Anorexia Diaries: A Mother and Daughter's Triumph over Teenage Eating Disorders

Anorexia Diaries: A Mother and Daughter's Triumph over Teenage Eating Disorders

by Linda Rio, Tara Rio

"Last night I asked my mom some questions about bulimia and anorexia. I thought for sure she would know what I was doing to myself. How could a mother not know the terrible things her daughter was doing?"

"Tara seems fine these last few days. The questions she asked me the other night scared me. But now I think she's just curious. Maybe one of her friends is

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"Last night I asked my mom some questions about bulimia and anorexia. I thought for sure she would know what I was doing to myself. How could a mother not know the terrible things her daughter was doing?"

"Tara seems fine these last few days. The questions she asked me the other night scared me. But now I think she's just curious. Maybe one of her friends is having a problem with something."

Mother and daughter, living in the same house, yet at times it seems as though they are on different planets. Tara, growing obsessive about the way she looks, feels her mom no longer understands her. Linda, while concerned about the changes her teenage daughter is going through, is focused on making a career for herself as a family therapist. Neither knows how to reverse the terrible path that Tara is heading down.

Tara's and Linda's side-by-side diaries of this difficult time, only shared with each other years later, show both sides of their maddening ordeal and inspiring victory to keep their family together.

In addition to sharing their actual diaries, Tara and Linda look back on the drama of those years to offer the wisdom and perspective that can only come with hindsight. Craig Johnson, Ph.D., an international leader in the research and treatment of eating disorders, offers useful advice and fascinating commentary on the Rios' story to inform today's families who may be going through similar situations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mother Linda and daughter Tara chronicle the years of Tara's eating disorder through their diaries in this honest, raw account. As Tara, diagnosed with bulimarexia in high school, explains: "Basically, I eat very little and whatever I do eat I throw up." Feeling abandoned by a mother focused on developing her career, Tara directed the anger she felt toward Linda and her sometimes volatile family toward herself. "All I know for sure is that from the moment I hung my head over the toilet and felt the rush of adrenaline reach my temples, I knew I was in love. Like a heroine addict longing for the next hit, I would sit in class and daydream about when I would get the next opportunity to vomit," Tara writes in one of the "Looking Back" sections that contextualize and reflect upon the diary entries. When Linda learns of Tara's vomiting, she writes, "I'm not going to waste any time in getting her (us!) help....That damn kid is sick-really sick....Oh god...grant me some wisdom." The diary entries are striking counterpoints to each other, and reveal their authors' struggles as Tara's eating disorder and a suicide attempt land her in a mental hospital and Linda agonizes about Tara's "depressive obsessions" and her own ability to be a good mother. Their later commentaries, which bookend each chapter, and Johnson's concluding advice and information in Part II are especially useful to anyone trying to understand these issues. The double entries sometimes repeat unessential facts, and as the book progresses, it loses some focus as Tara goes to college and deals with other difficult experiences, including a sexual assault. This is not a book about triumph, in the end, but about the long and arduous path to recovery. For those dealing with similar problems, it should offer insight and hope. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This collection of excerpts from two actual diaries reveals a mother's and daughter's heart-wrenching struggle with an eating disorder. Tara began keeping a diary during her teenage years as a way of expressing her most intimate thoughts about her inability to take control over purging. Her mother, Linda-who is, ironically, a psychologist and family therapist-began writing her diary in the late 1970s. As diary entries from both women disclose, the Rio family underwent much torment and miscommunication during those years. While the mother suffered personal and business uncertainties, unaware of her daughter's serious condition, Tara attempted suicide and was sent to a mental hospital. There she continued to battle depression, even as she underwent therapy, until she saw a segment of Oprah on what healthy bodies look like and was finally able to recognize her condition. This parallel chronicle of two different perceptions of the same situation covers a lot of ground, but at its core remains the mother/daughter estrangement, the daughter's depression and loneliness, and much emotional growth. The book ends with commentary by Craig Johnson, an eating disorders specialist who discusses signs and symptoms of bulimia and anorexia and uses the Rio family example to offer advice on how to recognize eating disorders. Highly recommended.-Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Rodale Press, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt


It seems like I've been writing in a diary for as long as I can remember. Keeping diaries has been a family tradition, something my mother passed along to me as I have to my daughters. Held sacred to the women in our family, they served as a secret outlet to divulge our innermost thoughts and emotions.

