172 • pearls around the neck
Some words scribbled on a piece of paper, stuck on the refrigerator:
“I bought you Roquefort cheese and quince, I know you love it. Serve yourself well. Mom.”
On a piece of cardboard, advice hastily written in pencil:
“Eat at noon, I know you didn’t eat at all this morning… Mom.”
One last thing before hanging up the phone:
“You lied to me - you haven’t eaten anything. You told me you would finish the veal filet and I found it
in the trash can!”
A whisper passing by:
“Just look at your arms! You have no shape!”
Or the girlfriend, laughing:
“You do not belong in the 3-D world, not even in the flat world… you are truly one-dimensional…that’s
it - the universe of lines and vectors!”
Or the nickname the boys at school gave me at age 13:
“The ironing board”.
At twelve, I was small, thin, emaciated, famished and not understood, totally not understood. And
rightfully so! Who knew the term anorexia nervosa in 1974?
Multiple and diverse reasons push thousands of girls into fasting, to sink themselves into the world
of anorexia nervosa. There are different forms of anorexia, often poorly defined and, consequently,
misdiagnosed and improperly treated. But one fact remains: anorexia kills.
Anorexia is the deadliest mental illness. In the United States, 0.5% of the female population suffers
from it; in France, 1.5% is victims. 10% of these will die. Anorexia nervosa mainly affects women
between 12 and 22 years old. How cruel!
But what in fact is anorexia?
An illness of little-known etiology.
The origin of this mental disease is as blurry as the imprecise accounts of the patients who suffer from
it. Conventional wisdom holds that this eating disorder has some genetic origin. On the other hand,
about 95% of the victims are women, so a hormonal component seems evident.
Defined as a psycho-behavioral illness with neuro-hormonal components, anorexia nervosa entails a
predisposition, based on social and family factors, a catalyst psychoanalytical element in the patient’s
personal history, and a psycho-sensory capital that favors a myriad of behaviors. This whole amalgam
promotes the surfacing of the illness and all too often prevents the definitive cure, or treatment, as I am
convinced that no one ever fully recovers from it.
A number can also define anorexia: BMI (Body Mass Index), which is derived by dividing the weight of
a person in kilos by height in square meters. A BMI lower than 17.5 kg per meter squared is a warning
Anorexia can be described by its symptomatology: refusal to eat, hyperactivity, insomnia, the presence
of obsessive and compulsive disorders (OCD), anxiety, social phobia, depression and/or suicidal