Can starvation make me thin

«Our daughter is sick. Anorexic

Lea * is 14 when she begins to control her weight. At 15 she can barely eat at 16, the parents feared death. Her mother talks about Lea's path to anorexia, her fight against the disease and what ultimately brought her back to a happy life.

Text: Lea's mother (does not want to be named), recorded by: Evelin Hartmann
Pictures: Daniel Auf der Mauer / 13 Photo

It is autumn 2009. Our daughter Lea is 14 years old. Like other girls of this age, she has put on a bit of weight in the past few months. Her body has acquired feminine shapes and curves, but she is by no means fat. "Mom, I want to take a look at the food," she says. In biology, "nutrition theory" is currently being studied. We parents think that's good - eating consciously doesn't do any harm. First Lea leaves out the chocolate. Then she starts to bake spelled rolls for the break. Later I find whole lists of calorie tables in her bed under the mattress.

Lea is lovesick. But she doesn't want to talk about it. After all, it is normal for a child of this age to slowly withdraw from their parents, move into the room, away from the family table. Lea no longer has a close friend. After moving to the district school, many things are no longer the same for them as they were in primary school. There she had two friends who also lived in the neighborhood. Everything was manageable, not so in the district school with over 700 students.

WINTER 2009/2010

Lea is more and more strict about herself, for dinner she only treats herself to yoghurt with fruit or soup. «Lea, your portions are getting smaller and smaller! You have to eat, after all, you are still growing and need a lot of energy. " She ignores our admonitions. You eat! I cook a lot of fish, rice, vegetables. Lea likes that. At least that's how she eats something. "It's just a phase, it's over," I tell myself. I suppress the fact that I make myself an accomplice to my daughter, support her in her madness. At this point in time, I was not yet aware that she is sick, that starvation has become an addiction. The path to an eating disorder is a gradual process.

SPRING 2010

Now it is obvious: Lea has lost weight, but still looks good, nice and slim! She gets compliments. We have more and more arguments at the dining table. The sauce is pushed onto the edge of the plate, the portions are getting smaller and smaller, our family life is burdened more and more by the unsightly arguments about food.

"The portions are getting smaller and smaller, the meals are torture."

Meals together become a torture. Our two-year-old daughter Kathrin also suffers. Lea remains stubborn. She eats kilos of apples, learns doggedly in her room and isolates herself more and more from her social environment. Her grades are better than ever and “justify” her behavior.

SUMMER 2010

Lea collapses on sports day. She doesn't talk about it at home. Your teacher calls me and tells me that our daughter is emaciated. As I only find out later, her classmates are also worried and try to talk to Leah and influence her. Shortly before the summer vacation, we get in touch with the school social worker. "I want to make an effort," she promises us and packs an extra-large sandwich to calm me down - she doesn't eat it.

During the summer vacation, she goes to the blue ring camp for two weeks. The situation there escalates. Lea doesn't eat anything anymore, she loses four kilos during this time. When I see my daughter pictured on the camp website - emaciated, with her thin arms and legs - I finally come to the conclusion: Our daughter is sick. Anorexic. When she returns, I will make an appointment with the gynecologist. The doctor speaks plain text to Lea. She points out the serious consequences of anorexia and warns her that her future will be blocked if she doesn't change her eating habits. It looks like Leah has understood. We are relieved. In order to look after our daughter not only physically, but also psychologically, we get an appointment with the Child and Adolescent Psychological Service (KJPD) for an interview with a psychologist. That also relieves us.

But it takes weeks for the conversation to take place. In the meantime we want to go to Greece, have a family vacation. "Enjoy the time and try to leave the subject of food aside," advises the doctor. It will be absolute horror. Every day Leah's figure becomes narrower, her face more expressionless. The sight of you in a bikini puts a stab in our hearts. She prefers to eat cucumber and tomato salad without oil and vinegar. Not making the food an issue is almost impossible. There are always arguments - the whole family is helpless. Lea's last school year begins in mid-August. She is getting worse and worse. It is becoming weaker and weaker. Your hands feel cold and your hair is falling out in clumps. I am desperate, cook hysterically for my eldest, have five saucepans on the stove at the same time. She has to eat something! Sometimes Lea forces herself to do it.

AUTUMN 2010

We finally have an appointment with the psychologist. Lea has to get on the scales. She weighs just under 38 kilos and has a BMI of less than 17. The psychologist discusses admission to a clinic. Of course Lea doesn't want to leave home. But as a mother I can no longer take responsibility. I am afraid that my child will die in front of my eyes. The situation at home has become torture for Kathrin too. Everything revolves around the food and ultimately about the big sister. This puts a great strain on the relationship between the girls.

The psychologist introduces us to a residential group for young women with eating disorders. But a few days later Lea is admitted to this hospital in an emergency. Her physical condition has dramatically deteriorated again. She would like to eat, but can no longer. She weighs 36 pounds and is getting weaker and weaker. Our daughter is monitored with devices. Discussions with psychologists and an experienced doctor follow. We can finally talk to a professional who understands us. He explains to us that anorexia (anorexia) is a very serious disease. Around a third of those affected die from it, a third live with the eating disorder and only a third are cured.

Lea signs a contract in which she agrees to strive for a prescribed weekly weight gain. The sudden entry into the clinic is very drastic for us as a family. Without any preparation time, we have to let go of our daughter overnight, Kathrin suddenly "lost" her sister as well. Nevertheless, we are glad that the responsibility no longer lies primarily with us. We are aware that we are too close to our daughter - it no longer works without professional help. There is some calm at home. I can finally cook what I want and there are no more discussions.

«Finally I come to the realization: Our daughter is sick. Anorexic. "

Lea can move into the living group. "Lea, you have to eat, a nasogastric tube is very bad, I know what I'm talking about", motivates a resident as soon as she enters. The contact with the school colleagues breaks off. Everyone is overwhelmed with the situation. Instead of going to school, Lea now has psychotherapy and discussions within the group. There are also physiotherapy and works. We parents and their sister also regularly take part in family therapy. Lea gets along well with her supervisor. They do a lot of tinkering. So Lea can live out her creative side, which means a lot to her! With the weight it slowly goes uphill. We visit her during the week and she can come home at the weekend - packed with a menu plan, recipes and calorie tables.