In this painfully moving memoir, take a firsthand look at anorexia through the eyes of a young girl. Even in kindergarten, Rachel Richards knows something isn’t right. By leading us through her distorted thoughts, she shines a light on the experience and mystery of mental illness. As she grows up, unable to comprehend or communicate her inner trauma, Rachel lashes out, hurting herself, running away from home, and fighting her family. Restricting food gives her the control she craves. But after being hospitalized and force-fed, Rachel only retreats further into herself. With a driving perfectionism, she graduates college with honors. But at sixty-nine pounds, Rachel is a shell of nervous and obsessive behaviors that have controlled her life. Years of self-harm and self-loathing have fueled the inner battles between good and evil, health and sickness, and life and death. Acting on stage offers her moments of freedom from the skewed perceptions she’s constructed over the years. But her dream of a career in theater is not enough to save her. What is the secret that will finally unleash her will to recover? If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder or is a concerned parent, is anxious about weight and dieting, has an addiction, or wants to learn more about the mystery of how an eating disorder develops and the multifaceted and complex road to recovery, this book is a must-read!
Rachel Richards has kindly taken the time today to discuss the highly emotional ‘Hungry for Life’ and take us through her journey that allowed her to share this deeply personal story through this memoir. Rachel, thank you for joining me today, I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to guide both myself and the audience through your memoir. As this book documents your personal struggles, I’d like to know why you started writing it and why you decided to share this journey with others.
Several years ago, I made a quick decision to begin scribbling down my story. I wasn’t sure why at the time, though it was partially an attempt to make sense of my turbulent past, and a quest for catharsis. But in retrospect, I believe what compelled me to write was the frustration over feeling misunderstood with regards to my illness. I was driven by a burning need to cut through all the misconceptions and assumptions surrounding anorexia, and reveal the complexity and seriousness of this mental disorder.
During the process of working through your frustrations did you find yourself researching to expand on your knowledge of anorexia from points of view outside of a person who is afflicted with this disorder?
Yes, I did extensive research. In fact, my book includes an appendix devoted to revealing the latest findings in eating disorder research, including discussions on statistics, physical signs and symptoms of anorexia, the psychology of anorexia nervosa, the role of parents and caretakers, genetics, media, Judaism, anorexia as addiction, romance and sex, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia in males, anorexia vs bulimia, and treatment. I also provide references for each topic so that readers can explore further.
From everything that you experienced and what you discovered through research, what do you feel is the most important thing that you wanted to say in your ‘Hungry for Life’?
Self-starvation does not define anorexia, but is merely a symptom, albeit a deadly one. An eating disorder is a beast that resides deep within, destroying a person slowly from the inside out. Research has shed light on anorexia, but studies cannot accurately depict an individual’s mind as she struggles with her disorder. What is going through her head when she decides to stop eating, to study compulsively, to shut out her family and friends, to injure herself, and to live in isolation? My book reveals it all.
During writing, what revealed itself as the most rewarding aspect of this work?
By writing about my traumatic and turbulent past, I was able to make some sense of it, as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It offered me a new perspective and, in doing so, helped me to distance myself psychologically from my anorexic past.
As anorexia is your past, can you tell us a little about your present.
I am a massage therapist and have written numerous articles on massage, health, wellness, and self-care. I went from being severely anorexic, to an authority on health and self-care. I now treat others in pain.
The journey from being the one in pain to treating others in pain is admirable and I am glad to see the progress within the journey of your life. Did you show the journeys of other people you met through your anorexia journey through the course of this book?
Yes, each character in my book represents a person in my life who had a significant impact on the development, the advancement, the continuation of, and/or recovery from my anorexia.
If they made a TV show or movie out of your recovery, who do you think are the best people to cast?
I am an actor, so naturally I would cast myself as … well, myself. Let’s see … maybe Susan Sarandon as my mom, George Clooney as my psychiatrist, Tom Hanks as my high school drama teacher, child actor Jennifer Lawrence to be my younger sister and closest companion, and maybe teenage Elisabeth Shue as my older sister who I spent years hating. As for my dad … well, there’s no one quite like him.
Casting your Dad as your Dad. Top casting choice :). As you initially started this book to ease your frustrations is this the end of your writing career, or are you thinking about continuing on the writer’s path?
I’m thinking of making a collection of essays out of my many massage therapy and health-related articles.
What has drawn you to continue to write? Why do you write?
I write because I have an overwhelming need to communicate something important to masses of people. I felt an urgency with Hungry for Life. My fingers couldn’t type quickly enough to keep up with the words flooding my brain.
How did you find tackle the writing process, handling the overload of words flowing from you and getting this first book finished?
Hungry for Life is my first book and, although it is a memoir, I surprisingly didn’t know how it would end. I guess it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t know what point in my life story would mark the end of my book. I only discovered the answer to that question once I got there.
I find that interesting that you didn’t have an obvious ending to the book when you started, but I’m glad you found it. While writing did you ever find any times when you struggled to write? And how did you get past them?
I take a break. Perhaps read a good book to inspire me. It also helps to reread what I’ve already written.
Do you have any rituals or behaviours that help get you inspired to write?
As the mother of a young child, and a massage therapist with a busy private practice, I write whenever I have a spare minute – usually while I’m eating and in between clients.
Is editing something that is a large part of your writing process?
Yes, I do a tremendous amount of editing myself. But my husband, who is also a writer, is invaluable. We pass drafts back and forth. For Hungry for Life, I also hired a professional content editor, which I found extremely helpful, and a proofreader for my final draft.
Now that you’ve successfully published that first book, do you have any tips for self-publishing for other authors?
It’s a lot of work, so take it one step at a time.
Now I’d like to take a step away from your writing career and end today’s interview with a few random questions to give the readers a wider view of you in as little time as possible. Let’s start with: Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Do what you’re passionate about. The laundry and the dishes can wait.
I’m going to use that excuse to pass on washing up tonight! What is your favourite quote?
One of my favorites is by Neil Gaiman: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
Are you introvert or extrovert?
An introvert posing as an extrovert.
Have you ever danced in the rain?
Yes, with my toddler. It was wonderful.
Toddlers do know some of the best experiences to have in life! If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write the national anthem?
Lin Manuel Miranda
What is your favourite song or music to work by?
I can’t work with music playing. It’s much too distracting. I would just be singing along.
Do you have a ‘do not use’ or ‘most hated words’ list when you are writing?
I don’t have a list, but I try to avoid adverbs as much as possible since reading Stephen King’s On Writing.
That’s the second recommendation for dropping the adverbs in as many days. Are you left or right handed?
What color socks are you wearing?
Mint green fuzzy socks with black, white, yellow, and blue polkadots.
They sound cozy. Speaking of cozy, what is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
Mint chocolate chip.
Always a winning choice. Rachel, I’d like to thank you again for allowing me a little insight into your writing and past and I wish you the best of luck sharing your experiences with Kindle readers throughout the world.
Want to find out more about Rachel Richards? Connect here!