A Conversation with Elena Dunkle




Today we welcome Elena Dunkle to YABC! Elena’s important memoir, Elena Vanishing tackles the topic of anorexia over a five-year period. Elena has graciously shared a list of seven warning signs for anorexia nervosa, which we are now sharing with you. 



Anorexia nervosa is the leading cause of death among young women, and it is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. [http://www.anad.org/get­information/about­eating­ disorders/eating­disorders­statistics/] We all should try to learn what we can about how to spot it and help stop it.

Maybe you have a friend who has been trying to diet lately. How can you tell if this dieting has gone from being a typical teenage behavior to the danger zone? Here are seven warning signs that your friend may be headed for trouble.


1. Your friend doesn’t eat much, but your friend obsessively talks about food.

It sounds strange, but the anorexics I know get a thrill out of talking about food. They ask what you’ve had for breakfast. They watch cooking shows and cake wars, read recipe books, and trade cooking tips. They may even become skilled bakers… but you won’t see them eat a bite.


2. Your friend develops peculiar eating habits.

Many anorexics cut or tear their food into tiny pieces. They’ll take apart a burger or sandwich, arrange their vegetables, and otherwise spend a long, long time fussing with their food before they start to eat. This is a stalling tactic; often, you’ll be finished with your meal before your anorexic friend has taken more than one or two bites.


3. Your friend volunteers to serve the food—but doesn’t get around to eating.

When I was in high school, I loved to be the person who brought in the cupcakes or was behind the table at an event, serving up plates of food to others. Bustling around made me seem to be a part of the social eating, while in reality it allowed me to not eat and go unnoticed.


4. Your friend never takes a food sample, a free handout, or candy from a public dish.

Even today, you won’t see me take a sample in the grocery store or candy from a bowl on someone’s desk. We anorexics develop a number of fears about food, and the idea that lots of people have had their hands in the same dish worries us.


5. Your friend complains about being cold even on hot days and is easily exhausted.

When I was at my worst, I couldn’t get warm, even in a hot shower or under a pile of blankets. I often got winded and had to stop when I was walking from class to class. My body was lowering its metabolism to try to make the few calories I gave it go as far as possible. I struggled along in a state of permanent shut­down.


6. Your friend starts wearing baggy, body­hiding clothing.

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You might think that anorexics would want to show off their size­00 jeans, but for the anorexics I knew, this wasn’t the case. We weren’t proud of our bodies. They still looked too fat to us. And we became wary of the way other people would talk to us about the weight we’d lost. Besides, we were cold, so it was easier just to cover everything up so nobody would notice how we looked.


7. Your friend’s hair becomes brittle and easily tangled, and your friend’s face turns yellow or grayish.

Since anorexics often wear baggy clothing, it can be hard to see the weight loss there. It can be easier to notice the changes to the face. An anorexic’s face loses color, becomes angular, and starts looking gray and old. Also, as the body battles vitamin deficiencies, the hair really suffers. My hair snapped and broke and tangled, even though I tried new treatments and conditioners constantly. Some of my friends lost almost all their hair as their weight went down.

I hope these seven warning signs will help you help someone who may need it. And again, I can’t emphasize enough: please don’t think that you should wait to speak up until your friend “looks like an anorexic.” Many anorexia victims die from restricting, purging, or suicide before their bodies have had time to grow skinny, and since many teenagers are lanky or slender to begin with, appearance is a particularly poor guide.

Anorexia nervosa is the deadliest of the mental illnesses. I personally have known over twenty victims who have died of its complications. Those wonderful people whom we have lost were male as well as female, old as well as very young, and all of them deserved the full and happy life this hideous illness stole from them. If you think a friend of yours is in trouble, please reach out to a teacher, counselor, or someone else you trust and ask for help. You may end up saving a life. 



Elena Dunkle spent her teenage years exploring German countryside and considers Germany her second home. She was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of seventeen and has always wanted to shed a light on her experiences with this complicated and misunderstood disorder. Elena currently roams across America with her wonderful husband and travel­size Chihuahua, Mimsy. Find out more about Elena at www.elenadunkle.com


We can’t thank Elena enough for sharing her story and these seven warning signs with us today. But she’s also giving away two copies of Elena Vanishing!





  1. by: Elena Dunkle with Clare B. Dunkle

  2. Release Date: May 19, 2015 



About the Book

Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena’s perspective over a five-year period and cowritten with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena’s memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.





Two winners will each receive a copy of Elena Vanishing. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, Elena has a question for entrants pertaining to her memoir. Here is the question they’ll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What do many anorexics talk about excessively?


*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

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26 thoughts on “A Conversation with Elena Dunkle”

  1. yalibrarian says:


  2. Kushnoda says:

    They talk about food

  3. Michelle R says:

    They talk about food. This is such an important book.

  4. Emma McG says:

    Anorexics talk obsessively/excessively about food.

  5. Emma McG says:

    Anorexics talk obsessively/excessively about food.

  6. They talk about food. Oh my gosh I want this book so bad!

  7. Sharon says:

    Food, food and more food!

  8. Ali says:

    They talk about fooooood a lot.

  9. Caroline says:

    They talk about food!

  10. Carol says:

    Food! A person I know has this problem and can’t stop talking about what she ate, what other people ate, what people on tv ate and so on…

  11. bn100 says:


  12. Yolande says:


  13. Cindy says:

    Many anorexics talk excessively about food.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    They can’t stop talking about food.

  15. Lillian says:


  16. Agustina Gonzalez says:

    can’t stop talking about food

  17. Skylar Love says:


  18. They talk about food, but in very twisted ways. They talk about how much everyone else eats. They talk about cooking, but never eating. They talk about food in ways that make it seem they are eating it in order to hide the fact that they aren’t.

  19. Maranda Hymes says:

    They talk about food. Gorgeous cover. Very interested to read a memoir about this subject.

  20. Emily says:

    As someone who has suffered anorexia, I was actually uncomfortable talking about food. I tried to avoid talking about it, besides the occasional “that looks good” or “what are you eating?”. When asked why I wasn’t eating lunch or dinner, I would reply with a simple “I’m not hungry.” Although some anorexics talk about calories and food excessively, others often talk about how tired they are. This is because their lack of food intake drains their energy, resulting in a feeling of tiredness.

  21. Devyn. B says:


  22. Brielle Bauer says:

    Their Weight, body, and food.

  23. BookFanatic says:

    First off let me say the cover is fabulous, even though it is so simple and has such an important meaning, but people suffering from anorexia, talk about food all the time but they don’t want to have any samples or eat any actual food.

  24. Bri says:


  25. Lyndsey says:

    They talk about food! (Yum!)

  26. Sui Generis says:

    They usually talk about food!

Comments are closed.