Dr. W.P. Smedley is a Board Certified General Surgeon, well-trained in the care of critically ill patients.

  His interest in Anorexics and Bulimics was sparked by a member of his family developing the signs and symptoms of the condition. He knew she was raised with special care and love and must have some underlying medical reason for her symptoms. When this proved true the treatment of her condition resulted in complete recovery.

  Dr. Smedley currently has sixty-eight cases of anorexia - bulimia that have all recovered through his medical investigations.

Mom, Do I Look Fat?

The alternative look
at eating disorders:
Anorexia and Bulimia

by W.P. Smedley M.D.
is now available.
More Information

W.P. Smedley
M.D. F.A.C.S.
Is no longer
practicing. This
site remains for
information only.

Patient three, Kim

   Today is Monday, May 29. It's been one week since my nightmare ended, but it feels like years. Already the horrors of those months are fading to the back of my mind like a bad dream. My recovery has been so peaceful that I find it hard to believe I used to be so agitated I never sat still. I've gathered my thoughts on the whole experience and I'm writing down what I can remember. Perhaps, hearing what I went through can help another suffering the same way.

   When did my private hell begin? It's hard to say; one thing led to another. The lines are so vague they blur together into a horrible continuum. I have always been a highly emotional girl, sensitive and self-doubting. But it was around Christmas time of my sophomore year that things began to change for me. My first boyfriend dumped me. And like any girl I was upset. But I carried it a bit farther than most. I just couldn't seem to get over it. That is when I decided I was "too fat" to get a guy. But rather than doing something about it, I sat around moping and eating ice cream and potato chips, getting more miserable everyday. My best friend was suffering from depression, and I felt alone and abandoned. My Mom tells me I walked around with a "dark cloud" hanging over me. By Springtime, I decided to start exercising and just be happy with myself. By Summer, I felt great. I was very active-babysitting, full-time, riding my bike ten miles daily, hanging out with my close friends. By the time school was beginning my Junior year, I was flying sky high and felt invincible. I went into the school year with lofty goals, set to pull back up the grades I'd let slip the year before. Little could I have known that soon I'd be plunged into the darkest, most trying ordeal of my life. Around Christmas, I began to feel "fat". Again.

   I started this new aerobic deep-breathing exercise program. Fifteen minutes a day and you can eat anything you want to! "Great", I thought. "I can't go wrong with that". And for a while it worked. I ate a cookie or two, candy, and junk every day and lost five pounds by New Year's Eve. I weighed about one hundred and twenty five pounds. But I began to notice my clothes fit rather oddly. One day my jeans would be loose, three days later I couldn't get them on over my thighs. And I'd always had nice, concave abs. Now I began to get a roll I'd notice when I sat. But still the scales stayed the same. I began stressing out and exercising twice a day obsessively. I also became so constipated that I couldn't manage a bowel movement without strong laxatives. My family doctor prescribed more fiber. But I got worse. I ate only tiny meals and exercised forty-five minutes or so every day. My world revolved around exercise. At school I'd spend all my morning classes talking myself out of buying lunch. "If you eat those chicken nuggets you're going to get fat!!" I was sure that if I bought lunch rather than a fat free pretzel, I'd magically add five pounds overnight. I'd be so stressed, I wouldn't even pay attention to class. Then I'd give in and end up buying the lunch anyway. And I'd feel ridiculously full the entire day , so I'd go home, refuse to eat dinner, and go work out in my basement. Around mid-February I got so disgusted with my life that I went to Mom for help. We talked, and she suggested I try talking to my Vice-Principal (who doubles as a student counselor). I consented, but I knew that wouldn't help me. And he did feel I needed to talk to someone. Not a "shrink" though-" an old friend over on Pierce Street". He sent me to Dr. Smedley. I remember first walking into that office which is now so familiar to me. Decorated like a study or a country den, the atmosphere immediately intrigued me and set me at ease. After a brief, convincing examination, Dr. Smedley had me diagnosed= not as an anorexic, as I had expected, but as having gallbladder disease and an underactive thyroid. I was relieved; I'd known I wasn't "crazy". He told me to go on his low fat diet for three weeks and come back. In those three weeks, I quickly learned what foods I could eat. When I mistakenly goofed, I was crippled with severe cramps all up and down my right side. But the gasiness and bloated, horribly "full" feelings subsided. I still got constipated. In those first three weeks I dropped another ten pounds. I now weighed in at 115lbs, and loved I! Dr. Smedley explained how my weight loss and other factors pointed at my gallbladder disease. The proof was all there, he assured me. He told me to go another three weeks, and then we could discuss surgery.

