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by Ira M. Sacker
Warner Books, 2001
Review by Elizabeth Batt on Jun 22nd 2002

Dying to Be Thin

Eating disorders have reached epidemic levels in America. Current statistics show that seven million women and one million men currently suffer with an eating disorder and that of these, 86% report an onset of the illness by the age of twenty, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Dying To Be Thin: Understanding And Defeating Anorexia Nervosa And Bulimia-A Practical Lifesaving Guide, is a no-nonsense book written by Ira M. Sacker, M.D – the Director of the Eating Disorders program at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, and Marc A. Zimmer, Ph.D., an Eating Disorders Specialist.

This powerful guide that strikes at the core of anorexia, bulimia and bulimarexia, isn't for the faint of heart.  The authors do not hesitate to hit the reader square between the eyes with hard statistics and cold facts – "As many as 15 percent of the men and women, boys and girls, who are diagnosed as having anorexia nervosa will die from that disorder this year."  (p. xiii).

You are about to enter a secret world the authors tell us…it is an irresistible invitation.

Many of us are aware of the above-mentioned eating disorders but unless they are experienced first-hand, we cannot possibly understand the complexity and diversity of these illnesses.  Any pre-conceived notions that we might hold prior to reading this book are washed away within the first few chapters.  The secret world of eating disorders isn't so secret anymore as this book's determination shockingly strips away the blinkers.

The strength of the book rests with the firsthand accounts of various sufferers.  While each might display a different systematic approach to the illness, the essence of their suffering lies within the need to control a certain aspect of their lives.  As we are introduced to the terrible medical side effects these disorders can incur, the authors present actual statements by sufferers that help us to understand why the anorexic or bulimic person endures the methodical torture that they impose upon themselves. 

Each contribution from the sufferer is followed by clearly defined medical advice that offers an evaluation of the problem that the disorder sufferer is experiencing.  Quite simply, it is the reading of the real-life experiences that allow you to appreciate the delicate and difficult nature of these illnesses.

Once the authors have established the basics of eating disorders, the book moves on towards the treatment of them.  While the basic characteristics of an eating disorder might be the same, the authors insist that overall, each sufferer is an individual and treatment must be administered on a case-by-case basis.

If you are a victim of an eating disorder then this book will show you how you can prepare for therapy and treatment without setting yourself up for disappointment.  The authors acknowledge that it is okay to slip back – "No one heals without a struggle.  No one just decides to get well and then never has another symptom or difficulty."  (p. 186).

It is recognizing the small successes and highlighting the achievements that might allow the sufferer to initiate recovery.

This book does not solely rest with those directly suffering, the final section of the book offers support for family members, friends and even teachers that come into contact with a loved one or student that has an eating disorder.  Once the illness has been recognized, the authors offer a "Twelve Step" approach towards recovery.  For parents recognition that their child has an eating disorder is encouraged as the first step, while for friends it is learning how to help while remembering that he/she owns the problem and not you.

While it might be easier for family and friends to actively get involved with recovery, the book acknowledges the difficulty that teachers might face when trying to do the same.  The chapter entitled, "How Every Teacher Can Help," offers clear guidelines for teachers to follow.  These guidelines suggest set paths a teacher might utilize without compromising their position or the position of their student.

The book concludes with an extremely useful section that offers additional resources and organizations that can help.  From further reading to regional and state support groups, telephone numbers, addresses and websites are supplied for those seeking direct or indirect help.

The authors of this book opened my eyes to the secret world of the eating disorder.  Powerfully presented it is heartbreaking and very difficult to ignore the trauma a sufferer and their family will face.  As a parent, I particularly appreciated this book – to be forewarned is to be forearmed and it is patently clear that prevention in this case is far better than the cure.  Every parent prior to their children reaching their teenage years should read this book.  Every child approaching his/her teenage year should read this book and if you are a sufferer, or an associate of a sufferer then you will find this book invaluable for guidance, assistance and support.      

 

 

ã 2002 Elizabeth Batt

 Elizabeth Batt, Managing Editor Ancient & European History, Suite101.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beth

 

Elizabeth Batt
CE Kids British History
http://www.kidsbritishhistory.com
Community Manager - The History & Politics Suite
http://www.suite101.com/historycenter/
Managing Editor Ancient and European History