Diary of an Exercise Addict by Peach Friedman
It’s impossible for me to guess why some events will tip people over into despair and self-destruction and not faze others at all. Peach Friedman, a woman I’ve known since childhood, never struck me as the sort to fall apart. She was tough and smart and beautiful and then, well, it all went south.
She was graduating from college, breaking up with a boyfriend, and watching her parents’ marriage nearly fall apart, and that series of unfortunate events triggered something. Eating less. Working out more. Eating far, far, far less. Today, she’s lucky to be alive. Lucky that her disorder started when she was old enough to understand what was going on, lucky that her parents were able to assemble a team of doctors to help her, lucky that they were able to support her financially when she was too sick and too sad to work. And we’re lucky that she’s a good enough writer to tell us what happened and how it felt, and how she came back from it.
It was definitely a little weird reading a memoir of someone I know. I kept expecting to show up in it somewhere, and possibly in an unflattering light. I’m not mentioned, although when she changed the names of the people in the book, she used my name for one of them. Which is fine, because there’s plenty of unflattering to go around without me there. She does a great job describing her parents’ rocky marriage, her brother’s sleazy girlfriends, and her own sleazy boyfriends: The guy who got my name tried to pick her up in the gym by commenting that she worked out so often she probably didn’t even menstruate any more. But mostly, it’s an unflinching look at herself, at how she tried to avoid emotional risk and gain a sense of control through obsessive calorie control and compulsive exercise. If anyone is portrayed harshly in this book, it’s the author herself.
Besides, I love that kind of stuff. I love cringe-inducing, can’t-look-away detail. I love TMI. Why else would you read a memoir if not to find out the dirt? “Diary” definitely provides on that count, chronicling relapses and overuse injuries, bad sex and embarrassing fantasies,Â lanugo, and of course the terrible constipation she suffered as her body learned to deal with eating again.
I’m not really the target market for this book, but it illustrates in such vivid detail the process of physical and emotional deterioration and recovery that I think it makes a compelling read for anyone.