PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Eating Disorders: Jessica's Anorexia

Jessica is one of the smartest kids in the sixth grade. When she's not studying, she's kicking butt on the basketball court or coming up with cool ideas at student council meetings. She totally loses it if she gets less than an A on a test, and all of her friends are convinced that she'll be the first woman President.

One day at a family reunion, one of Jessica's aunts grabs her cheeks and says something about "baby fat." Jessica knows that her aunt is just teasing, but that comment sticks with her. She decides to go on a diet. At first she cuts back on sweets and starts using her dad's treadmill after school. The pounds start coming off and people notice. They ask her if she's on a diet and sometimes they even tell her that she looks great! Pretty soon, Jessica is weighing herself every morning and every night. She eats less and less, records every calorie and fat gram in her diet journal, and even hangs pictures of models on her wall for inspiration.

But Jessica is also starting to feel annoyed and grouchy all the time. She turns down party invitations because she doesn't want to be tempted by fatty snack food. She snaps at her pals when they ask her what's wrong. She feels dizzy and cold and she can't concentrate on anything but her diet and exercise. Even though the numbers say she's lost weight, Jessica doesn't see it when she looks in the mirror. All she can see is that baby fat.

Jessica has anorexia nervosa, usually just called "anorexia." People with anorexia starve themselves. Just like in Magali's case, Jessica's eating disorder really isn't about food at all. There are lots of other feelings and behaviors at the heart of these illnesses. Jessica tries hard to be the best at everything. She doesn't know how to handle criticism or teasing. Her aunt probably had no idea that her comment made Jessica feel like a big failure. Instead of confronting her aunt or talking to her parents about the situation, Jessica takes it all on herself. She thinks that a diet is a way to take control of the situation, but before long the situation has taken control of her.

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