A Fictional Day in the Life of a Person with Anorexia

USA, New Jersey, Teenage girl (14-15) sitting on bed, embracing pillow
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What is a day like in the life of a person with anorexia? This fictional account takes you into the mind of a young college-age woman living with this disorder.

Please note that stories of people with eating disorders (even fictional ones) can be triggering to those with these disorders. If you have an eating disorder or are in early recovery, please consider whether or not reading this story will be helpful for your recovery. If you are triggered, please talk about it with your therapist or your treatment team.

Morning and Breakfast

The alarm clock wakes me up and I hit snooze. I am so tired every day. My apartment seems so cold, and I just want to stay in my bed with the covers on. I am always cold.

But I must go to school, so I get up to take a shower. Immediately, I weigh myself. I do some calisthenics and then go to the bathroom and weigh myself again to see if the number changes. This tells me whether or not I can eat breakfast, and if this day is going to suck or not.

The number on the scale is low enough. I get to eat breakfast today. Glancing in the mirror, I see my naked body. I start pinching at my sides to see if the fat is still there. Ugh. I hate what I see, and the voice in my head starts criticizing me and telling me I don't deserve to eat. Maybe I won’t eat breakfast after all.

In the shower, I notice that my hair is falling out in clumps. My skin is extremely dry and chapped. After my shower, I dress quickly. I am cold and I don’t want to see my body anymore.

Even though it's early summer, I put on a baggy sweatshirt. It keeps me warm, and people won’t comment so much about my body when they can’t see it. Plus, if my clothes are too tight, I feel fat. Even though the bathroom is right near the kitchen, I walk the long way around the apartment.

I allow myself to eat a small breakfast and several cups of black coffee. I need the caffeine to make it through the day. Then, I drive to school, choosing a parking spot in the farthest corner of the lot so that I can walk further. The more calories I burn, the more weight I will lose.

The School Day and Lunch

Throughout my classes, my mind wanders, and I find it hard to focus on what my professors are saying. I keep thinking about lunch, and whether or not my friends will want me to meet them. How am I going to avoid eating again? They’ve started commenting about my weight and how much I eat. I feel guilty for sitting so long in class. I try to do some strengthening exercises while listening to the professor.

Maybe I can say that I need to go to the library and avoid my friends altogether. Perhaps I can actually spend that time walking, or at the gym. Actually eating lunch is out of the question. I’m supposed to have dinner with my parents this evening, and that will be harder to avoid.

After spending the lunch hour exercising, the voice in my head pats me on the back and tries to convince me to skip class and continue working out. But I am such a perfectionist. I have to go to class. I’m starting to fall behind in my schoolwork, and missing class will only make it worse. Diet sodas help me make it through the rest of the day. Still, I feel dizzy and lightheaded.

Dinner With My Parents

I get in a run before heading over to my parents' house. My mom hugs me when I walk through the door, sending a shot of anxiety through my body. “Honey, I’m worried about you. You’re so thin and pale. Are you eating enough?” I reassure her that everything is fine. “I’ve just been pulling a few all-nighters.” She suggests seeing a doctor, but I brush it off. Internally, the voice in my head is congratulating me.

I ask the question I’ve been obsessing about all day, “What are we having for dinner?” Oh, no. It will be too many calories. My anxiety shoots through the roof and I start tapping my foot so much that my parents must notice it. The voice in my head urges me to leave without eating. I can’t figure out a way to do that, though.

When we sit down to dinner, I mentally add up the calories of all of the foods at the table. How can I minimize what I eat? I end up with small portions of everything except the vegetables and cut everything up into very small pieces.

I try to eat very slowly so that by the time everyone else is finished, I’m only half done, but I say that I’m not hungry anymore. This isn’t really a lie since I’m not ever really hungry. I’m not sure when I stopped being hungry, but it has made losing weight so much easier.


When I get home, I attempt to do my homework but end up collapsing in my bed. The voice in my head keeps criticizing me for eating dinner. I won’t be able to eat at all tomorrow and I’ll need to exercise more this weekend. I’ll have to find an excuse to get out of my friend’s party—I guess that will be okay though since I haven’t really spent that much time with them lately anyway.

Please note that this is just one depiction of what it can be like to have anorexia nervosa. Every patient’s experience is different. Anorexia nervosa affects people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.

Anorexia can look very different in different people. Contrary to popular belief, a person does not even need to be underweight to have anorexia. Anorexia can be serious; it has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

If you have an eating disorder, are struggling with eating and/or your thoughts surrounding food and body image, it is important to seek help. A good resource is the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) helpline: 800-931-2237. If you are recovering, it is important to establish normal eating patterns and restore nutrition.

By Susan Cowden, MS
Susan Cowden is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders.