Thousands of people across the UK struggle every day with eating disorders. An eating disorder occurs when normal eating habits are disturbed; anorexia nervosa is one such disorder and can be described as a condition whereby the person restricts the amount of food they eat. Bulimia nervosa is another and is where the sufferer has periods of binge eating followed by purging. There are other types of eating disorders, such as binge eating disorders, and all can be dangerous to health.
Those who suffer from anorexia may become dangerously thin as they become obsessive with calorie counting and excessive exercising. They typically do not eat enough calories to sustain themselves and will not be getting the nutrients they need. If left untreated, anorexia can be fatal.
Niamh Wynne knows all too well how anorexia can have a devastating impact on lives. The 18-year-old became obsessed with calorie counting after learning about them in a biology lesson at the age of fifteen. For three years, her obsession led to her losing almost seven-and-a-half stone, leading to doctors to warn that she would either end up in hospital or in a coffin. It was this warning that gave her the push she needed to get her life back on track and to finally beat the illness that was killing her.
Niamh said that she was frightened when doctors told her she could die if she did not start eating. She also admits that things were so bad that her mum began planning her funeral. She said, I’m so sorry I put her through that.
Niamh wasnt always so obsessed with dieting. In fact, the teenager struggled with her weight in her early teens and, by the time she was fourteen, she was fifteen stone and wearing adult size 18-20 clothing. Although her parents tried to get her to eat healthy food, Niamh admits she was eating mostly junk food.
However, in July 2011 in a biology lesson, Niamh learned about the importance of healthy eating and calories. She decided then and there to go on a diet and says that she was fed up of being the big one in her group of friends.
Niamh started calorie counting every meal and admits she got a buzz each time the calorie count got smaller. In less than a year-and-a-half, Niamh had lost six stone and was now wearing size 8 clothing. Her new look was attracting compliments from family and friends, but Niamhs obsession was growing. She was down to just 800 calories a day and admitted, Every time I lost a stone, I’d set myself a challenge to lose another. I wanted to see the number on the scales get smaller and smaller.
She lost another stone-and-a-half in the course of a few months, meaning she had dropped half her body weight in approximately eighteen months. She was now a size 4-6.
Niamhs parents were naturally worried and would beg her to eat, and Niamh admitted that every meal time became a battleground. Her body was showing signs of damage as her periods stopped, her nails began breaking, and she suffered from irritability and fatigue.
Although Niamh had been to see doctors, she had no interest in getting better. Nevertheless, when a counsellor told her that she would end up dead because of her illness, and when her mother consequently started planning her funeral, she realised she needed to get better. With the help of counsellors, she started eating again and gradually began putting on weight. She now eats three healthy meals a day and no longer counts calories. She said, I just want other people to know that they can recover from anorexia too. Life is worth so much more than food. Now instead of planning my funeral, I’m busy planning for my future.