A young writer recounts the trials and treatment of her eating disorder.
Midway through graduate school, 22-year-old Johns checked herself into the Wisconsin Eating Disorders Center, where she would spend 88 days trying to break the self-destructive regimen of restricting and purging that had plagued her since age 13. The memoir tracks her time at the EDC and the many harrowing experiences that led her there. Since she technically wasn’t underweight or morbidly obese, and still menstruated, the 130-pound Johns was diagnosed with EDNOS, or an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, what she terms an “island between anorexia and bulimia, a no-man’s-land that borrows from both diagnoses.” Years of limiting herself to 500 calories per day and compensating when her intake exceeded that by popping diet pills, chugging Diet Coke, purging and frantically exercising when overwhelmed all resulted in Johns developing multiple health problems, including severe heart irregularities. The author often narrates in present tense and occasionally second person to mimic the compulsive urgency of her fraught state of being: “There is no way out, so you binge on and purge an entire tube of Pillsbury rolls (half-cooked—you are too impatient to wait for them to bake), an entire box of chocolate Malt-O-Meal, a pint of Godiva ice cream, and a mug of chai tea.” Spare and unyielding, Johns’s prose distills the pain of her self-loathing while objectively charting the efforts of the center’s staff to help her and her fellow “Sisterhood of the Starving” curb and, hopefully, overcome such frenetic tendencies.
A revealing glimpse into the trauma wrought by eating disorders—especially important for the afflicted and those who care for them.