ROCHELLE PARK, N.J. — All Christine Jessica had to do was walk from her Rochelle Park kitchen to her living room and sit down on the couch.
She felt faint from not eating — too faint to go to school — so she made herself a cup of coffee and tried to relax.
The then-16-year-old was halfway to the other room when she collapsed on the floor.
It was then that Jessica, now 17, realized that she needed help, after four years of living with anorexia nervosa.
Jessica has since made a full recovery from anorexia, and hopes her book of poetry "Roses in SoHo" will help others do the same. She is donating a portion of the proceeds to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
"It doesn't matter what I look like," said Jessica, "because people will love me no matter what."
"Roses in SoHo" — titled after Jessica's dream of having having a bouquet of roses on her desk in SoHo — is a compilation of poems and diary entries she wrote during her battle with anorexia and through recovery.
She was 12 when she first began restricting food to manipulate her weight.
Girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape by age 6, and 40 to 60 percent of elementary school girls are concerned with their weight or becoming too fat, NEDA reports.
More than 50 percent of teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys use unhealthy behaviors — such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives — to control their weight, NEDA says.
"I had a fear of gaining weight and was uncomfortable with my body," Jessica said.
"Everyone told me I was a picky eater but I knew it was a lot deeper than that."
Jessica says she isn't sure what caused her eating disorder "but the pressure from the media definitely didn't help."
She switched into the Emerson school district in middle school when she started getting bullied, and often spent her lunch periods in the bathroom.
Eventually, school officials caught on and alerted her parents.
Jessica says she was able to open up to her mom, and the ongoing support of her friends, family and new boyfriend have helped her recover and remove her worth from the scale.
She feels free from the shackles of food and weight manipulation.
"I used to feel so faint all the time and I'd collapse from not eating," said Jessica, who also had help from a therapist and nutritionist.
"I can do what I want to now... with a healthy mind and body.
"My friends invite me to dinner and now I eat with them. It's such a great feeling."