Shannon Maher was 14 and nervous about starting high school. So she decided to "lose a few pounds."
She came close to losing her life.
Four months into her diet, she overate last year at a Christmas party. That night in the mirror she saw "this horribly disgusting, fat person staring back at me."
Shannon made herself vomit, and her young life took a new course.
"The feeling I got afterward was amazing," the Gloucester Catholic High School sophomore recalled recently. "I could eat and make myself get rid of it. I never felt so much power. It became a regular thing."
After reaching her goal weight she continued to purge and "restrict" nourishment, sometimes consuming no more in a day than a granola bar.
"Are you eating?" her mother would ask. "Yeah, yeah," she'd reply.
It was a disastrous course that could have ended with a fatal heart attack had the Washington Township teenager's mother not taken her for an unrelated physical exam in April. When Shannon came back for follow-up a week later, her doctor was shocked to discover the 5-foot-1 girl had lost 10 pounds.
Shannon was anorexic, the doctor said, and needed immediate intervention.
"I broke down," Shannon recalled. "I said, 'Mom, I never intended it to get this far.' "