Is it time to put eating disorders on the agenda? (St. Paul's Hospital)

Weighing a childlike 80 pounds as a law student, Angela Rinaldis wrote her final exams in a fog. The dotted line of bruises down her spine from carrying a backpack of books with no flesh to protect her bones finally made her sick of being sick. Then, a decade ago at age 24, she asked to be treated for anorexia at St. Paul’s Hospital — and now marvels at her survival.

Rinaldis credits finding a spot at St. Paul’s Hospital and working with its then-head of the eating disorder program, Dr. Laird Birmingham, with saving her life. She was immediately given intravenous fluids to replenish missing nutrients. She ate small meals designed to ease her into eating again without triggering dangerous reactions associated with giving too much food to a starving person, including heart failure and seizure.

It ended years of bizarre rules that an inner voice had imposed on her since age 16: a strict schedule for any eating, a handful of acceptable foods, extreme exercise routines taking up to five hours a day, and no skin contact with forbidden foods like butter. She needed to wear a rubber glove to remove it from the fridge when setting the table for her Italian family.

Erin Ellis reports

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