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Anorexia is the shadow crying to us to honor all parts of ourselves—to honor our bodies, our spirits, our animal passions, our dreams, and our deep connection to Mother Earth.

—Cat Saunders


Anorexia: Questions for Self-Exploration

By Cat Saunders

This page contains the original list of questions I used to interview the women whose stories are included my series called "Anorexia: Four Women Tell All."

The interview questions are offered here for those who would like to use them to explore their own family dynamics related to anorexia or to eating disorders in general. Helping professionals may also find the questions supportive in their work with clients who are challenged by eating disorders.

You can read the interviews in this series by clicking on the links below:

Anorexia: Four Women Tell All
Meg's Story

Anorexia: Four Women Tell All
Leah's Story

Anorexia: Four Women Tell All
jill's Story

Anorexia: Four Women Tell All
Cat's Story

* * * * *

1. Do you consider yourself anorexic now?

2. If anorexia is over for you, when do you think it was over, and how long did it last for you?

3. How would you describe the onset of anorexia?

4. If you feel safe to say, what was your height and weight at the lowest point of anorexia, and what is your so-called normal weight?

5. How did anorexia manifest for you, in terms of behaviors?

6. Do you think you were anorexic before you admitted it?

7. Did others know you were anorexic, and if so, who knew and how did they respond to you?

8. What was it like for you growing up in your family?

9. Did your parents treat boys and girls differently in your family?

10. How did your parents treat you at puberty?

11. Describe your mother, from your understanding now.

12. Describe your father, from your understanding now.

13. What was your parents’ relationship like when you were growing up?

14. Do you know anything about your birth?

15. Did you have any head injuries or accidents before the onset of anorexia?

16. Have you ever been suicidal?

17. Have you ever tried suicide?

18. Were you emotionally neglected or abused? If so, how?

19. Were you physically neglected or abused? If so, how?

20. What was your parents’ response to your having neds?

21. Was there any emphasis on appearances—either in terms of how you looked, or how the family looked?

22. What were your family’s rules about conflict?

23. Were you shamed or criticized? If so, how?

24. Were you controlled in any way? If so, how?

25. What was your family’s relationship to feelings?

26. What kind of communication happened in your family?

27. What was your family’s relationship to food, eating, and mealtimes?

28. What were your parents’ expectations for you when you grew up?

29. Were you sexually abused, either covertly or overtly?

30. If you were sexually abused, does anyone in your family know? If people in your family know, what was their response?

31. What were your family’s main rules, in one-sentence cliché form?

32. What was the role of affection in your family?

33. What did your parents teach you about anger, by their example?

34. What did your parents teach you about tears?

35. What did your parents teach you about fear?

36. What did your parents teach you about joy?

37. Was there anything in your family, or in your childhood, which you think positively contributed to your sense of self?

38. What do you think were the roots of your anorexia?

39. What do you think anorexia is about spiritually?

40. What kind of healing work have you done in regard to anorexia? What has been helpful and what hasn’t been helpful?

41. What is your relationship with your body now?

42. Do you think food will ever be a non-charged issue for you?

43. What have you learned by taking the anorexic path?

44. What do you think is the role of the culture in anorexia?

45. What do you think is the most important thing an anorexic needs to heal?

46. What do you think is the gift for the world from the presence of anorexia?    


The image at the beginning of this interview is one of 1300 daily drawings completed by Cat between 1983 and 1987, from which a deck of 64 images was created called "Shadow and Light: Images of Change and Transformation for Women in Recovery."



Cat Saunders, Ph.D., is a counselor and consultant, death researcher, and nonsectarian minister in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Dr. Cat's Helping Handbook (available at Amazon.com). Click here to contact Cat or learn more about her work by returning to the home page. To schedule in-person or telephone consultations, please email Cat or call her 24-hour confidential voice mail at (206) 329-0125.