Valeria Levitin, 39, weighs only 56 pounds and is currently the world’s thinnest woman. She also happens to be one of the saddest and loneliest women in the world. She is fighting for her life, but because of websites that encourage the anorexic lifestyle, she has become an unwitting idol of many teen girls -- and even gets fan mail regularly.
Valeria developed anorexia in her teens, after years of her mother weighing her to make sure that she didn’t become obese. She wanted to be a model but was told she was too heavy, at a healthy size 12.
As I read this story, it is all too familiar to me. It pained me to watch her video and made me very uncomfortable because like Valeria, all it took was a parent making me feel like if I could be a certain size, if I could be perfect, I could be loved more, I'd be more deserving. It only took one comment to push us both right over the edge.
I could have been Valeria. We are the same age, we started our road to eating disorders around the same time, and we even lived in the same area of the country. Her story is my story with one exception: I quit my eating disorder 15 years ago. I found something to live for.
Now, she, too, has found a purpose greater than herself that has caused her to want to get well. She wants to become a mother and to be a mother, you need to be alive and healthy for your child.
She has gone public with her story to help others avoid falling prey to her disease. But instead of getting support for becoming healthy, Valeria started receiving fan emails from young women who idolize her and want to follow in her footsteps. They want to know how to do it. They want her to tell them how to kill themselves.
I’m not being dramatic. If you develop anorexia and don’t get help, two things that will happen: you will live miserably and you will die alone.
Anyone, who has ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder knows that there is nothing glamorous about it. It is lonely and sad and very quickly spins out of control. The very thing you used to gain control has now taken a life of its own. It's a murderer. It will kill you.
Every man and woman who has ever survived an eating disorder wouldn’t wish one on their worst enemy. Valeria is trying to survive this disease and these girls have put her on a pedestal. They want to be walking skeletons. They think anorexia is cool.
There is nothing cool about your body trying to shut down on you. There is nothing cool about being so frail that stairs are a chore and a slight tumble could break every bone in your body. There is nothing cool about your heart giving out at 25. There is nothing cool about people staring at you like you are a freak when you walk down the street. There is nothing cool about dying alone with nothing but your disease as company.
These girls should admire her for trying to get well, not for becoming grotesquely thin. For those of us who have had anorexia, it is our greatest pain to see someone else go through it, especially if we feel some sort of responsibility toward inspiring them.
There is nothing cool about anorexia -- and there is nothing cool about dying before you ever had the chance to truly live.
What do you think about this dying anorexic woman getting so much fan mail for being so thin?
Image via BTV