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                            Georgia State University
ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University
Eating Disorder Narratives: Personal Experiences of Anorexia and Bulimia
	Veronica Ashley Przybyl
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Georgia State University
ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University

Anthropology Theses Department of Anthropology


Eating Disorder Narratives: Personal Experiences
of Anorexia and Bulimia
Veronica Ashley Przybyl
Georgia State University

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Recommended Citation
Przybyl, Veronica Ashley, "Eating Disorder Narratives: Personal Experiences of Anorexia and Bulimia." Thesis, Georgia State
University, 2010.
mailto:[email protected]

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Under the Direction of Cassandra White


The following paper explores the ways in which we currently understand eating disorders,

examining the current theory and literature as well as providing the stories of three women and

one man with first-hand experience with eating disorders. Through the use of formal interviews,

the paper focuses not only on the ways in which an eating disorder affects an individual’s life but

also on the ways in which an individual’s life affects the manifestation of his or her eating


INDEX WORDS: Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, Eating disorders, Medical anthropology

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Piper began attending a summer camp every year at the age of seven. At the age of 13,

she had a camp counselor who she idolized. This camp counselor ate only lettuce and mustard

every day (a zero-calorie meal) and Piper wanted to be like her and to imitate what she did. One

night, Piper and her roommates snuck into the camp’s kitchen and stole junk food. The girls

binged on the food and then decided to make themselves throw up for fun, to see if they could do

it. Piper noticed that, while other girls struggled to purge, “it just came way too easily for [her]”

and it felt “like second nature.” At this point, Piper understood that this could potentially be a

problem, but she was young and did not “latch onto it.”

When she returned home from camp, however, Piper began to experiment with restricting

her food. She vividly remembers her mom making her stand over the sink while she shoved

broccoli in Piper’s mouth because she was refusing to eat. This continued and worsened for the

next few years. By the time Piper was 16, she had truly begun her eating disorder. She did not

purge at this point, but was severely restricting her food intake. Her relationship with her parents

worsened until, as she puts it, her “parents just didn’t like [her] and [she] wasn’t getting along

with anybody.” Piper’s parents sent her to boarding school where she could be better supervised.

She was forced to be weighed by the school nurse every day. While at boarding school, Piper

continued to restrict her food intake and also began exercising excessively. She could often be

found running laps around the school’s track late into the night. By the time Piper returned home

from her first year at boarding school, she had pushed her body to its limits. She purged ten to 15

times per day, without binging and was still restricting and over-exercising.

When Piper returned home from boarding school, she decided to move in with her father.

She and her mother were at odds and her stepfather had a tendency to make sexual remarks to

Piper, which made her feel “dirty.” This dynamic made Piper extremely unhappy, worsening her

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eating disorder, so she decided to live with her father. Piper experienced a complete lack of

structure when living with her father, in part because he was often away from home and in part

because he was apathetic. This meant that Piper was free to continue her eating disorder without

comment or interruption. One night, however, Piper had gotten up to purge in the middle of the

night and threw up blood and “something that had to be part of [her] stomach…[she did not]

know what it was, but it freaked [her] out…[she] thought [she] was dying.” Piper was so scared

that she woke up her father to tell him what had happened. Her parents took her to the doctor the

next day.

When Piper visited her doctor, she was told that she needed to be hospitalized because

she was at risk for a heart attack. Her potassium levels were very low and she was passing out

“all the time.” She was referred to a local eating disorders treatment facility, which allowed her

to be treated as an intensive outpatient because she did not need to be put on a feeding tube.

Piper feels that she was not ready to receive help when she went into treatment the first time. She

remembers her first day, during which she was asked to put butter in her green beans at meal

time. She refused to include the butter in her meal and so was given an option: she could either

drink Ensure, which she describes as “every anorexic’s nightmare,” or she could eat the butter

plain. Piper did not want to drink Ensure, so she was forced to eat the butter. This made her feel

angry and humiliated. This first day set the tone for the rest of Piper’s experience at the treatment

facility. She found the atmosphere to be extremely competitive. Patients often wondered why the

same rules did not apply to everyone, for example, why the types and amounts of required foods

were not the same for everyone. Piper disliked this treatment experience and, as such, would not

recommend the treatment center to others. Her experience did have some effect on her

nonetheless. After this first time in treatment, Piper stopped purging for the most part and relied

Page 93


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