Anorexic saved by var­sity PLUS Strange tales

A UNIVER­SITY stu­dent, who strug­gled with anorexia since she was 12, shares her story.

People (South Africa) - - Contents -

ATHINA CRILLEY, 22, went down a neg­a­tive spi­ral when at the age of 12 she be­gan want­ing to lose weight and look thin­ner, which led to a painful bat­tle with anorexia when her weight dropped to just 34 kilo­grams.

At the age of 12 Athina was a UK size 12, and she be­came more body con­scious the older she got.

What started as want­ing to shed a lit­tle bit of weight quickly be­came more of an un­healthy ob­ses­sion for Athina. Be­tween the age of 13 and 19 she had to be hos­pi­talised a to­tal of five times, with her last two hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions, aged 18 and 19, in spe­cial­ist eat­ing dis­or­der units.

At her low­est weight Athina weighed just 34kg and was a UK size zero at the age of 16. But now she’s a much health­ier 51.2kg, and a UK size eight.

Athina over­came her anorexia when she went to univer­sity. She had spent the pre­vi­ous six years of her life iso­lat­ing her­self and fo­cus­ing so much of her con­cen­tra­tion on food and calo­rie in­take, that when she got to univer­sity she wanted to make a new name for her­self and rel­ish in the fun of fresh­ers.

“I was slightly over­weight as a 12-year-old, not mas­sively over­weight but I was a UK size 12, and I be­came more body con­scious as you do around that age,” ex­plains Athina. “So, I de­cided I wanted to lose a bit of weight to maybe get to around a UK size eight, and that es­ca­lated very quickly into some­thing more.” She says, “Ev­ery day was a con­stant bat­tle with my­self. I felt guilty if I gave in and ate more than I usu­ally al­lowed my­self or I didn’t ex­er­cise for as long as usual. But I was also frus­trated be­cause I knew that this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. I be­came very in­tro­verted due to hav­ing lit­tle en­ergy and I was feel­ing so tired and drained all of the time. This re­sulted in many of my ‘friends’ not re­ally both­er­ing with me any­more. I found it dif­fi­cult to con­cen­trate on any­thing at all apart from food, which I thought about 24/7.”

Athina adds, “Th­ese things, along with the guilt I felt ev­ery day and the wor­ry­ing about food, ex­er­cise and my body, led me to be­ing di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, things that still af­fect me to this day. Along­side the men­tal side of it, the phys­i­cal side ef­fects of rapid weight loss and mal­nu­tri­tion in­cluded thin hair, weak nails, dry skin, feel­ing ex­tremely cold and hav­ing poor cir­cu­la­tion. I bruised very eas­ily and lost my pe­ri­ods as well. Be­cause of what Iput my body through for so many years, I now have ir­re­versible os­teo­poro­sis in my hip and spine. I was hos­pi­talised five times dur­ing it all — at ages 13, 14, 16, 18 and 19.The last two vis­its were in spe­cial­ist eat­ing dis­or­der units.”

Af­ter many hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions, Athina wanted to change her life for the bet­ter and she didn’t want to be con­trolled by the eat­ing dis­or­der any longer. When she went to univer­sity to study bio­chem­istry in 2016

‘EV­ERY day was a con­stant bat­tle with my­self. I felt guilty if I gave in and ate more than I usu­ally al­lowed my­self or I didn’t ex­er­cise for as long as usual.’

the new en­vi­ron­ment en­cour­aged her to change the mind­set she had been stuck in since she was 12 as she wanted to be able to en­joy her new life­style. “I can­not ex­press how much over­com­ing anorexia has changed my life. I am hap­pier, health­ier and stronger,” she says, ad­ding, “I had so many ups and downs through­out the years, but the fi­nal steps to over­come anorexia once and for all came when I had more so­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties. When I

The phys­i­cal side ef­fects of rapid weight loss

started my first year of and mal­nu­tri­tion in­cluded thin hair, weak nails,

univer­sity I didn’t want dry skin, feel­ing ex­tremely cold and hav­ing poor

to be the weird girl who cir­cu­la­tion

stayed in and didn’t speak to any­one, so I forced my­self to go out and in­clude my­self in events.” Athina adds, “As I be­gan go­ing out more and be­ing more so­cial, anorexia kind of got pushed to the side. I got a boyfriend a few months later and hav­ing some­one there for me through thick and thin re­ally helped me to feel bet­ter about my­self. I be­gan to feel less like anorexia, food and ex­er­cise was the be all and end all.” Athina con­tin­ues, “Slowly but surely re­cov­ery be­came more of a re­al­ity than a dream and with­out even re­al­is­ing, anorexia was no longer a part of my life. Phys­i­cally, ev­ery part of my body has im­proved. My bones are no longer pro­trud­ing, my hair is no longer thin and dry, my nails are much stronger and my body aches less. Anorexia af­fects ev­ery part of the phys­i­cal body and mind, so re­cov­ery has im­proved ev­ery as­pect of my be­ing. I’m now su­per happy with my body. I en­joy food and I al­low my­self to eat ba­si­cally any­thing I want. My life is so much less re­stricted now and it feels amaz­ing. The most dif­fi­cult part of re­cov­ery was try­ing to change my ob­ses­sive thoughts about calo­rie count­ing, food track­ing and ob­ses­sive ex­er­cise. Peo­ple around me al­ways say how proud they are of me to have over­come such a ter­ri­ble ill­ness, and that I’m so strong for it.” Since re­cov­er­ing, Athina has found her pas­sion for weight train­ing, which she now does four to five times a week, al­low­ing her to gain healthy weight and be­come stronger. She has shared her in­spir­ing re­cov­ery on In­sta­gram in the hopes of in­spir­ing other peo­ple who want to re­cover who might not think it’s pos­si­ble. “My first ques­tion to any­one suf­fer­ing who asks me how I got bet­ter is to say ‘where do you see your­self in five years?’. Most peo­ple won’t in­clude anorexia in their fu­ture, so I say, ‘if anorexia isn’t part of your fu­ture, what are you go­ing to do to en­sure that?’” she says. “It’s im­por­tant to start mak­ing changes, small or large, or you will be stuck in this anorexia cy­cle for­ever. Only you can change your thought process and over­come the aw­ful ill­ness.”

To find out more about Athina’s re­cov­ery jour­ney, check out her In­sta­gram page @athi­naafit

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