At the height of her illness, Emelle Lewis weighed just five stone, dressed in children’s clothes and refused to sit down in order to burn calories. Now she hopes her experience will inspire others battling the condition.
The eating disorder first took hold when she was 15, with Miss Lewis believing she was too ‘fat and ugly’ to find a boyfriend. She ate so little and exercised so much that she ended up in hospital no fewer than seven times.
Now 22, she is more than a year into recovery and, weighing a healthy 8st 9lb, has rebuilt her strength through weight-lifting. The Huddersfield University psychology student says the turning point came when she saw pictures on social media site Instagram of fellow anoxeria sufferers who had come back from the brink.
She is sharing photos of her own to inspire those still tormented by the disorder.
Lewis said: ‘It started in high school when I wanted to lose weight because I always felt fat growing up.
‘I always found it hard to fit in, and when all my friends were getting boyfriends at that time but I didn’t, I began to think it was because I was fat and ugly.’
Desperate to lose weight, every day Lewis would twice walk the dog for 30 minutes, complete yoga and gym workouts and ‘wouldn’t sit down until after 4pm’. She added: ‘I claimed to be “vegan” at the time so I could only eat fruit and veg and “clean” foods. I ate the same exact thing every day.’
As her anorexia spiralled and paranoia took over, Miss Lewis would make herself sick and refused to follow doctors’ orders. She recalled: ‘When I was ill, I didn’t believe there was anything really wrong with me. I genuinely believed I could maintain at that weight and still live a fairly normal life. I didn’t want to get rid of my eating disorder.
‘I refused to comply with treatment and was convinced that everyone was against me, lying to me and trying to ruin my life.
‘I didn’t really feel that weak because my body had adapted to my low weight. However, the thing that got me the most was the cold. I was so cold it was painful.’ Realising she did not want to die, Lewis began a weight-training programme to bulk up that has transformed her life.
She now eats six balanced meals a day, amounting to 2,800 calories – even treating herself to takeaways and chocolate cake at weekends. But recovery has not been plain sailing. Miss Lewis said her father, doctors and psychologist doubted her ability to get well but her mother’s support has been vital to her success.
‘Despite relapsing seven times, my mum always believed in me and was willing to do everything to help me recover Lewis said she still has bad days but more often is ‘proud of myself and my body’ and feels overcoming the illness has given her mental strength and a new outlook on life.
Lewis said she still has bad days but more often is ‘proud of myself and my body’ and feels overcoming the illness has given her mental strength and a new outlook on life.