One Woman's Race Against Anorexia

WebMD community member Melissa Schlothan struggled with anorexia -- until she literally ran from her compulsion.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 09, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Food has consumed my thoughts in good and bad ways for several years.

I used to wake up every morning thinking about what I was going to eat at each meal and how many calories I would burn with my daily workout. I became isolated from my friends and spent countless hours in my college dorm room in order to avoid situations where I might have to eat something not on my "safe food" list. Food no longer just consumed my thoughts -- it controlled them.

How did this happen?

My troubles with food all started four years ago, when I was 17, just after I moved away and went to college. I visited home after two months, and someone told me I looked as though I had gained some weight. From there, everything went downhill.

I started running up to 7 miles a day, six days a week, and ate very, very little. By the time I went home for Christmas, I had dropped down to 103 pounds on my almost 5-foot-6-inch frame. Everyone made comments about my lower weight when I went home, but I took them lightly.

At the start of my second semester, a hall mate of mine decided to confront me about my problem. She convinced me to go talk to a counselor at school. After a few months of deep discussions and many tears, I returned home to confront my parents. I confessed to them that I was anorexic, and I was getting help. They said they had been afraid for me but didn't know how to approach the situation. They told me they would always be there for me.

I continued seeing my counselor at school and talking to my friends. Months passed, and then a few years. I had multiple turning points during my recovery -- setting goal weights, realizing the long-term effects this disease could have on my body, and even losing an online acquaintance to bulimia -- but nothing was strong enough to overcome that voice that haunted my thoughts about eating healthily.

But the latest turning point has had a greater effect on me. After studying in the Australian rainforest in the spring of 2006, I realized that I wanted to take part in saving it. I decided to run a marathon to raise money for a specific rainforest conservation organization. I had to re-learn how to eat in order to provide myself with the essential vitamins and nutrients, especially since I'm a vegetarian. Realizing that food is something the body needs to function and maintain itself, I can now say that eating has become much more enjoyable and comfortable.

Of course, I still have bad days. This recovery will not happen overnight. It is something that takes a lot of time, effort, and support. But I'm staying strong, staying motivated, and most of all, staying alive.

Published May 1, 2007.