bulimia

Little Girl Blue

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I read a book recently that touched me deeply. The book was “Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter.” To be honest, I knew nothing about Karen Carpenter other than she died of anorexia. I suppose I just missed that generation being born in 1980 and never heard the music either.

What drew me to this book was the “why?”–why was she anorexic? What happened to her? The book was a very fast read because it was so fascinating. It started with her upbringing and how The Carpenters came to be, including their successes and failures. The story I really wanted to know was what happened to such a talented, young woman that seemed to have the world in her hands. This book went into detail and explained it, the best anyone really can.

I could tell right away that the “why” was probably her mother. Her mother was an overbearing control-freak who never showed her daughter love and propped her brother, Richard, up like he was a king. Even after it was clear that Karen was the talent and the star, she was still treated like a second-class citizen and neither kids moved out of their parents home until their late 20’s! Honestly her brother wasn’t much better. He was an egotistical prima donna and probably jealous of Karen’s success. There was also something a little weird about their brother-sister relationship (they both tried to sabotage each other’s romantic relationships).

Perhaps controlling her food and appearance was the only in her life she could be in charge of. And I imagine stepping out from behind the drums to become the singer made her even more self-conscious of her curvy figure.

What was most interesting to me was that this happened in a time period when “anorexia nervosa” was nearly unheard of. People just didn’t know. They didn’t know what the disease was, they didn’t recognize the symptoms, they didn’t know how to help.

” ‘Anorexia was not something that was talked about or known about in those days,’ her friend Olivia Newton-John said. ‘People were very thin, but you didn’t realize what it was.’ [pg 246]”

At one point, Karen was taking 80 laxatives a day and was using ipecac to purge. She was doing the classic things that anorexics do: not eating food but pushing it around on the plate to make it look like she was, telling her friends to take bites of her “amazing dinner” to give the food away, wearing layers and layers of clothing to hide just how skinny she was.

“She rearranged and pushed her food around the plate with a fork as she talked, which gave the appearance of eating. Another of her strategies involved offering samples of her food to others around the table…By the time dinner was over, Karen’s plate was clean, but she had dispersed her entire meal to everyone else. [pg 129]”

“She loved to go lay out in the sunshine. I don’t know whether it was to get a tan or to get away from her mother. Anyhow, I happened to go out to the kitchen for something and I saw her out there. She just had on her little bathing suit shorts. You couldn’t tell whether it was a girl or a boy. She had absolutely no breasts. [pg 131]”

She had to buy a new wardrobe for a tour and opted for several low-cut gowns, some were strapless or backless. The manager commented: “…[I] was horrified to see her bony shoulders and ribs. Even her hip bones were visible through the thin layers of fabric. [I] asked Karen to rethink the wardrobe choices before going on stage. ‘I talked her into putting a jacket on over the bare back and bare arms, but the audience saw it.’ There was a collective gasp from the audience when Karen would take the stage. [pg 137]” People wondered if she had cancer.

At the end of 1981, Karen expressed her realization to her family: “Richard, I realize I’m sick and I need help. [pg 245]” She went to New York to see a therapist and ended up living in a hotel for nearly a year while she got weekly counseling–not inpatient care like she needed. Eventually she went to the hospital for a feeding tube and put on 30 pounds. But that was just too much strain on her heart.

She eventually returned to LA “cured” and stayed with her parents. One morning her mother found her unconscious. The medics were called. It was really too late, but they took her to the ER and tried to revive her. The paramedic said: “Karen looked frail and very thin. A faint pulse was detected with her heart beating only every ten seconds. This is a sure sign of a dying heart. [pg 276]”

32 years old. 32 and she died of a heart attack and dehydration due to years of anorexia. I’m 32 years old. It’s shocking to see photos of her right before her death because she looks like she was 70 years old, not 32.

There really isn’t a “why” that can satisfy anyone. “Why” would someone who was beautiful and talented NOT see it? “Why” would she let herself get so skinny and still think she was fat? Despite the tragic topic, the book was really, really good. I’d give it 5/5 stars.

QUESTION: Were you a fan of The Carpenters? Do you remember when Karen passed away?

Body Love Week: I Want My Daughters to Be Proud of Their Mom

This week on 110 Pounds, we’ll be discussing the important topic of Body Loving. Here is the second post to continue the positive body image week. Enjoy. -Lisa

I Want My Daughters to Be Proud of Their Mom

Guest Post by

Katie Squires

 

I’m running my first Marathon in May and in many ways I feel like I am heading into the last leg of an incredible journey, about to cross the finish line.  You see, I’ve lost 105 pounds in the last year and 9 months.  But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.  I’ve been trying to find my way to a whole and healthy self for sometime, I spent much of my youth from the time I was 16 till 23 struggling with bulimia.  When I started to recover, I gained weight very quickly.  I went from a size 4 to a 22 in a matter of years.

Despite the weight gain I have to say that I was much happier, healthier and confident at my larger size.  Then my weight started to affect me physically, the bones in my feet hurt, my back hurt, I was so very tired and lethargic.  I also started to want more. I wanted to recognize myself again when I looked in the mirror. I had many false starts, but finally had my AHA moment when I joined the gym in May 2010.

Maybe it was the fact that I had an hour plus to myself, without my kids demanding my attention, time just for me.  But really, the click happened when I started to sweat and move and I discovered an athlete hiding in a fat girls’ body.  I amazed myself in those early months at just what I could do at 258 pounds!  I ran my first 5km race at 240 pounds in 33 minutes!  A year later I ran my first half marathon with my husband by my side, and it was one of the best days of my life!

Since that fateful day at the gym, my family’s lifestyle has changed.  My husband and I run together (we’ve done 6 races) and go to the gym together.  My children go to the gym with me every morning, and even though they are in the daycare they see that exercise is part of Mommy’s lifestyle.  They ask me every now and again why we are going to the gym and I tell them that its so that Mommy can be healthy, to have a healthy heart and lungs.  Sometimes I tell them its because it makes Mommy happy and I ask them if they like grumpy Mommy.

I’m lucky exercise comes easily to me; I love it, and am thoroughly addicted to it now.  I lost about 50 pounds in the first year through exercise and some changes to my diet (you tend to eat better when you feel better).  But the real weight loss happened once I stated strength training and eating a diet focused on whole foods.  It was hard for me to realize that I needed to make changes to the way that I ate, after so many years of disordered eating I was reluctant to say the least.  But I have found that I don’t have to diet, or restrict.  I tried to think of myself as an athlete and to think about putting the best fuel in my body.

I am trying very hard to teach my children to love healthy food.  We spend a lot of time in the kitchen together baking “healthy” versions of cookies, muffins and cakes.  I sneak all sorts of healthy stuff into their food and they now think muffins should look green.  They do not, however, like fish oil in their mac and cheese (long story).

Having struggled with an eating disorder, having known how hard it is to be overweight, I want so very much to set my girls up for the best possible life. 

I want them to see a healthy, fit confident Mother. 

I want them to grow up moving and playing with their parents. 

I want them to see me cross that finish line after 46km in May and be proud of their Mom. 

 

Lisa’s Note: Thank you so much, Katie, for sharing your inspiring story! I think your reason for staying fit and healthy for your daughters is a wonderful motivator. And the fact that they think muffins should be green just cracks me up! Check out Katie’s blog at So Write.

 

QUESTION: If you have kids, how are you trying to teach them how to be fit and healthy in a positive way?