Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Weight and Oxbridge

Prompted by Diana and the passage of time, here is an update.

How is Waif doing?  Hmmm...being a bit grumpy and looking very thin is one answer, sadly.  Getting in to a top London school for Sixth Form and still being the light of my life is another.

Possibly against my better judgment and because I am far from perfect, I renewed Waif's gym membership.  I decided that if I don't and if she is determined then she will merely exercise some other way (eg walking to school secretly).  She always stays late after school to "do art".  How would I know if she were actually going to the school gym?  I hope not but I can never know.  She will still eat when prompted and just about everything I put in front of her - she is very obliging and good BUT will make all sorts of excuses to trade high calorie items and/or skip the between meal snacks.

Last week, she definitely tried cigarettes which made her feel sick.  I can't get excited about smoking (even thought I loathe it with a passion) when she still has eating issues.  As long as she eats I don't care about anything else.

I am so proud of her school offer, but am holding off on a decision:  on the one hand, she deserves a first class education as she is clearly a very bright girl and I would hesitate to deprive anyone of that.  OTOH she did not cope at the last high pressure girls' school she was at so why on earth am I contemplating sending her to another?

The school in question has a very good supportive approach to anorexics (unlike Waif's last school which just told her to leave) which is a good sign.

Meanwhile, I took Older Daughter to her Cambridge interview on Monday.  In the hotel dining room, were numerous pairs of mothers and teen offspring looking both smart and nervous and clearly all there for the same reason.  Amongst them was a girl so thin I just wanted to hug her and advise her to chase her dreams of Cambridge but first she had to EAT or she would not even be living that long  :-(  :-(   It is so hard as a bystander to understand WHY anorexics don't eat.  It can't be to look better because below a certain weight people look awful - bony, drawn, even - I hesitate to say it - repulsive.  So what is it?  OD reckons it is that they look at one part of themselves eg their stomach and decide that THAT part is too fat and diet until (never) that part is acceptable to them without looking at the whole picture.  The irony is that on starvation rations, one will never have a flat stomach due to some kind of protein osmosis (OD told me the details, but I forget).

I don't want Waif to be that skeletal girl having breakfast before her Oxford interview in 2 years' time.

Meantime here are some pics:

I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards........

We have been looking at old photos and organising the computer files.  This one made me laugh.  We have three cats and a dog and this cat has cattitude for sure.

More heart tugging are old photos of Waif, before she got too too thin, where she looks healthy and happy.  Where is she hiding?


  1. waif, poochie, and kitty are so sweet.
    i have no words of wisdom to offer today.
    but i will tell you that i have a blog contest featuring fantastic nutrition that have helped me in my post bulimic life. perhaps waif might feel comfortable experiencing some of these foods. it's open to anyone on planet Earth, so your british residency will apply.
    here is the link:

    and, seriously, stay strong. i'm almost 30 and experienced a terrible blow out with my parents the other day. i wrote about that, too, and you might appreciate it. here is the link:

  2. 'mummy' I am a portuguese girl with 20 who has been reading your blog from bottom to top. I am not great with english so, please, forgive me if I sometimes make mistakes while writting.
    Well, I decided to write this comment even though I am not sure I will be able to explain you the reasons. I will start to tell my story and eventually you will get there. As I said I live in portugal and was always a happy child, had wonderful parents, a loving family and was, in fact, extremelly happy. In my 10th grade my parents decided I should move to another school which plays the same roll Cambridge plays here: much more qualified and which had a lot more "prestige" (does this word exists?), basically, is was known to be the place where the greatest students in my town were. As I was always a very good student my parents thought it would be good for me to move once I would have by my side, students who meant to achieve very high goals. I have always wanted to be a politician and have always loved politics, economics, history, etc. My parents wanted me to be a doctor and deep down I knew they saw that new school as a way for me to meet a lot of girls who were bright with studies and wanted to go to meds school. Well I moved away of my school where I was since my ten years old. I have had more or less the same class, I loved my friends, I was the student with the best grades and I loved life.
    When I got to 15 I moved to Ribadouro (the other school) and it didn't take long (one month? two?) for me to start feeling very depressed. It was so weird. Even my old friends seemed to hate me in my eyes, I thought nobody liked me, I thought I was stupid, irrelevant, that my parents didn't love me, that I didn't deserved to be loved..and eventually started dieting (I was always so healthy and actually skinny, I have always had my BMI under 20, even when I wasn't stupid of me..well, I didn't make it on purpose.) because I started comparing me to every other girl and boy in my classroom and they were SO freaking good. In my other school I almost didn't have to make an effort to get good grades, teachers always told me I was so inteligent and suddenly I was sorrounded by people who, in my opinion, were so much better than me.
    There's o need to explain what happened next: is has been more than five years, I have been IP two times, I have had my BMI at 12 once, I have been so sick. Now I am better, I am facing recovery once again and I have actualy reached my healthy weigth and a BMI of 18..but still the thoughts are there, you know.
    I am not saying that if I hadn't move to this other school I would have not gotten sick. Who knows? Probably would? But the school was the trigger, I had the carectheristics: was perfectionist, insecure, needy, you know..all of that..but the school, the girls, the enviornment, the competition deffinetly triggered that. And for that, my mum will always say: I hate myself for the day when I decided to move you out of your old school where you had place and space to be who you were: happy and healthy.

