Neveen Radwan is a mother that has decided to share her and her daughter’s story with the world. It all started when Covid-19 hit when Mariam, Naveen Radwan’s daughter decided to lose weight and “glow up”, which later on turned into an eating disorder that no one was expecting. After a while, Neveen Radwan decided to turn her journey with her daughter into a book called “A Glow-Up Gone wrong” and do her best to help everyone who might be struggling with eating disorders. The book will tell you all you need to know about eating disorders, what they’re truly like, how lonely their reality is, and when should one help and notice the signs. A Glow-Up Gone Wrong is a message from a loving parent and it is a helpful and reassuring read to anyone who might be experiencing this with a loved one.
We sat down with Neveen Radwan to know the whole story!
Why did you decide to write this book?
I was writing it as a way to let out my emotions. However, throughout our journey, we found out so many things a little bit too late. I always thought “maybe if we had known this then we could’ve done that differently” and so on. That was the theme throughout our whole journey. About halfway through, I thought about what happened to us and how it would’ve been very useful for someone else who’s just starting out on this journey.
If somebody didn’t know what Anorexia was or what an eating disorder was or what was happening to their child, maybe they would make different decisions than we did.
At first Mariam, my daughter didn’t want anyone to know. But we had a discussion about helping people. I asked her then about how she’d think of anyone who had Anorexia before she went through it, and she gave me all the stereotypical replies. That’s why it’s important to share this, I told her it was time for her to control the narrative of the story. I told her it was her opportunity to tell people that she was not doing it on purpose. It’s her opportunity to help other kids who weren’t getting as sick to not get as sick as she was. She thought about it for a little while, then she agreed with me.
Why did you call the book “A Glow-Up Gone Wrong”?
In the very beginning of Corona, she was going through a very difficult body image crisis at the time. She was 14 years old at the time, at the beginning of 9th grade. Mariam has also always been an athlete, she always went to school in her shorts for training. She wasn’t interested in makeup like the other girls, she was always very natural. At the time, all of her friends were going through different stages in their life. She was focused on her training and school, and her friends were in their glow-up phase. When she got acne, people at school started teasing her a bit and she got bullied.
When Corona happened, everything stopped. She didn’t have school or sports or anything. She came to me at the beginning of Corona and said “I’m going to have a glow-up”. I remember googling the term and understanding that it meant “transforming from being ugly to being beautiful.” and that’s how she saw herself as, she saw herself as someone ugly.
My daughter is very beautiful, and for her to see herself that way, shows you how much can this disease blind them.
What is something that you wish people knew about Eating Disorders, whether from a parental perspective or a daughter’s perspective?
I think the most important thing is that people should understand that it’s not voluntary. It is not self-inflicted. What I’ve learned over the years is that this illness is biological. You either have it or you don’t. It is triggered in the brain by extreme weight loss. Someone can lose weight and get so triggered by the weight loss and another person can go through the same thing and not get triggered. Then the disease completely takes over the brain. It is a mental illness. The first thing the doctors told us when she got into the hospital the first time is that starting that day, we weren’t dealing with our child. We were dealing with a terrorist who has taken our child’s brain hostage. They will say and do things we don’t recognize. They might lie or cheat or steal. My husband and I looked at each other and said that’s not our daughter. But that’s one of the things my husband and I wish we understood more.
Everyone says “there’s no such thing as she doesn’t eat”. They tell me to make her the food she loves and she’ll eat it. No one understands that literally can’t eat. They fear the food. So that’s what I want people to know. They can’t control it, it is mental and biological. And once it is triggered, you’ve literally woken up a beast.
What’s the thing that helped you keep pushing forward throughout this challenging journey?
My daughter was literally dying. At first, we didn’t realize how severe it was. Within three months, she was thin to the point that she would always pass out. She had such intense seizures whenever I tried to give her any food, even if it was milk or honey. She was dying, and she wasn’t eating anything, she only took 500 or 600 calories a day. I felt she was slipping away from me. I knew if I didn’t do something quickly, she was going to die. And that’s what happened, within weeks, her heart stopped several times at the hospital.
