Diet of Despair: A Book about Eating Disorders for Young People and Their Families


Anna Paterson

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    “Diet Of Despair” is Anna Paterson's second book. Her first book “Anorexic” (Westworld International, 2000) was an autobiographical account of her 14 year struggle with anorexia. Anna is now recovered and spends her time trying to help other eating disorder sufferers who contact her daily. She works to raise awareness about the reality of these illnesses and is regularly asked to speak about her experiences. Anna is currently completing her third book “Running On Empty”, a novel about eating disorders for young people. She lives with her fiancé Simon, who helps her with all aspects of her work including editing her books and they are currently saving up for their first house.


    I want to thank Simon for his tireless support and help with this book every step of the way. I now think he knows as much about eating disorders as I do.

    I also want to thank my very dear friend Mike Robeson for all the invaluable help he has given me whilst I was writing this book.

  • Closing Thoughts

    I have tried to show you the reality of what it is like to live with an eating disorder. These are not ‘lifestyles’ or ‘fashionable’ illnesses and they cause great pain for a lot of people. There are solutions and I have outlined many of them for you to try. The most important message I want to leave you with is never give up hope. Eating disorders CAN be beaten and although it will often be quite a long and difficult fight, it is a fight worth winning. I did not believe that I would ever beat my illness. I thought that I would end up as a long-term anorexic for life. My recovery did take many months and even though I still occasionally have minor problems with my body image, I now know how to deal with these in a healthier way. I have no problems with food any more and love eating a full and healthy diet.

    Sadly, many people still do not understand eating disorders. The media often talks about anorexia as “the slimmer's disease” and describes sufferers as just “difficult teenage girls” who refuse to eat. As I have shown in this book, eating disorders are very complex. They are not simply illnesses about weight or food - they run much deeper than that. I believe that it is vital to discover WHY your illness began in the first place and you will need courage, knowledge and support if you are to beat it.

    If you are worried about a friend who has recently started to lose weight, try talking with them. Be kind, patient and understanding when you speak. Tell them your fears, ask if they would like help, offer your support and try to encourage them to visit a doctor. Don't shout at sufferers or try to force them to eat though, because this will only cause more problems. If you are at school, how about going to see a teacher together to explain the problem? Eating disorders should not be ignored. Many people feel afraid of discussing the subject because sufferers can sometimes become very defensive when they are confronted. However, if you care about someone then you ARE doing the right thing by seeking help for them. You cannot just sit back and allow them to harm themselves. That is not care but is actually a form of neglect.

    If you are a sufferer and decide that you WANT to get better, remember to take recovery at your own pace. Don't allow others to force you into moving faster than you can manage and ask for help every step of the way. There is a list of addresses of different organisations at the back of this book if you need some extra support. Don't be alone with your eating disorder. For further information about eating disorders and recovery, please come and visit me at my website:

    I hope that I have been able to help you by sharing my knowledge and experience of these illnesses with you, and have left you with some real hope for the future.

    Take care.

    List of Useful Addresses

    Eating Disorder Associations (Worldwide)

    Eating Disorders Association

    First Floor, Wensum House

    103 Prince of Wales Road

    Norwich NR1 1DW

    Telephone Helpline: 01603 621414 (Open Mon-Fri 9.00 am – 18.30 pm)

    Youth Helpline: 01603 765050 (Open Mon-Fri 16.00 to 18.30 pm)



    National Association of Anorexia nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)

    P O Box 7

    Highland Park

    IL 60035


    Hotline: 847-831-3438

    Fax: 847-433-4632



    British Columbia Eating Disorders Association

    526 Michigan Street

    Victoria, BC

    Canada V8V 1S2

    Tel: 250.383.2755

    Fax: 250.383.5518


    Eating Disorders Association

    P O Box 80 142

    Green Bay

    Auckland 7

    New Zealand

    Tel: 09 818 9561; 09 627 8493; 09 523 3531; 09 523 1308



    The Eating Disorders Association

    53 Railway Terrace


    Queensland 4064


    Tel: (07) 3876 2500

    For after hours help - Lifeline: 131114

    Kids Helpline: 1800 551800

    Parents Helpline: 1300 301 300


    Therapy and Counselling Organisations

    The Institute of Family Therapy

    24-32 Stephenson Way

    London NW1 2HX

    Tel: 020 7391 9150

    Fax: 020 7391 9169


    United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy

    167-169 Great Portland Street

    London W1W 5PF

    Tel: 020 7436 3002

    Fax: 020 7436 3013



    United Kingdom Register of Counsellors

    P O Box 1050


    CV21 5HZ

    Tel: 0870 443 5232

    Fax: 0870 443 5161

    E-mail: or


    Other Useful Organisations


    Freepost 1111

    London N1 OBR

    Tel: 0800 1111 (Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)


    The Samaritans

    Tel: 0845 790 9090 or 0114 245 6789 (help 24 hours a day)




    2 Grosvenor Gardens

    London SW1W 0DH

    Tel: 020 7730 3300

    Fax: 020 7730 7081


    Rape Crisis Federation

    7 Mansfield Road

    Nottingham NG1 3FB

    Tel: 0115 934 8474 (9.00 am - 5 pm Monday to Friday - answerphone at other times)

    Fax: 0115 934 8470

    Minicom: 0115 934 8473



    Victim Support (England and Wales)

    Cranmer House

    39 Brixton Road

    London SW9 6DZ


    Tel: 0845 30 30 900 (Low-call rate: 9.00 am - 9.00 pm weekdays, 9.00 am to 7.00 pm weekends)

    Tel: 020 7735 9166

    Fax: 020 7582 5712



    A new novel written by Anna Paterson to be published in 2002:

    Running on Empty

    “Useless! That's what you are! Totally useless! A waste of space!”

    The words hit Julia like a slap in the face. She started to back away from her Father into the furthest corner of the room. His anger was frightening as the words continued to race from his mouth, his face growing a deeper red with every passing minute.

    “Why can't you be more like your brother? He's a success, but you - YOU ARE JUST A FAILURE!”

    Julia's feelings of failure started her off down a very dark road. Her strong desire to disappear led her to begin dieting but this was no ordinary diet. Julia was now slowly starving herself to death. However, although she didn't know it, she wasn't the only one in her class with problems. Susan and Linda also had eating disorders, which were different but just as dangerous. Will they all be able to find the courage to help one another before it's too late?

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