"This is the story of how my older daughter, Kitty, became anorexic and nearly died, and how my husband, my younger daughter, and I helped her recover. This is not a story about family dysfunction, sexual abuse, or a poor little rich girl dying for attention. It's not a cautionary tale about skinny fashion models and the media. It's a story about an ordinary teenage girl who fell down the rabbit hole of anorexia-by accident, as it always happens -- and about her slow, painful, infinitely courageous climb back up to health and hope, moment by moment, ounce by ounce, one spoonful at a time.
This book will tell the story of our family's journey through the nightmare of anorexia, beginning in May 2005 and ending in fall 2006. It will cover the most intensive part of our daughter's illness and recovery, a span of about 18 months that changed all of our lives. Today Kitty is a healthy, happy, ordinary teenager. While it's too early to make sweeping pronouncements about recovery, we have every reason to believe that she's free from the nightmare that nearly took her life.
While parts of this book will be painful and horrifying, this will be at heart a narrative of hope. Kitty's story demonstrates that parents don't have to take the role traditional treatment assigns to them: backing off, not talking about food, feeling guilt and shame and despair, and, worst of all, watching their child starve. Families can make the difference, literally, between life and death."
In addition to being an incredibly moving and hopeful story of recovery, it also sheds light on traditional approaches to "curing" anorexia, which are to cut the patient off from the family and "retrain" her beliefs about food. Success with this method is only slightly higher that utter failure-- 30% recover; 20% die. The rest live in between. It also presents extraordinary science about what starvation does to the mind, and how difficult it is to bring a body back to health from the brink of starvation. Harriet and her family worked with a new and different approach to treatment called Family Based Treatment (FBT, aka The Maudsley Approach), which involved focusing all their family attention inward and on Kitty, and making sure, the way they would if she had cancer, that Kitty took her full dosage of "meds" -- food -- each and every day-to bring her back to health.