Girl Warns Moms About Dangerous Habit That Gave Her a Heart Attack at Just 17

heart attackEvery parent wants the best for their children in terms of good nutrition and age-appropriate exercise. There's a line, though, where a healthy diet becomes just a diet, and where physical activity ends up as physically-dangerous activity. And there's no more potent evidence of what can happen when the hooks of an eating disorder work their way into a young person's brain that the story of Jeannette Suros, a 24-year-old from Pennsylvania, whose extreme dieting and exercise starting at the age of 10 landed her in the hospital with a heart attack as a teenager.

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On her blog, Suros details her battle with anorexia from its middle-school origins. She describes six-hour stretches of nothing but exercise, skipping meals, and avoiding 'bad' foods -- and sometimes all foods -- with a toxic combination of appetite suppressants and lies to her parents. Between her twin careers in gymnastics and cheerleading, and the pervasive social demands to be pleasingly tiny, Suros believed that any pain she felt was worth it to be thin. At her thinnest, she was 5'2" and a mere 64 pounds. All this culminated in her collapse at age 16 and an anorexia diagnosis from the local hospital -- which her wonderful peers responded to by calling her 'fat' and throwing food at her. She agreed to undergo treatment, but the damage done to her body over the past years of malnourishment was so severe that within a year she suffered a serious heart attack.

The happy ending to this horribly sad story is that Suros somehow survived her heart attack and spent the next months slowly building back the weight she needed. And what's more, she's using her harrowing experiences to reach out to others, via her Tumblr, to help save them from what she went through.

More from The Stir: 7 Truths About Eating Disorders Every Parent Needs to Know

Suros's message of body love is still just one voice among the pervasive culture of thin-worship out there. As long as our children can't turn on the TV without seeing two dozen underweight models selling hamburgers and sports carts, as long as kids are going to deride one as 'fat' for eating the occasional donut or french fry, as long as doctors worry more about a child's BMI than her actual health and well-being, we as parents need to do our part. To drown out those voices saying that there is something fundamentally wrong, ugly, or in need of fixing with our kids.

It's our job, after all, to remind our daughters and sons that they are beautiful. A lot of people object to that word being heaped on young women, but as long as 'beautiful' isn't where we stop praising kids, why not tell them that? They're going to need to hear it somewhere before they walk into a world of diet fads and makeup commercials telling them they're anything but that.

What would you do if your child asked you to go on a diet?


Image via © iStock.com/Tharakorn

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