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One of my Training Complex (Training Season Series #2) characters, Matty Marcus, showed up in my head last summer with what he claimed was a brilliant idea for a short, kinky novella. He promised me loads of laughs and a lot of shenanigans. At the time, I was in the middle of finishing Smoky Mountain Dreams and felt reluctant to be pulled away from my work there, but eventually Matty was so insistent I agreed to give him some air time.
However, it quickly became clear during the writing of the book that the motivation behind Matty’s kinky idea wasn’t what I’d been promised. It was, in fact, tied to the eating disorder that was not comprehensively dealt with in the first book Training Season. This new information required that I stop the presses and do a large amount of research on eating disorders.
I already knew quite a bit about anorexia from my time in psychology. I also have a dear friend who has long suffered from it, and sadly, it’s made a more recent appearance in my extended family. But I hadn’t read much beyond textbooks. So I went out and got some books written from the anorexic’s perspective or from the perspective of family members. And wow, were those some interesting reads! Not because I learned all that much about anorexia, because I didn’t, but because I realized anorexia has something very much in common with major depression: they are both illnesses that focus a person inward to a degree that often times, to their family members and friends, feels incredibly self-centered and selfish.
(This is not to say that these illness ARE self-centered or selfish, but rather that for the people in these individual’s lives, the symptoms of the illness often come across that way. An important and very big distinction!)
It was, I admit, hard to like the authors of the eating disorder memoirs, especially those who were writing while in the throes of their illness. Their illness made them focused so entirely on themselves and managing/hiding their illness, that they were blind and/or disinterested in the pain their actions caused others. There was one book in particular about a male anorexic and for most of it I just wanted to throttle the man. The reviews of his book all warned for how unlikable he was during his illness, but he’d wanted to keep it honest, to show what real anorexics are like when you’re dealing with them in person. Apparently he did recover from his disease to some extent and is now a very loving, generous father. I’m glad that he was able to live and thrive. So many don’t.
So many people believe that the only real symptom of anorexia (or a restrictive eating issue) is a stubborn refusal to eat food. But there are a lot of other symptoms too, both physical and emotional. Since the physical are well-known and often obvious, I’m going to discuss the emotional and social symptoms of anorexia.
First, there is typically a voice of the eating disorder that takes over the mind of the individual, leaving them a slave to its whims. In addition, there is typically a serious amount of self-absorption and lack of concern for how one’s behaviors around the illness affect others. Anyone or anything that comes between an anorexic and his/her starvation is seen as a threat to the disease and the person is often ignored/disdained from that point on until recovery can be made.
Interestingly, all of those symptoms are reversible by putting weight on the person, or by re-feeding them, as the terminology goes.
Studies of starvation show the exact same symptoms appear across all starving people regardless of whether they are victims of anorexia or famine. They become self-absorbed, lose interest in food altogether and need to be forced to eat, they often hear experience a voice of starvation, and they often stop paying attention to how their actions around food affect others. It’s amazing, really, that there is brain chemistry behind all of this, not just a person’s personality. You can take any person and starve them enough, and you’ll see these particular emotional, social, and physical responses.
So yes, restrictive eating issues start and end with eating enough food, but the slippery slope from dieting to a problem that affects every aspect of one’s life is a very real risk for anyone, but athletes especially.
Within Training Complex, I wanted to explore Matty’s eating disorder, but I needed to walk a line to ensure he remained likable. I think his saving grace is that he always loves Rob more than he loves himself. He gets very sick for a while but, after a reality check, his love for Rob pulls him out of it, as it should in a romance novel. (If only real life worked like romance novels!
I don’t pretend that the eating disorder as presented in this book will reflect any particular person’s actual experience of an E.D., but I do hope the research I’ve done and respect I have for those who struggle with the illness comes through. While it is definitely possible to focus on Matty’s selfishness in the book, I hope this post can help illuminate why it is more important to see him as a sick young man and to see his self-absorption as one more symptom of that disease.
Eating disorders are real and life-threatening. If suspect that you or one of your loved ones has an eating disorder and you need help, visit http://www.anad.org.
Training Complex is a darker book than Training Season, but I believe it is rewarding as well, with an earned and joyous ending. Thank you, Boys in Our Books, for this opportunity to talk about eating disorders, anorexia, and my new book!
Buckle up – Matty’s back!
Figure skater Matty Marcus didn’t capture Olympic gold, but he won rancher Rob Lovely’s heart.
After Rob sold his ranch and Matty hung up his skates, they started a new life together in New York City. Now Matty has taken on a fresh challenge as a figure skating coach, and Rob’s second career as a physical therapist should be everything he’s dreamed of. But in the brutal heat of their third summer in the city, Rob yearns for the wide-open country, and the intensity of city life awakens Matty’s demons.
Matty asks for increasingly intense BDSM scenes, and his disordered eating and erratic behavior ramp up the stakes. Rob struggles to stay in control, and after a well-intentioned anniversary gift goes awry, he still thinks he can handle the fallout. But the concrete jungle is closing in and his coping skills are unraveling.
Their love is deep, but Rob will have to admit the truth about what he really wants before they both tumble into chaos.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XIDBMNA/
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/541838
About the Author:
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.