When Diets Turn Deadly: Adult Eating Disorders
A Slippery Slope
Becky Marsella had never been heavy, but in 1999, as her 40th birthday approached, she set out to get in better shape. She joined a gym and watched what she ate, adding more vegetables and cutting out red meat and bread. She started to walk around her suburban Lakeland, Florida, neighborhood, eventually upgrading to running. As she reached a slender but muscular 105 pounds on her 5-foot-5 frame, compliments from friends and coworkers started pouring in.
But this is no midlife makeover success story. Despite Becky's healthy new look, her quest for fitness had already taken a sinister turn. "The more I exercised and the more I watched what I ate, something just seemed to grab hold of me," she recalls.
Rey, her husband of 20 years, thought she looked fine before she started dieting. Now he watched in alarm as her exercise routines grew increasingly intense, her eating more restricted. Becky continued to lose weight, but when Rey tried to talk to her about how thin she was getting, her angry silences made it clear the subject was not open to discussion.
Although she had no prior history of eating disorders, Becky's dieting had spiraled into full-blown anorexia. Today, despite inpatient treatment and extensive therapy, this once-fit and confident woman remains a walking skeleton who for months has struggled unsuccessfully to get her weight back above the 70-pound mark.