Room to Grow: An Appetite for Life is a very easy read. It's a book written for anyone with a desire to understand anorexia. Tracy Gold is identifiable because many of us remember her as Carol Seaver from Growing Pains. Carol was the nerdy sister, whose older brother, Mike, often made fat jokes about her.
Tracy takes an honest look at herself and her family as issues that contributed to her anorexia. Yes, she was on television, but in the opening paragraph of the book she states that her anorexia was not the product of Hollywood.
"I believe I would have become anorexic even if I had grown up in a small town in the Midwest and never been an actress. My illness was never a ‘troubled Hollywood teen actor' thing. The pressures that overwhelmed me were magnified because I was appearing on a popular weekly series, but they were the same pressures that are faced by every girl in America. Every young girl is vulnerable to eating disorders in our society" (p. 1).
Tracy talks about how she struggled with anorexia twice and for two very different reasons. As a preteen Tracy feared growing up. Since her first bout with anorexia wasn't about being skinny (it was about staying little), it was easier for her to accept help.
As Tracy got older, she gained what would have been considered a "freshmen 15" if she had been in college. The following season on Growing Pains, every episode featured "fat jokes" about Carol. Tracy was told to lose weight.
"I can't, and don't, put the blame on other people, because truthfully it's an addiction or weakness like any other—I have to take responsibility for it" (p. 74).
Tracy, like many others, didn't start off wanting to be anorexic. She started on a healthy diet and it grew steadily more serious and dangerous over time. As her behavior got more destructive, she admitted that she was anorexic again and with her family and boyfriend (now husband) agreed that she needed to go to therapy again. Tracy discusses how she went through the motions of therapy with no intention of changing.
The relevance of Room to Grow is that you may see yourself in it or someone else you know. Sometimes when we are going through something like anorexia, even though we know others have it or have been there before, we feel all alone. For me, the first time I could see that it really wasn't just me was when I was reading this book. Some of the struggles I have with my body issues that most people will never understand were almost justified. Justified, but at the same time put into the proper perspective.
During the time that Tracy struggled with anorexia, it wasn't something very many people talked about. And certainly there weren't speculations of different anorexic stars every week. Tracy Gold was the first actress that really woke people up to the fact that this was a real disease. And, for many of us, we can relate to her. She doesn't glamorize anorexia like some stars try to today. She shows the pain associated with it and talks about how close she came to dying because of it and how it was up to her to make the choice, because no one else could do it for her.
"I remember that when I was sick I would always say that having anorexia felt like I was drowning. I would struggle to reach the surface and stick my hand up, waiting for someone to grab it and pull me out. Somewhere along the way, I realized that the only person who could pull me out was me" (p. 176).
Room to Grow: An Appetite for Life is relevant for everyone, because everyone has a sister, girlfriend, wife, daughter or just a young girl in their lives. Tracy Gold doesn't give "secrets" of anorexia, however she reveals patterns that everyone should be aware of.
This article appears in the following topics: Eating Disorders