Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia

Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia

Harriet Brown

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 006172548X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“One of the most up to date, relevant, and honest accounts of one family’s battle with the life threatening challenges of anorexia. Brown has masterfully woven science, history, and heart throughout this compelling and tender story.”
—Lynn S. Grefe, Chief Executive Officer, National Eating Disorders Association

“As a woman who once knew the grip of a life-controlling eating disorder, I held my breath reading Harriet Brown’s story. As a mother of daughters, I wept for her. Then cheered.”
—Joyce Maynard, author of Labor Day

In Brave Girl Eating, the chronicle of a family’s struggle with anorexia nervosa, journalist, professor, and author Harriet Brown recounts in mesmerizing and horrifying detail her daughter Kitty’s journey from near-starvation to renewed health. Brave Girl Eating is an intimate, shocking, compelling, and ultimately uplifting look at the ravages of a mental illness that affects more than 18 million Americans.

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possible. The stakes are too high and the process is too painful. For instance: the next day I make one of our favorite meals, homemade pizza, which Kitty used to love. We’ve been keeping Kitty out of the kitchen during meal prep, but she sees the dough rising on the stove and falls apart instantly. “Oh my God, not pizza,” she cries. “I already feel so fat, Mommy. My thighs are jiggling. Please don’t make me eat it.” She is keening now, there’s no other word for it, crouching on the floor,

disorders; and persist after recovery. In other words, a tendency toward perfectionism doesn’t disappear when normal weight is restored. Kaye’s working theory about what causes anorexia goes something like this: Some people are born with a biological predisposition, a genotype that produces personality traits like perfectionism and obsessionality, which typically show up early in childhood, long before any symptoms of an eating disorder. This underlying biology may include irregularities in the

of toast, buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar; or a large (4 to a pan instead of 12) pumpkin chocolate chip or banana nut muffin One of the challenges in refeeding Kitty is the fact that she feels no hunger. So she says, and I believe it. It’s still there—coming out in her continuous and obsessive thoughts about food, her need to plan every bite—but her brain and her body have become disconnected when it comes to eating, which makes sense in a way. If starvation is a function of, say,

famine or war, if there’s no food available, then constant hunger pangs would be a pointless torment. Loss of appetite, in that case, is both a blessing and a self-defense mechanism. Hunger is a function of a complex set of chemical interactions we don’t yet understand, involving hormones like ghrelin, which is produced in the stomach and makes its way to the brain, rising before a meal to trigger eating. People with acute anorexia have high levels of ghrelin. Another hormone connected with

smoothies over milk shakes comes from the anorexia, not from her natural tastes. But when, exactly, did the shift begin? I think again of the sixth-grade “wellness” class that inspired her to cut out desserts. I bet other kids in that class cut back on sugar for a day or two, but Kitty’s probably the only one who stuck to her resolution for weeks and weeks. Was that the beginning? Years ago, Walter Kaye discovered lower-than-normal levels of the neuropeptide galanin in the brains of people who’d

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