“Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Cleveland Plain Dealer
March 22, 1998

Marya Hornbacher learned to hate her body at an early age. She couldnt control her parents fighting or the way her male classmates leered at her maturing figure. But she could control how big her body got by refusing to help it grow.

The 23-year-old author writes candidly about her lifelong battle with eating disorders in Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, a fascinating memoir that details one woman’s take on anorexia and bulimia. Her conversational style makes the difficult subject matter easy to digest.

The book arrives at a time when eating disorders are receiving prime time news coverage and are the subject of made-for-tv movies and novels. And celebs such as the late Princess Diana, singer-dancer Paula Abdul and Baywatch star Alexandra Paul all admitted they have suffered from eating disorders.

The author seeks less to educate readers on the causes of anorexia and bulimia than to give them peek inside her bizarre world of bingeing and purging and, later, starving herself.

“I knew it the way alcoholics know in the back of their brain that they have a problem,” Hornbacher writes early on in her book. “The convenience of an eating disorder is that you believe, by definition, that your eating disorder cannot get out of control, because it is control.”

She also points her finger at that this country’s obsession with tall, slender women as fueling her obsessive desire to be thin.

An eating disorder is in many ways a rather logical elaboration on a cultural idea, Hornbacher writes.  While the personality of an eating-disordered person plays a huge role, “I do believe that the cultural environment is an equal, if not greater culprit in the sheer popularity of eating disorders … Had I lived in a culture where thinness was not regarded as a strange state of grace, I might have sought out another means of attaining that grace.”

She sought that grace early on. At four, she cried after a ballet class when she compared her fat body to her lithe classmates.

At 9, Hornbacher discovered that she could satisfy her hunger by eating and then throwing up her meal afterwards. She embraced bulimia as her entree to thinness.

By 15, she tried a different tactic to stay slim. Starvation. She got so good at it that she slowly starved herself down to 52 pounds.  She had traded bulimia for anorexia.

Like alcoholics, bulimics and anorectics never are fully cured. But with Wasted, the Minnesota-based Hornbacher proves she has the will to survive.

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