When Dieting Spells Danger

How one family found healing after an eating disorder nearly killed their son.

"Mom, I'm so dizzy," Ben groaned. "I feel like I just can't make it."

For days I'd been brushing off my 15-year-old son's complaints of not feeling well. In the crunch of freshman finals, I suspected, he might be over-anxious or simply worn down from the frenzy of the school year.

But exams were over, summer was coming on, and Ben was worse. His skin felt coarse, and his hair and eyes looked dull. My normally strapping six-foot son suddenly looked fragile and frightened—on the verge of collapse. I knew I'd been wrong to brush his symptoms aside.

It had started in March with the high school chorus preparing for a competition aboard a cruise ship. Like everyone else, Ben was excited. Also like everyone else, he was nervous about wearing a bathing suit in front of friends. He wanted to look his best.

To Ben, that meant losing weight. Never mind that he was already handsome and charming and never lacked for female attention. But Ben compared himself to his two older brothers who were upperclassmen and also in chorus. He made no allowances for differences in age or body type. He just thought that if he tried hard enough, he could look like them.

So Ben decided to slim down. He joined a gym and worked out daily. He also began running laps around our five acres of land, going farther and faster each day. He spent evenings in his room sweating through hundreds of sit-ups.

We were amazed by Ben's dedication. Although he'd played football and joined the swim team, he quit them years before to concentrate on drama, music, and art. He'd always been enthusiastic about his pursuits, but we'd never seen him go after something so vigorously.

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