by MIA FREEDMAN
I’ve just read The Boy Who Loved Apples.
In just a day or two, I inhaled it.
It’s written by an Australian woman named Amanda Webster whose son Riche developed anorexia when he was 11 years old.
Her book tells the story of the long, agonising journey to save her son’s life while also dealing with a husband, two other young children and a medical establishment that barely understood Riche’s illness – let alone how to treat it.
It’s a story of a family, a mother’s love, and a broken little boy who she must help find his way back to her and to life. For a while, he became so consumed by anorexia, Riche became convinced he could catch calories by touching things and even absorb them through air and soil.
How do you bring someone back from that?
I interviewed Amanda and asked her about body image, media, treatment options, warning signs and whether you can ever truly recover from anorexia…….(you don’t need to have read the book to understand the interview, it all stands alone).
Mia Freedman: What were some of the early signs of Riche’s anorexia?
Amanda Webster: Riche showed the classic early signs of anorexia—easy to see through that fabled retrospectoscope. He decided to become a vegetarian, not necessarily the first step on the slippery slope, but he was depressed and anxious by this point (related to family and social concerns) and was becoming quite obsessive, all factors that made any kind of dietary restriction dangerous.
From the outset, he was a poor vegetarian.He refused lentils and pulses, eating cheese, tofu or egg-based main meals only. Around this time, he started taking an interest in recipes and their calorie content. And he seemed overly concerned about the issue of childhood obesity, even though he’d never been fat himself.
Meanwhile, he was exercising a lot. He belonged to a local circus group and he was always outside doing cartwheels or inside doing bench presses on the sofa or pushups in the hallway. Next, he started cutting back on the quantity of food he was eating. At the same time, he abruptly gave up the circus routines and took to walking for up to five hours a day on a trail on our property. He cut back on water and looked emaciated.
But the early changes were insidious and the illness already had a stranglehold by the time I realised we had a problem. A word of caution: the retrospectoscope should be handled with care. It should come with a positive filter that transforms hindsight into valuable lessons. It should never be used, as I did, as an emotional stick to beat my husband and me over the head.