A parent’s worst nightmare is for their child to become ill or get hurt. This means that most parents will do everything in their power to ensure their children are safe. They will try to steer their kids in the right direction by talking to them about the dangers of chemical substances such as alcohol and drugs, which are known to be highly addictive. However, these days, parents have another worry when it comes to their teenagers – eating disorders such as anorexia are claiming the lives of a number of individuals around the world.
To have one child suffer from anorexia would be horrific enough, but for two daughters to be affected by the illness does not even bear thinking about. However, that is exactly what happened to the parents of Courtney and Rebecca Grimshaw from California.
Courtney wanted to be thinner than sister Rebecca, who was popular and would often tease her younger sibling about her weight. Rebecca, who was fourteen to Courtney’s twelve, called her younger sister ‘fat pig’ and ‘fat ass’, but the teasing led to devastating consequences. Courtney began starving herself and, within a year, had lost three-and-a-half stone. By the time she was fifteen, she was painfully thin and her health was suffering.
Obsessive Dieting and Exercising
The sisters were soon in a competition to see who could be the slimmest and they became obsessive about restricting their food intake. They would consume just 350 calories per day and were exercising for hours on end in a bid to get even thinner. Courtney said, “I planned on losing 5 lbs but it got to the point where Becky and I were living on next to nothing. We were both competing to be the skinnier sister. Becky realised that what we were doing was dangerous but I was too far gone – all I could think about was losing more weight.”
It was the cruel comments from older sister Rebecca that put Courtney on the path to destruction, but it was her own self-loathing that made the problem even worse. She said, “Becky would tease me for being chubby and call me a fat pig. She made me feel really horrible about myself. I always wanted to be like her. She was really pretty, she always had boys all over her, all of my guy friends liked her – they thought she was cool.”
However, although the sisters planned to lose weight together, it was not long before they were in a deadly competition, with each trying to lose more weight than the other. They would play tennis for hours on end, which would leave them with little energy. They were eating nothing more than dry bread and cereal and they quickly shed the pounds.
Unable to Stop
When Becky dropped to just 6 stone 5 lbs, she realised her weight was at a dangerous level. Unfortunately, Courtney could not stop her quest to get thinner. She said, “When I looked in the mirror all I could see was fat. I was disgusted with my body. It got to the point where I was exercising six hours a day and eating next to nothing. We rarely ate together as a family, so my parents had no idea what was going on.”
Courtney’s body was being damaged by her illness, and by the age of 15, she was losing her hair; but she still could not stop. Becky described her sister’s appearance at the time to being like a Holocaust survivor. She admits that she was ‘tortured’ by the fact that her taunts had led to Courtney developing an eating disorder. She said, “The damage was done and I hadn’t realised what I was doing at the time. For a long time, I did blame myself and I still do.”
Treating the Problem
By the age of sixteen, Courtney weighed just five stone and officials from her school contacted her parents. She was told that if she did not eat she would be taken to hospital by child protection services. With support from her family and the care of a dietician and doctor, Courtney started to slowly gain weight.
Unfortunately, her self-esteem issues were still causing a problem and now that she was back to consuming calories, alcohol was no longer restricted. Courtney turned to alcohol to help deal with her emotional and mental issues and began drinking heavily. By seventeen, she was in rehab for an alcohol problem but it was here that she finally got the help she needed to get control of her life again. Her weight is healthy now and she is planning to go back to school. However, she wants to use her experience with anorexia to help other sufferers.
Sister Becky admits that she still feels guilty about how Courtney’s eating disorders came about but the pair are now closer than ever.