   I was ecstatic. I could already envision myself chewing down on burgers and fries like a normal teenager. But my Mom was still uneasy and my father remained adamantly skeptical. He constantly made jokes about my weight loss or eating too little, to which I would respond, either with tears or angry outbursts. A cloud of perpetual tension hung over our house.

   Thus began the longest and darkest month and a half of my life. The Saint Anthony Diet was reducing the inflammation and preparing me for surgery, but the diseased organ was still there poisoning my mind day by day. It is hard to write about this time; I don't remember everything I said and did, or how each symptom worsened. And there is some I will no doubt keep forever locked in the vaults of my mind, like a horrible secret.

   I began to feel I couldn't control my mind. I'd weigh myself each morning and tell myself, "See how much weight you've lost and you haven't even been counting calories. Limit your self to 1500 and you'll be skinnier". I borrowed Dr. Smedley's F.A.T. Book (Finally Answers To) from our school library to read up on what I could and could not eat. But I was radical with the diet. I ate no red meat or even chicken, measured portions, and refused to touch something if I didn't know its caloric content. Thus, I flipped if I couldn't prepare my own meals. And I'm hypoglycemic, but I refused to snack between my three meals (as I had been instructed to do), and continued my rigid exercise daily to the disruption of the entire household. But I didn't care; it was absolutely necessary that I exercise before dinner. I was terrified of missing a day of it. This was a touchy issue, over which my parents and I constantly fought and argued. Around this time (April, and I was exceedingly busy at school) our glee club choral concert was upcoming, and we had practice every night. On evenings when I'd be stuck downtown all day, I'd pick up dinner (usually yogurt and pretzels or salad) making sure it was as few calories as I could manage. Then I'd stumble in, barely awake at 10 PM and force myself to exercise before bed. Most of the time I operated like an automaton, going through the routines of my day numbly, feeling nothing but an overwhelming emptiness. My hormones (sex drive) and emotions faded. I laughed and was occasionally happy, but it was a fake joy, one I'd force and was acting. Any little setback/problem would send me crashing back to depression. I began to always talk of my diet and illness, weight loss, pain, etc. I was basically incapable of carrying on a conversation about anything else, but the thoughts of my "fatness" were perpetually on my mind. I hated the stress but could not stop obsessing over my weight. I had a few dates with a senior, and we really hit it off at first. I remember feeling devoid of emotion, then, too. Some small part of me said, "You should be feeling something, either way" But there was just numbness.

   I began finding that I couldn't' produce any decent artwork any more…. I'd always been a talented artist, but now nothing "right"- I'd get frustrated and give up in about fifteen minutes! And I'd try to read a book, but as soon as I turned a page, I couldn't remember a thing that happened on the previous one. The same thing held true for studying for tests, And I began blanking, a thing I'd never had a problem with before. I'm the "A" student! I couldn't concentrate in class past the thick "fog" in my brain, dulling my senses. My hair, always curly, thick, and bouncy, became exceedingly dull, dry, and lifeless, and continued to come out in clumps. My skin acquired a drawn, pasty-pale dead look, and when I accidentally cut myself it bled for days. I hadn't had my menstrual cycle since February (and then it was irregularly light). I was hypothyroid and perpetually cold. I could not stand being in a cold room, outdoors or having air blow on me. I slept with about six or seven heavy blankets in a sweatsuit, and I'd still shiver. When my friends were donning tanktops and eating Dairy Queen to cool off in the middle 70degree weather, I was bundled in a sweater and coat sipping hot tea to stop shivering.