Can you tell us more about Mariam right now, how is she?
Mariam is better than she was. She’s still struggling a lot with several things. She’s now starting to recognize the eating disorder voice. When she starts to get a little bit obsessed with exercise, she’s starting to recognize that this is the eating disorder starting to get over. She’s now able to vocalize whenever she’s scared. However, she’s still not in a place where she can control it yet. Food is still very hard for her. She’s eating but it’s still very hard for her. However, she’s in a much better place than now. She will overcome her eating disorder.
In your book you say “We drove to ERC to pick her up…We were completely silent. We were nervous, we were happy. We were completely terrified.” Tell me more about that moment, this bittersweet feeling. Why were you feeling the way you did?
She had been in the hospital for 6 months, she had not been outside once. She wasn’t even allowed to go outside once because she had been so sick that she’s never been allowed to level up and go outside. The hospital phases her up according to her progress, but she’s never got phased up to be allowed to go outside because she’s always done something to be phased down. She would hide food so she wouldn’t eat it or do things of that sort so she would get phased down. She was also there longer than everybody else.
We were very excited but we were scared. Deep down, I knew she wasn’t ready. Deep down, I really wanted her to stay. I knew she was planning to go home and stop eating again. She went into the hospital at 30 kilos, and she gained a lot of weight in the hospital because they inserted a feeding tube. She got out feeling obese, she had a plan to stop eating. And that’s what happened. Within three weeks, she relapsed.
As parents, we really wanted to see her well so it was a very very difficult moment.
What do you hope for other people to take from the book?
My goal was to make people realize that eating disorders are not like the movies. They’re not just illusions. When she got sick, she looked normal. People with eating disorders don’t look like skeletons, you have to catch it early. If you don’t catch it early, then it would be too late. These diseases are everywhere. It’s huge. Our kids here in Egypt are exposed to the same social media, the same TV shows, and the same everything. In addition to our mentality, we’re a very judgemental society.
We’re very fatphobic and stereotypical. All comments are casual. Every relative makes comments about our weight. Our kids will get affected even more than us because they’re exposed to everything.
On top of that, there’s no treatment. There is no awareness and parents are also afraid to speak. For them, it’s embarrassing and stigmatized.
The mentality is that parents don’t want anyone to know. But people need to know. People need to speak about it. My daughter is sick, she’s not doing anything wrong. It needs to be talked about.
What change would you like to see in terms of ED treatment in Egypt?
It needs to be affordable and it needs to be more accessible. There’s been a lot of awareness in Egypt lately in terms of mental illnesses and eating disorders, but it needs to grow. It needs to be more accessible because there are not many people who are experts in the field in Egypt. Some doctors claim they know how to help but they don’t, and they end up hurting their patients.
We need good qualified treatment centers. We need good qualified therapists and nutritionists and psychiatrists that are affordable. Moreover, we need programs that can train the parents. You train the parents how to take care of the child at home. It’s a very very specific re-feeding program at home. If these professionals are here and can train the parents how to deal with their children at home, then maybe you wouldn’t need as much treatments centers. Society is getting bigger and social media as well, so these problems are here to stay and we need to be ready for something like that.
Where can we find the book?
The book is still not available in Egypt, it’s on Kindle. However, I’m trying to get it out there because I want to help as many people as I can. All the proceeds from the book go to an organization that helps parents in America. I’m trying to find a way to get it translated and get to as many people as I can.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
It’s so important for every parent to trust their gut feeling. It’s so wrong to put your kids on diets. There should be no reason for a child to go on a diet, especially a pre-teen. Kids’ bodies always change and their bodies are always forming. It’s crazy how some parents deal with things like that. You shouldn’t subject your kids to something like that and you shouldn’t label them or talk about their weight in front of people. So, I really wish for people to stop emphasizing the concept of body image on their kids. Be aware of what your children are doing online.
My daughter was subjected to many things through social media and it all affected her body image.