teenager:
young person older than twelve but younger than twenty

grade:
a “level” or “year” in school (You start in “Grade One” and next year you're in “Grade Two”)

tease:
playfully (but often cruelly) “make fun” of someone. (For example by joking about how they look.)

skinny:
thin; (negative connotation)

naked:
not wearing any clothes

anorexia:
a mental illness; people who have anorexia stop eating because they think they are fat even though they are very thin

mental:
connected with the mind

illness:
sickness

thigh:
part of a human leg between the hip and the knee

Molly Ahrens (easy version)

From the time she was a little girl, Molly Ahrens wanted to be perfect. She always kept her room clean. She always did well at school; she always tried to be happy and friendly. When she was young, this seemed to be a good thing; but later, when Molly was a teenager, she almost killed herself by trying to be perfect.

When she was in Grade Three, Molly suddenly started to gain weight. Other children started teasing her. That made her feel bad, so she decided to be careful about what she ate. She lost some of the weight she had gained but not all of it, and her friends kept teasing her.

When Molly was in Grade Six, she suddenly grew taller. She lost all the weight she'd gained, but she still didn't feel thin. Her doctor told her that her weight was normal for her height, but she still felt fat.

From that time on, Molly thought about her weight all the time. She often stood in front of a mirror, pinching her stomach and her thighs. She decided that she would eat as little as possible. At school she sometimes she didn't have any lunch. At home she didn't eat much either. She tried to fool her parents by just pushing her food around on her plate without putting it into her mouth.

Molly weighed 42 kilograms, normal for her height, when she first decided to eat as little as possible. Before long her weight was down to 36 kilograms. Her parents started telling her she looked "skinny." They thought that would make her feel bad and that then she would start eating normally again. Her parents were wrong, however; being called skinny made Molly feel happy.

By the time Molly had her thirteenth birthday, in April 1994, she weighed only 34 kilograms. One day Molly's mother happened to see her naked in the bathroom. She was shocked and she cried out, "Oh God! What's happened to you?" The next day she took Molly to a doctor.

The doctor told Molly and her mother that Molly had "anorexia." He explained that this is a mental illness, not a physical one. In other words, there was nothing wrong with Molly's body; the problem was with her mind. The doctor explained that "anorexics" are people who think they're fat even though they're very thin. They keep trying to get thinner by eating as little as possiible. Sometimes they eat so little that they die.

After going to the doctor, Molly went away to a summer camp. There, even though she knew anorexia was dangerous, she kept eating as little as possible. After she'd been in the camp for a few days, her parents came to visit her. By that time she weighed only 31 kilograms. Her hip bones were sticking out. Her cheeks were hollow. She had dark rings under her eyes. Molly's parents were frightened and they immediately took Molly to another doctor who told her that if she didn't start eating, she'd have to go to a hospital. When she heard that, Molly was frightened too and she started eating more. But whenever she ate, she started worrying about getting fat, and then she did a lot of exercise to lose weight.

The next time Molly went to a doctor, her weight was down to 30 kilograms. She was immediately sent to a special hospital for anorexic teenagers. The doctors there told her that if she didn't start eating more, she might be dead in two weeks. In the hospital, Molly had to eat. If she didn't, she wasn't allowed to make phone calls or do any activities with other patients. By the time Molly left the hospital she had got her weight up to 35 kilograms, but, after she left, she started to lose weight again. Soon she was back down to 33 kilograms. That was when she really got serious about fighting her anorexia.

Molly went back to the hospital and promised herself that she wouldn't leave until she weighed 41 kilograms. Within six weeks she had reached her goal; and after she left the hospital, she gained 14 kilograms more. She felt much better then. However, even though she was still thin, sometimes, when she looked in the mirror, she still felt she was fat.

--information from an article by Molly Ahrens and Laura Muha in "YM," 97.10