As a young girl, I would begin each new diary promising to write every day. Inevitably, a month later I would stuff it in my nightstand drawer, quickly losing interest. But I would always pick it up again at times when I was upset and needed an outlet to express my frustration, anger, and sadness. I think I really began to depend on my diary as a source of comfort when I was about 8.

I was always aware that my mother kept a diary as well. I would go in to say goodnight to her and see her lying in bed feverishly writing about the day's events. What I didn't know was that she too began using a diary at a young age. I think I was about 14 when my mom let me read her diary from her preteen and teen years. This gesture meant the world to me. The idea that she trusted me with her most intimate thoughts both shocked and delighted me. Reading through my mother's teenage feelings made me realize that she actually had been a teenager at one time, an idea entirely foreign to me up until then. I instantly gained a new kind of respect and understanding for her. A resilient bond developed that would later prove helpful to us as we navigated through troubled waters.

The next time my mom let me read her diaries was a couple of years ago. She was cleaning out some of her things when she came across the entries she had written during my illness. As I began to read her desperate, pain-filled words, an overwhelming sense of empathy came over me, along with the inescapable feelings of guilt and sadness. As we sat together on the floor of her bedroom with damp eyes, one phrase kept coming out of my mouth, "I had no idea you felt that way."

That night I went home and pulled out some of my old diaries from the same time period. As I apprehensively read the pain-filled entries, I was stunned to see how, regardless of our good intentions, my mom and I perceived things in drastically different ways. It seemed as if the two of us weren't even living in the same house during my teen years. It was frustrating to realize we had the same goals but couldn't connect with each other enough to achieve them. It was out of this frustration that the book you now hold in your hands was born.

I believe our experiences are common among mothers and daughters. We hope that in hearing our story and reading snapshots of our thoughts and feelings from that arduous time, other mothers and daughters will be able to find the connection that took us so long to discover. By examining both sides of the teen-parent psyche, we hope this book gives readers a greater sense of empathy and tolerance for each other that helps reduce the gap of misunderstandings within families.

Tara Rio

I started keeping a diary when I was 12 years old. My older half-brother, whom I only met a couple of times, sent it to me in the mail. I cherished this very small, white, vinyl-covered book. It had a small lock with a key, and, most important, gold edges on the pages. I loved to run my fingers over those shiny, smooth edges.

It's never easy to go back and read my diaries, but it's especially difficult delving into pages and pages of my handwritten diary accounts of the years that my daughter Tara suffered from eating disorders. But I knew I had to. As a mother, I had to know if my diaries revealed any clues as to why my daughter later struggled so much during her adolescence. As I spent hours poring over my old diary pages, it sometimes felt as if I were picking through the sand and rock of an archeological site, unearthing the history of our family's ups and downs.

Once I began reading, I discovered a lot—maybe too much at times. Yet not enough to completely understand Tara's situation. Not until years later, when Tara approached me with the idea of putting this book together, and not until I had the incredible experience of reading my daughter's thoughts written in her own hand as she went through this terrible time, did I fully appreciate the depth of her pain and the miracle of our triumph. It's not easy to lay bare the secrets of our family. We're not perfect. We're not heroes or even role models. But we're a family that stayed together during a difficult time. We've shared our story, warts and all, in the hope that in some way, it will help your family to understand each other better. With this understanding, we know you, too, can triumph over the challenges in your lives.

Linda M. Rio

Linda's Diary

August 25, 1989

Tara approached me last night. She asked me a lot of weird questions. She scares me. I hope I answered her questions. I like it when she talks to me, but I don't know sometimes if she just wants to talk about just anything or whether it means something more. She hates me so much right now for not being here for her all the time. I can't seem to be able to reach her. I am working a lot this week and don't get to see her much during the week...

Tara's Diary


Last night I asked my mom some questions about bulimia and anorexia, like what throwing up did to your teeth and what problems it could cause your body. I thought that for sure she would know what I was doing to myself.

How could a mother not know the terrible things her daughter was doing?

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