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I slowed to a stop at a red light on the way to work last week when I saw a woman start to jog across the crosswalk in front of me. I noticed her legs first, poking out like bamboo shoots from her jogging shorts. The word “anorexic” instantly popped into my head, but I held off judgment for a second because I know marathon runners can become very skinny without necessarily starving themselves. Then I scanned my eyes upward and caught a look of the woman’s shoulder blades poking out from her tank top and decided my initial leap to a conclusion landed me in exactly the right spot. As I further assessed her body, I was amazed she was able to move at all since there appeared to be very little muscle on her body.

I’ve never done charity work in Ethiopia and I didn’t liberate concentration camp survivors during World War II, so it occurred to me I had never actually seen an emaciated body on display this close up before. I couldn’t stop gawking even though I knew it was rude. I’ve seen pictures online of starving refugees and shaken my head at the latest photos of Kiera Knightly and Kate Bosworth and Callista Flockhart, jokingly thinking “They should really eat a pizza!” It somehow seemed less funny seeing a woman in the bone who was clearly emaciated. She was jogging across the street from a pizza joint, but I knew she needed more help than to take a sudden left turn and order an extra-large with the works. The saddest thing was I bet she still thought she looked fat.

But what could I do? The best thing I could do was keep my foot firmly planted on the brake. I’m sure if I were to even tap her with my front bumper I could shatter her weakened bones and even kill her malnourished body.

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22 Comments

bitchwhoblogs • May 14, 2007 at 12:07 pm

No matter which end of the spectrum disordered relationships with food place you – its a drag. I see women who are anorexic and think what shame it is that our current culture supports and promotes that form of ill health. One of my goddaughters is pre-anorexic (read well on her path) and she uses images of celebrities and the anti-obesity hype as evidence that she is on the right path…. her mom is working hard with her to teach her that either end of the weight continuum has health implications… such a shame… poor hungry runner lady….

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Sarah • May 14, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Seeing emaciated women really bothers me… oddly enough I’ve never seen an emaciated man.

I will admit though I was equally as bothered by the enormous amount of grossly overweight people (especially children) I was seeing everywhere I went the last time I was in the US. It made me really so very sad.

It seems like the longer I stay here in Holland the more I notice the unhealthyness of many fellow Americans when I’m back home. I just want to save us all. IT’s heartbreaking.

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Rachel • May 14, 2007 at 1:53 pm

She very well could have been anorectic (anorexic is an adjective, anorectic is the noun version), but usually anorectic women will go to great lengths to disguise their weight loss.

When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I never got grotesquely skinny as this woman did, but it did begin to look like my head was too big for my body. I had no ass or boobs, and even my mother, who’s always been competitive with me about weight, remarked I was too skinny.

Yet, even as I developed a heart condition, passed out secretly from not eating and suffered from malnutrution and dehydration, all of which coalesced to cause severe depression, I received compliments on how “good” I looked.

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vickie • May 14, 2007 at 5:03 pm

My reaction was the same as Rachel’s above – usually annorexics are covered – in oversized clothes – from head to toe. Very hard to determine their size and shape – many, many layers in all kinds of weather – hoods and/or hats even.

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Kimberly • May 14, 2007 at 8:07 pm

That poor woman. Until I experienced weight issues, I used to wrinkle my nose at such sights. Now I’m just flooded with feelings of sympathy.

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PastaQueen • May 14, 2007 at 8:31 pm

This was weird. Tonight I rode my bike down the trail and noticed an older woman with a gaunt face wearing long pants and a long-sleeved jacket, even though it was 80 degrees out. Previously I would have just thought she was a weirdo for wearing too many clothes, but after reading you all’s comments my first thought was, “OMG, she’s probably an anorectic.” I wouldn’t have been able to come to that conclusion yesterday.

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crankybee • May 14, 2007 at 8:57 pm

It is strange when you see your first real life annorexic person. It is so hard not to stare, but even harder to not go up to them and say “I see your problem. Let me help you find the help you need.”

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anji • May 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

Some anoretics (not all!) do not always cover up themselves — especially when exercising!

At my old gym, there were TWO anoretics who were ALWAYS there. Seriously, four-hour workouts. This woman was SO thin, it made me ANGRY… she would hog the treadmill for hours on end. Literally, HOURS on end. One day while training for a triathlon, I went in for my weight-training at 9:30 and later, around 1:30 I came back to do some treadmill work…. she was STILL on the same treadmill, all that time.

She wore thin clothes, tight…

The problem is in the mind, SHE perceived herself either as normal or abnormally fat. She never realised how thin she was. So, in displaying her “self”, she saw nothing wrong with it, despite her obvious excessive workouts. I believe she saw herself as “healthy”, not sick…. and thus, felt no reason to hide herself.

I have seen an anorexic man as well… it was much tougher to see him because, he WAS so much thinner than any other male I’ve seen. Also, I think the joints of a man are bigger, so his hands looked HUGE, his elbows ginormous and his knees looked so big and wobbly…

No end of the spectrum is a good one…. I know ALL about that, from having been (and am on one) both ends….

