When I first realized my daughter has an eating disorder

On a sunny day in June we picked up my daughter’s prom dress from Lena, our favorite seamstress. After a frenzied online search it had arrived — the perfect yellow dress with its delicate spaghetti straps — and it had only needed simple alterations. As Lauren tried it on to make sure the length was right, Lena said, “It ees too big,” in her lilting Italian accent.

“See? In the shoulders and in the width. The dress does not fit. What happened? I fix right.”

I glanced at Lauren. Her face had a peculiar smile, one of pride.

I tried to ignore the icy fear that was building from my stomach to my neck. As we got into the car to drive home, I said, “Why have you lost so much weight? I think we need to see the doctor.”

“You can’t make me go,” said Lauren. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

It was a statement I would hear many more times.

She was 16 when she slid into anorexia. She cursed at me. She stopped smiling. She ignored her friends. She chewed Peppermint Stride gum. She counted almonds.

It’s not that I didn’t notice changes in her behavior in the three weeks before her junior prom and before she had her final fitting for the dress. No more chocolate after dinner, only tea. No interest in warm bread fresh out of the oven. No interest in skating, her passion; instead, a sudden daily interest in going to the gym. No laughter at her younger brother’s silly comments.

Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle without clear borders.

“Teenagers,” I thought to myself. “It’s a phase, she’ll grow out of it.”

But intuitively, I knew something was wrong. She was secretive, quiet. Her eyes held a curious look of defiance.

And her dress for prom looked two sizes too big.

Anorexia? Not my daughter. She was too smart to have an eating disorder, wasn’t she? But her sudden, calculated 13-pound weight loss in three weeks said otherwise.

Lauren was petite. On the ice, she had a natural grace that wasn’t from being thin….

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