Brave teenager beats anorexia: Natasha was just five stone but is now fit and healthy
BRAVE teenager Natasha Cox has a great job and a bright future after conquering anorexia that once made her suicidal.
Natasha was aged just 16 and had recently started college when she began trawling the web for search terms associated with anorexia and bulimia.
It led her into a downward spiral of fasting and binging that ravaged her health and almost cost her life. Her weight plummeted to just FIVE STONE as she attempted to exist on a starvation diet after becoming addicted to so-called ‘pro-ana’ websites.
Thankfully, Natasha was eventually able to seek help and is now fully recovered. She has a steady boyfriend and a good job as a payroll administrator.
She believes more should be done to warn young girls and their parents about the dangers of websites that promote eating disorders. Figures suggest that one in five young women have visited the sites. Natasha has bravely agreed to speak out in order to show other sufferers that it is possible to make a full recovery.
Natasha, now 19, from Milton Keynes, revealed: “I kept a diary at the time. It quotes from websites that use Biblical-style language to tell you about how to avoid eating. Looking back it was like a form of brainwashing.
“It’s like having a bully sitting on your shoulder, especially for young girls, telling you what to do.
“If you are ill, you read it as if someone is trying to help you, but it’s just bullying. They tell you that you’re ugly unless you are thin.”
Many of the sites that Natasha visited were packed with images of skinny or skeletal women.
She said: “I have pages and pages of photos that I got off these websites. I was going on them every single day. They are very addictive. I was most certainly addicted to them.
“I had anorexia and bulimia and I went down to about five stone at my lowest and I tried to commit suicide when I was 17.”
Natasha secretly accessed the websites from an old laptop, which she kept hidden under her bed so that her parents wouldn’t notice it. Within weeks she was hooked on the misguided feeling of excitement that she got from the websites.
She was given advice about how to accelerate her weight-loss, including tips such as which household liquids she should drink in order to reduce her appetite. She also exercised vigorously.
Natasha’s eating disorder became so serious that she found herself vomiting blood and she contracted bacterial meningitis when her immune system collapsed. At her lowest point, she attempted suicide by swallowing pills.
Tragically, many of the people who urged her on are likely to have been fellow anorexics who were making misguided attempts to make her feel better.
Natasha said: “It first began when I’d just started college and I wasn’t seeing much of my old friends from school. Everyone was off doing their own thing and I felt really alone.
“It sounds stupid but I felt old, I thought ‘Oh my God – I’m 16 already.’ I didn’t want to grow up. I remember I looked in the mirror and I thought ‘I want to lose weight. I’m going to stop eating.’
“So I went on all these websites and it was kind of my mission from then on really. All you see is pictures of stick thin girls coming up and quotes about being skinny.
“At the time I looked at them and I was jealous. I wanted to look like those people.
“It was something to strive for, it made it quite exciting. There was this lifestyle that I was being offered by all these people online who were saying it’s a lifestyle, not a disease.
“My parents didn’t know. I kept my diary on line because no one could see it. If my mum had walked in my room and seen a piece of paper she would have wondered what that is, whereas my laptop was hidden under my bed.
“When I started losing weight I couldn’t get out of bed because I was so ill, even going to the toilet is an effort. I picked up bacterial meningitis because my immune system was so weak. “
“They tell you things online like what to drink so you don’t get an appetite and how to organize your sleeping arrangements to burn calories.
“There are lots of things like that on there, it’s basically a guide about how to become an anorexic or bulimic.
“I would binge cakes, chocolate, biscuits and then I would I would be sick until I was throwing up blood. I would take loads and loads of slimming tablets and laxatives.
“All my mouth would be cut from shoving my hand down my throat so much. You don’t realize until afterwards that the back of your throat is cut and you didn’t even feel it at the time, because that’s how motivated you were.”
Eventually the pressure became so great that Natasha felt she could no longer cope and she tried to end her life.
She said: “I downed about half a bottle of Malibu and took some tablets. My mum and dad came home and I ended up telling them so they called an ambulance. It was obviously a desperate time and it’s not something I would do now.
“It’s kind of scary to look back and think that somebody could go to such lengths all because of the way you look. I was one of the lucky ones who got help and I was determined to get better.
“Thankfully, I am fully recovered. I’m nine stone now and healthy, but when I was ill would spend a lot of my time locked away in my room thinking about food constantly.
Natasha was treated for depression, although even then she managed to keep her eating disorder a secret from doctors for a while.
She said: “I saw a psychiatrist and I went on Prozac, which helped a lot and made me want to get better.
“I was getting to the point where I wanted to eat. I remember the psychiatrist saying to me, ‘Is there anything else that you would like to speak with me about?’
“I kind of blurted out, ‘Oh I don’t eat.’ I ended up telling her and she put me in touch with somebody who deals with eating disorders.”
Now that she is recovered, Natasha can look back and see the huge influence the websites had over her. She says skeletal images of women like those in pro-ana videos and on websites are mistakenly seen as inspirational by fellow anorexics.
Susan Ringwood, Chief Executive of eating disorders charity Beat (formerly known as the Eating Disorders Association) said: “Pro-ana sites are certainly potentially very dangerous indeed – particularly the extent to which they promote an eating disorder as though it were a life style choice, and not the serious mental illness that it truly is.”
Beat is campaigning for better support for victims of eating disorders, but warns that making the sites illegal could criminalize mentally ill people who set up pro-ana sites to try to gain acceptance.
- For help and advice about eating disorders visit http://www.b-eat.co.uk/
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