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anji • May 14, 2007 at 9:32 pm

P.S. I wanted to add, she was eventually asked to leave the gym until she could provide a medical note stating that she was healthy enough to be exercising to the lengths she did… I saw her about two years later, still thin but – not as grotesque thin…. I guess they had too many complaints about her from other members — it’s not a healthy thing to be promoting at a gym…. where many young girls come to work out. Heck, for anyone for that matter!

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yo • May 14, 2007 at 9:51 pm

A friend of mine died of anorexia. She wore layered clothes in such a manner that she looked “small” not emaciated.

But when she was really bad, it was her face where you could see it the worst. It didn’t look anything like Nicole Richie or anyone like that. It more looked like she was dying, like a cancer patient with a hollowed out face.

Telling an anorexic person not to work out a lot is a lot like telling an obsessive-compulsive not to check if the stove is off, or telling someone with Tourette’s not to curse, or telling someone with a drug habit not to smoke crack. It goes way beyond vanity.

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yo • May 14, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Also, it’s like — do you know anyone who’s afraid of flying? They *know* intellectually that the odds of crashing are infinitesimal. But the fear is crippling, and keeps them from getting on the plane. I think anorexia’s kind of like that a little. They know that it’s destroying them, but the anxiety over eating and gaining, and the converse comfort they get from not eating, is just completely overwhelming.

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the sign • May 14, 2007 at 10:00 pm

The sign someone is REALLY emaciated is when they almost look bizarrely large in the torso because their rib cage is so large compared to their arms.

But keep in mind — just like it’d would be like, “Gee thanks, Richard Simmons!” if someone came up to a fat person and was like “You need to eat less and exercise more,” it’s the same for anorexics.

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Rachel • May 14, 2007 at 10:26 pm

When I was in the throes of my eating disorder (which started out as purging anorexia, veered into bulimia, and then back into anorexia), I got this intense sense of pride and accomplishment over my ability not to eat. Each day was a mini-victory, and though I’d set out to fast for 3 days, when the third day came along, I’d think, ‘oh I bet I can do it for five,’ and then day five came along and I had to extend it to 7, 9, and eventually 12 days subsisting on water and gum.

You really do begin to think you’re superhuman in a sense, that only mortals have to eat, but not you: you’ve superceded physical desires.

Yeah, I was pretty fucked up.

I knew my eating disorder was destroying me, and a part of me wanted to stop some of the behaviors, but not anything that would keep me from continuing to lose weight. My disorder was also a means of coping with my world, which was increasingly becoming chaotic and out of control. Some people think of eating disorders as a form of slow suicide, but they’re wrong. Eating disorders are a method of survival.

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Lose Weight With Me • May 15, 2007 at 7:07 am

I feel bad for anyone who struggles with either side of the equation.

Brian

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jenni • May 15, 2007 at 8:53 am

I am always impressed by your ability to open up a dialogue about subjects that make us think a little deeper.

I turned forty this year and married for the first time. As I was unpacking a few of my things, I ran across a photo of myself at your age. I was stunning – thin and fit and sexy – the way I always wanted to be, but in my mind I was never the girl in the photo – I don’t remember her, I always thought I was fat. Like Rachel, I got a sick mental satisfaction out of beating my hunger. But I never felt as tiny as the gal in the photo. As time went by, I couldn’t control the behavior and it turned to binging and hiding food. Then weight gain and dieting and then binge workouts. I am now on a path toward health and consistency… after a large weight drop by using a plan to eat five times a day – compliments came in from people who hadn’t seen me in a while “you must have a great workout program!” I always worked out, the answer is that I actually STARTED eating – I had secretly been punishing myself for “being fat” by starving and binging.

I have been eating breakfast consistently for two years now! not an easy task at first beacause I had NEVER eaten breakfast, but now it’s a part of my goal to live healthier.

PQ, you are on a great journey. You have your story – and your photos. But you face your challenges by being honest, open and sharing your humanity! If I had been that fearless and put it all out there, I wouldn’t have struggled for so long! Keep up the good work, you’re on the right path.

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BrightAngel • May 15, 2007 at 9:23 am

PastaQueen,

I admire you for your great job with weight-loss, positive attitude toward life, and excellent writing skills.

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Gordonii • May 15, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for this posts. It’s my first time at your site and I must say that you’ve been doing a good job. Keep up the good work

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anonymous • May 17, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I really don’t understand how you could be so judgmental. You judging her would be like me judging you because you are fat. It’s an illness either way, whether you eat like a porker or starve yourself to death. It is way beyond vanity. She is obviously struggling, obviously in need of serious help.

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PastaQueen • May 17, 2007 at 1:16 pm

anonymous – I just reread my entry and I don’t see any part where I was judgemental. What comment are you specifically referring to?

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Lora • May 17, 2007 at 9:03 pm

I teach high school and see lots of young girls in the grips of anorexia….so sad. And then I see super-heavy ones…so sad too. I want to grab them on both spectrums and say “Think about your health!!”

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Junky • May 20, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Anonymous – I think using words like “porker” is judgemental. Ar eyou sure you are not projecting your own feelings onto pastaqueen? It kinda seems like it.

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Karen • May 20, 2008 at 5:15 pm

My family calls them exorexics, bikeorexics, runnorexics, etc. It IS sad to see them and how thin they are. They must feel terrible about themselves. My best friend is a runnorexic and she’s painfully thin. Her head looks huge.

She thinks I’m obese and I weigh 130.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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