Dear Annie: During the middle of my freshman year in high school, I was in the midst of training for my first real track season. My winter workouts gradually gained intensity, and my food intake gradually started to drop. Initially, the more weight I lost the easier it became to complete tough workouts. With that mentality, I slipped into the world of anorexia nervosa, thinking that eating less and exercising more would translate to success in athletics.
I struggled with the disorder in silence for months, dropping from 130 to 98 pounds on my 5-foot-7 frame. I'd eat a granola bar for breakfast, run five miles in 100-degree heat and then fall asleep in an attempt to ignore the hunger pangs.
The only person who ever directly confronted me about my weight loss was my volleyball coach. I lied about how "I was fine" and attributed my dizziness and inability to focus to a hectic schedule. I became terrified that my inability to compete was a result of laziness, so I started running. About 10 minutes in, everything went black. I collapsed on the ground, but no one saw, and I didn't tell. But it made me realize my actions were spiraling out of control, and I finally sought help from my family doctor. It took years to undo the damaging behavior that had developed in a few short months, and those thoughts still nag at me today.
Eating disorders plague more high school students than are diagnosed, simply because people refuse to speak up if they see that something is wrong. Those few words from my coach helped me realize that I had a problem, freeing me from the firm grasp of denial. If you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional immediately. Losing a few pounds can quickly spiral into losing a life without the proper treatment. - Recovered in Nebraska
Dear Nebraska: Thank you for writing. We are sure you have helped more people than you realize. If you recognize yourself or someone else in this letter, we hope you will contact the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders at anad.org.
Editor's note: Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.