Dying To Lose Weight

This is a story every parent should see, especially if you have a young girl in your family.

A survey of girls between the ages of 12-15 show that the biggest concern in their lives is appearance. That may help to explain why about eight million people in the US have an eating disorder. When it comes to anorexia, 1 out of every 100 young women is starving themselves, sometimes to death.

An East Texas woman has been struggling with anorexia for almost two decades. She says it has destroyed all of her dreams. In this report she shares her story in hopes of preventing others from "Dying To Lose Weight."

"I remember when I was 13 and we got measured for cheerleading uniforms and everyone was like, 'My gosh she's got such a tiny waste,' and I thought oh this is a really good thing."

That good thing quickly became bad. Kim Sella of Longview started dieting. At 6'1", Kim weighed about 145, right on target for her height and weight. But that would be the last time she'd be any where close to being on target.

"My lowest weight was last year that was about 105, 107," says Kim.

Now 34 year old, Kim has been anorexic for 18 years. I asked her, "At what point did your perception of your body image start to change. How many years did that take?" She replied, "I really don't remember anymore but I feel like I'll never get it back."

Kim not only severely restricted what she would eat but also began taking laxatives, 60 a day. "I felt horrible. I had seizures. I felt just like I had no energy like I was dying but I just couldn't stop taking them."

Today her kitchen is pretty much bare, except for pet food. The refrigerator isn't much better. Opening the door she says, "There are fish dinners that have been there about 6 months and sorbet that has been there about 8 months."

I asked Kim, "What are you eating right now a day?" She says, "I eat a piece of toast in the morning. A piece of toast for dinner and then sometimes if I'm not feeling well or if I think I deserve it, I'll eat half of a graham cracker at lunch." I asked her if that was it all day? She adds, "Coffee, I love coffee."

Anorexia has taken a toll on Kim's body. It has affected her kidneys, heart, liver, and thyroid. It also destroyed her teeth, and her hair started falling out in clumps. "That's how a lot of anorexics die. They go into organ failure," says Kim.

I asked her, "Do you think, based on all of the things anorexia has done to your body, that it's not slowly killing you?" Kim says, Well, I'm not dead yet and see that's the problem. I tend to push the envelop as far as I can for whatever reason."

Kim is intelligent, but yet strong willed and stubborn. That, has prevented her from getting the help she needs. "I did see someone for 3 years and I trusted her, almost. So when she said this is it you either eat or I'm terminating therapy I said, 'Well good-bye."

Although easy to see protruding bones, it's hard for most people to understand the deception an anorexic sees in the mirror. Showing me her protruding hip bones she says, "I have fat on the sides of my hips and on my stomach too because I like my stomach to be concave."

Kim says this deadly obsession has left her with no quality of life. "There's nothing good about being anorexic because you lose every thing." Kim has lost friends and strained her relationship with her family. Without a job right now, she's hoping she doesn't lose her house and pets. But even with that... "It's almost unbearable for me when I start eating again and when I start to feel again because you are completely numb."

At that point when Kim does start eating, physically she starts getting better, but mentally she gets worse. Unable to stand the pressure building up inside, like some anorexics, she turns to cutting, self mutilation. "Some just make little nicks and some cut deeply. I cut really deeply."

Kim has scars over most of her body, the result of a razor blade. The most visible are on her arms. "Cutting is not about suicide, cutting is about releasing pain and being confused," Kim explains.

Kim struggles daily, starving herself, unable to trust anyone to help. She knows something has to change. Now, at about 110 pounds, the question she faces is, does she want to live? Kim says, "Not like this. I want to live but this is existing. This is not living. There is a difference."

I asked Kim, "Do you still have the goal to be the thinnest person?" She says, "No one can ever be the thinnest person. If I were to be the thinnest person in the world I would be dead."

I asked, "Do you think there's a chance you may die from this?" She says, "I think there's always a chance people can die from anorexia."

Kim has a warning for parents. She says young girls, especially those in middle school and high school, think it's innocent to go on a diet. But once they go over the edge it's hard to bring them back. Doctors confirm, the sooner an eating disorder is caught, the better the changes of recovery.

Here are some warning signs for parents:

1.)Isolating themselves; moving away from friends.
2.)Cutting down on activities.
3.)Skipping meals or saying they've already eaten.
4.)Wearing baggy clothes
5.)Making rules about food-for example, eliminating dairy products or meat because they are perceived as "high calorie."
6.)Creating rituals about how food should be eaten.
7.)Exercising too much.
8.)Taking laxatives or water pills.

The bottom line doctors say is pay attention to your child, notice little changes. Also, tell your child you love them and tell them how beautiful they are regardless of what they look like.

Kim is willing to share her story with young girls. If you have an organization that you think might benefit please email her at Kimsella@aol.com

Gillian Sheridan reporting.