes. I naively thought that everyone in the family had embraced the future as expectantly as I did.

On our last date of the school year, Sarah confessed to me that sometimes she ate too much. “Do you purge afterwards?” I asked, dread creeping up from my toes to wrap around my heart.

Why is that we often miss the internal pain of the ones closest to us? #write31days Click To Tweet

To be continued…

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Having read your 31 day series last year, I can only imagine this story with the backdrop of your husband’s cancer. I’m sure stress doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. You are such an intriguing story teller, I can’t wait to read tomorrow!
    Melissa recently posted…My Favorite Cleaning ProductsMy Profile

  • Tara

    Sarah is a beautiful girl. I love how you interspersed thus post with her words and yours. Praying that your series blesses many.

  • Oh was it hard thinking you had made such progress but in the back of your mind living in fear that it was all a cover up or illusion a new way to hide and escape?? Or did you know she was truly making incredible leaps in her recovery?

    • Absolutely! I think I felt pretty smug, too, that Sarah had navigated the dangerous waters of eating disorders so quickly. There was always a niggling fear at the back of my mind, but she really had seemed to recover easily, so I never imagined that she might be bulimic.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…The Problem With Flashbacks and CancerMy Profile

  • What a storyteller you are.I will BE BACK tomorrow.

    I have never done such a project with either of my kiddos (the running/hiking or scramble). I bet that really did boost your connection with each other. I want to see if there is something I can do with my adult children that could also boost our connection. Thanks for the idea.

    BTW – Sarah’s senior photos are lovely and unexpected! lol
    susan recently posted…Friday’s Fave Five (10/2/2015)My Profile

  • Anita, wow. FIrst off, Sarah is beautiful, and how wonderful God has gifted her in so many creative ways! 🙂 Secondly, I can only imagine the challenges of mothering a daughter with eating and body image issues. It seems like most of us women struggle with this at some point in our lives, and the heartbreak of watching your daughter walk through this? I can only imagine the heart hurt. I look forward to reading more about how God brought you all through it.

    Thanks for sharing so transparently!
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Family: The Importance of GraceMy Profile

    • You’re absolutely right, Jeanne! I’ve had my own battles with weight and depression. I thought I had modeled the healthy way to lose weight through good eating choices and exercise.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…The Problem With Flashbacks and CancerMy Profile

  • Anita,
    I didn’t have time to read today and yesterday’s posts, but I read them anyway. 🙂 Your writing is captivating, but more than that, I can tell this a story that leaks the pain and brokenness of living in a fallen world, but also the Redeemer’s fingerprints that are yet to be revealed. I look forward to keeping up with your series when I can and will be cheering you and your daughter on as you bravely shed light on this important topic! Much love,
    Becky Keife recently posted…Faith Steps and Friendship (Feathers Podcast Guest)My Profile

  • Beautiful Sarah. Today is a “cliff-hanger” … but I know there is more coming.
    Susan Shipe recently posted…day 2: ifMy Profile

  • What an interesting story and you tell it so well. Thanks for sharing this difficult story with us. Blessings to you Anita!
    Robyn recently posted…God in the Grocery Store?My Profile

  • You have such intense stories to tell. Thank you for sharing your heart so transparently in your writing.
    Sarah recently posted…day 1: flourishMy Profile

  • Thanks for sharing. Yes we often miss the clues of those closest to us-regardless of their struggles. Hugs! Susan
    Susan Mead recently posted…Finding Calm in the Chaos of BitternessMy Profile

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