Dying To Lose Weight

It's not surprising that in a culture where "thin is in," that the number of young girls concerned about their weight is growing. But the statistics are alarming.

A recent survey shows 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner and 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.  In part one of our special report on eating disorders, a Longview woman shared her story of living with anorexia for 18 years. Since our first interview, her condition worsened. In part two of "Dying To Lose Weight," we visit Kim in the hospital, faced with life saving decisions.

"Good morning Kim, how was your night?," says Dr. Damaris Wright of the Eating Disorders Program at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Kim Sella was recently admitted to Presbyterian Hospital. A few more days and she might have been dead. "I wouldn't say I'm in the greatest place right now," says Kim from her hospital bed.

Kim agreed to let us into her hospital room to show how ugly anorexia can be. She is hooked up to a feeding tube through her nose. "At this point my body is pretty messed up and I don't know how far I can play with it."

Her kidneys were shutting down. Her liver, thyroid and heart were also affected. Looking over her file Dr. Wright says, "Kim, our agreement, our goal, is not to make you fat but to heal your heart."

In a previous interview, Kim told us her only motivation to get help would be fear. Sitting next to her bed I asked, "Did you get to a point where you were afraid?" She replied, "I think so. Maybe the last day or so because I was just losing weight so quickly."

Kim is one of the worst cases Dr. Damaris Wright, a Pediatric Cardiologist, has seen. "Kim is excellent at starving herself and she's strong willed. So, I can feed her over a two week period here and within two days she can undue what we've done. She knows this."

Kim is still 30 pounds underweight for someone 6'1" but in the 8 days she's been at Presbyterian Hospital, she's gone from about 110 to just over 116. "That will be hard for her to deal with," says Dr. Wright.

Kim says, "It's been a major battle." Her battle is not only physical, but mental. Dr. Wright explains, "Once the starvation mode begins in an anorexic, they lose their serotonin level and their logical thinking deteriorates to zero."

So while everyone else may see a frail, thin woman..."I can't see it," says Kim.

"In an anorexic there is a lot of self hate. They hate what they do to themselves but they hate the voices worse." Dr. Wright goes on to say, "The fear of putting weight on, the fear of losing control, becomes so much more important then, I might die."

"Yes, it's hard. It's really hard. It hurts. I mean you feel really stupid when you're like this and people think you're really stupid or stubborn or whatever. I have things I love and I have things that matter to me unfortunately sometimes I'm not one of them," says Kim with tears in her eyes.

And sharing her pain is not easy. "I guess I just don't want people to know that kind of stuff even my family. My big fear is that I'm going to go home to Longview and it's going to happen again."

While Kim's future is untold, Dr. Wright says there's one thing for sure, if Kim doesn't get help from a psychiatrist, the outcome will be disaster. "I think that Kim's pain, the voices inside her head belittling her not letting her eat, will eventually win over and after a while she'll be caught in a down spiral and I think she'll starve herself to death."

The door has been opened for Kim to begin rebuilding her body and her life. What remains, is if she will walk through.

Once Kim returned to Longview from the hospital, she did meet with a psychiatrist and a nutritionist. It is a difficult struggle which she is taking one day at a time but at this point, she is maintaining her weight.

When it comes to eating disorders Dr. Wright says not only is she seeing more girls, she's getting them as early as 13 years old. In a society where image is everything, she says girls fall victim to these disorders. She says, "This horrible disease is killing our teenagers."

Dr. Wright says Hollywood makes thin women look glamorous by airbrushing. She says reality is they look nothing like that in person. She also cautions coaches, PE teachers and gymnastics instructors to be careful about what they say to these young girls because they have tremendous influence on them. She says they, along with parents, need to encourage our children in a healthy way and let them know they look good regardless.

Kim shared her story with us in hopes of helping others. If you would like to contact her e-mail Kimsella@aol.com

Gillian Sheridan reporting.