  3. I was about to write a comment but Inês has already said what I wanted you to understand.

    Oh, and renewning Waif's gym membership...You did with the best of intentions, but here is the thing: what will probably happen is that Waif will be exercising at the gym and not stopping doing it in other ways. The result is that she will be exercising a lot: gym plus all the ways she did before...

    I hope you cancel her membership. Seriously it will make things worse.

  4. Please, please read and actually HEAR the above two comments - please.
    If you want a lifetime of fighting the ed and relapse/recovery/relapse, as I had for 22yrs, you are going the right way about it, with your approach at the moment.
    Please take notice of Ines and Diana.

  5. Every time I leave you a comment I feel as though I start out by telling you what a wonderful mother you are. It's because I believe it completely, you are a wonderful mother and Waif is SO lucky to have someone as invested in her fight as you are. Like the other ladies said though, please be so careful with things like gym memberships. I promise you that if Waif is a compulsive exerciser (which I have been for 6 years) she will use that gym membership in a disordered way. It take SO much strength to stand up against the anorexic voice and tell someone that it would be best not to have a gym membership or even to just say that exercise is a problem. The desire to do it is there because the activity itself is exhausting, but the punishment from anorexia afterwards from showing a "weakness" and voicing a healthy concern is over powering. I worry from your words that Waif isn't in a place where she could voice what is best for her HEALTH right now, so you may need to be the one who determines matter how angry it makes her. Being angry with you won't cause her organ damage or bone decay...sure it'll be uncomfortable but it will also keep her alive. Just please be really careful with this.

    The issue of schools is also really challenging. Ines gave some amazing insight, I don't know what will work for Waif obviously but I can also tell you that school was a major trigger for my eating disorder. It remains to be one, I typically do much better in recovery when I am not taking classes. In high school I was in advanced courses and this just added to the stress. I know the world views the ability to manage those types of classes as a good thing, but if one can't manage them and also maintain health you have to ask yourself how valuable that ideal truly is. I hope that made some sense.

    I really sympathize with you. You're trying to do the best for your daughter while also distinguish between her eating disorder and her own voice...NOT an easy task. Keep being there for her, she needs you!

  6. overcoming an eating disorder can be very tricky. ive been fighting with food for nearly my whole life now and let me tell you that its hard not to go back and forth with it.
    try making eating a pleasant family affair as well as exercising. take walks together with your dogs, or play outside games, try not to make the actual exercise the center focus of it all.
    wishing you all the luck in the world

  7. I have just come across your blog, so I started from the beginning and I have read every post you have written.
    I actually cried reading it, ALmost I cry now writing this, but not because I find your story sad, but because of what an amazing mother to your children you are, you are so dedicated to making waif better and free from Anorexia, I totally admire you for that, I really do. It is one thing I wish I had, I longed for a mother who would push me, however much I may have resented it at the time, I can see it is the best option, Being left to my own devices with such a debilitating illness destroyed my life on so many levels, and I have had to build myself up all by myself.
    You are totally an amazing women, and Its kind of all i really wanted to say, I really hope that you don't think I am weird for saying any of this too you.
    I'm 19 years old now, and I am still battling my fight with Anorexia, I wont lie it is tough, but I know your family and waif can do this, and there will be times when you feel waif is going backwards, but I promise things can get easier. I am hopefully taking a massive step to move by myself from Devon to London to attend university this year, something no one ever thought I would be able to do.
    I think one thing that helped me massively was speaking with a girl, much older than me in her 20's who still had Anorexia and is battling physical complications as well, seeing that in front of me, sent shivers down my spine, and I realized i didn't want to be like that, however hard it would be. I love art, like waif and I used that to help me, drawing my emotions rather than using food.
    I really hope this makes some sort of sense, and I do apologize if it doesn't. I will continue to read your blog, if and when you update it, I hope that your family are all okay and have had a wonderful Christmas. I wish you all the best.
    If you ever need any advice please don't hesitate to contact me. I am fully aware that im no professional, im just 19, but sometimes it does help to understand something from someone who has been through what Waif is going through.

    Jess x

  8. Thank you so much to all my commenters. In particular, Jess :-) I am so glad that you are now well enough to be away from home and to concentrate on your studies. I am in London and, as you know, generally around so please do feel to mail me at rare.bird.of.paradise(AT) should you ever be in need of a shoulder to lean on (or even somewhere to stay). I found a similar experience to the one you mention through talking to a woman in her thirties who had wasted far too much time on the dreaded eating disorder and I would not wish that on anyone. Life is for grabbing and living! I do wish you all the best,