   And I retained fluid terribly- in my arms, thighs, and cheeks- from one day to the next two or three inches would bloat or fade. Before I knew there was a medical reason for this, I used to think I gained weight overnight! And even though I now know the cause, I'd still feel "fat" on a bad day. I felt this constant coat of anger, at no one in particular, just a burning annoyance at life in general. The slightest little things- a chair creaking, birds chirping, someone sneezing, certain voices, would grate on my nerves to the point where I could not stand it! I'd feel my blood boil and literally go crazy with rage. I'd try to be quiet, but eventually I'd flip and start raving and reacting. I'd kick the dog out of my way daily and even swing at my brother a few times. I'd feel no remorse. How dare they get in My way? From what I have been told, I routinely told my friends to "take a hike and leave me alone", and then fall to tears later when I couldn't figure out why everyone was ignoring/avoiding me. I was systematically driving away everyone that cared for me. I was so absorbed in my self-pity that I felt alone and abandoned. I gave up exercise as I'd be too exhausted by evening time, and I needed every spare calorie I ate. I was hypoglycemic, but refused to snack- I'd exceed my calorie limit. My blood sugar crashed, and I'd barely drag myself out of school. I was down about 98lbs. Then around Eastertime, I was put on Synthroid for my low thyroid, and in about five days began losing the fluid "puffiness". I didn't feel as fat, could actually begin to concentrate and comprehend at school. And there would be days when I wasn't freezing! I got a ravenous appetite, and frequently snacked. And I began going out to places with my friends again. My surgery was scheduled for May 22- it couldn't be sooner, because I had to make it to a school function and my prom on the 19th. I looked forward to that day as the end of my suffering, my relief and salvation. I could imagine myself tearing into juicy hamburgers and fries, and chocolate, and ice cream! I'd read in Dr.'s book that for two to three weeks following surgery, one's body was so "upset" by the anesthesia that one couldn't put on weight. "OK, I thought, two weeks to eat it all. Then you have to watch again of you'll get fat". I planned everywhere I wanted to go and what to eat.

   As my surgery date grew closer, I continued to lose weight. By the time my two weeks before my check-up for surgery, I was down to 92lbs, eating 1000calories a day and using laxatives at least every other day to ease the pain of constipation. Dr. Smedley cut my thyroid dose in half to keep me from losing any more weight, and to stabilize my system presurgically. I was down to 92lbs for whatever reason. I was intent on not gaining any of it back before my operation. Those two weeks were the longest and hardest of my life. Within three days my skin started getting dry again and I began retaining fluids. I'd wake up with pillow crease indentations on my face, and get lines around my ankles when I took off my socks, underwear or bra. The " fat thoughts" came back with a vengeance and I had myself convinced that I had to stop snacking because my thyroid was slowing down again. I lost my appetite and found it hard to get myself to eat much of anything. And my Mom made me cut down on my activity because I began suffering faintness and weak spells. And yet, I pulled through. One week before my surgery I went with my school to Penn State for three days to present a science project. I won a 1st place award and a special award entitling me to go to Pittsburgh with it next September. I had an awesome time up there and became closer to many of my friends.

   And the following Friday ,three days to go, I went to my Junior Prom in a white Cinderella-style gown. (I don't even recognize the skeleton in those photos now).

   Monday morning they wheeled me in to the operating room at 7:30AM. I weighed 92lbs and was so dehydrated that the veins in my hands were collapsed. The anesthetist had to start the I.V. at my elbow. And within minutes I drifted off into a peaceful slumber, my long nightmare at last at an end.

   My operation lasted several hours, and I woke up that afternoon, insatiably thirsty. Already I felt different- despite the operative pain and swelling- I was deeply peaceful, relaxed and happy. I didn't feel fat or angry- that horrible little voice had been silenced. I was discharged from the hospital the following morning, already eating everything in sight. The most wonderful feeling was the first bite of solid food I took- a Snicker's Bar, my favorite candy- I ate that whole thing and didn't get that sick "full" feeling. And I haven't since!

   It has now been one week since my surgery. I can eat anything I want, and never get that full feeling. The toughest part of recovery for me has been the gas pressure and its unfortunate spontaneous expulsions. (My family lights candles whenever I enter the room). It will be six to eight weeks before I fully recover, and my thyroid has yet to stabilize. (I'm retaining fluids) but I am patient. I feel as though a great cloud and weight have been lifted off my shoulders. My sense of humor is back and also my "sappiness" (movies make me cry again). Odd memories from back in my childhood have been popping up fondly in my mind. My family and friends already see great changes in me. I've painted a beautiful painting already. All my long-dead emotions have begun to reawaken, and I feel reborn. It is like seeing the world through new eyes.

   Granted, it hasn't been all roses. It will be several months before I feel fully well again. I've begun retaining fluids horribly again- in my face, arms, and thighs. My stomach is swollen and still sore. I get tired easily, and feel "huge" from the fluid retention. But I know that will all fade and soon I'll forget this as well.

   I hope that my ordeal can be of some help to other sufferers, and just know that you are not alone. There is an end to the pain!

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Additional Information:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome | Gallbladder Disease
Gallbladder Disease in Children | Depression | Gastroparesis
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