Hertfordshire Woman Who Made Incredible Recovery From Anorexia Crowned Ms Great Britain
A woman who was at risk of dying due to her anorexia has been crowned the first Ms Great Britain after making an incredible recovery.
April Banbury, 32, developed her eating disorder at a very young age, after her mother left her and her father when she was just eight years old.
April restricted her diet as ‘her way of coping’, desperately wanting to be ‘skinny’ so she could ‘make [her] mum love [her]’. April’s little sister, Claire, would alternate living between their mum and dad, but April lived solely with her dad and her grandmother, who helped raise her.
Recalling the tough situation, the beauty queen said:
It was hard to understand that my mum wanted a relationship with my little sister and not me. I felt rejected but I didn’t know why, and so I stopped eating.
It was my way of coping – I was so distraught and eating was the only thing I could control.
After going to live with her nan in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, April vowed to lose weight and would avoid breakfast and dinner by claiming she wasn’t hungry, didn’t have time, or by creating the illusion she’d eaten by squashing her food down on her plate.
Her nan would make her a packed lunch for school, but April threw it into a bush each day. The young girl suffered from bad acne and was bullied at school for her appearance, with students calling her names such as ‘Pizza Face’, ‘Ugly’ and ‘Monster’, as well as ‘Skeleton’.
April survived by nibbling two crackers a day, and managed to keep her eating disorder secret for a year by hiding her body under baggy clothes. Her father, Ian, became concerned and sat with April while she ate, but the young girl still managed to find ways around it.
According to her dad, by the time she was 11 April weighed just three and a half stone.
April explained how the eating disorder affected her life as well as her body, saying:
My dad took me to the doctor’s… I was weighed every week and sent to a therapist. It became so bad that at the age of 11 doctors were going to hospitalise me, which was a shock.
The doctors said the anorexia could kill me and my hair began to fall out.
I had a completely flat chest and didn’t get periods until I was 18 as the eating disorder stopped my body from developing. I stuffed tissue down my bra because I had such a bony chest and looked like a boy.
But I stopped having any energy. I would just collapse onto my bed and I would think I was going to die.
When she reached the age of 13, April was mentally ready to recover, and although she was afraid of becoming overweight she ‘trained’ herself to eat more as she wanted to ‘look and feel better’.
She spent the next five years battling the eating disorder, though it continued to affect her body as she was later diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. Her breasts developed suddenly, and grew to a 32E so quickly that she was left with stretch marks.
April, who now weighs eight stone and is a size 8, was then told she had precancerous CIN 2 cells on her cervix that had to be lasered off.
Discussing the ordeal, April said:
I also was told I have cysts on both my ovaries, and though doctors haven’t told me I can’t have children, I won’t know until I start trying.
I wished I’d never had anorexia as I don’t know what damage it’s done to my body and how it still might affect me in the future. But I now eat like a horse – I want to have curves and because I’m so naturally small I have to eat more than most people.
The beauty queen, who has never received birthday or Christmas cards from her mother, decided to share her story to warn people about the long-lasting effects of anorexia.
She eats more to encourage a curvy body and now does aerial silk classes – where she performs tricks in the air dangling on silk ropes – to strengthen her core.
In 2011, April came third in Channel 5’s The Bachelor, where she competed for the love of Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson. She went on to enter the Miss Great Britain beauty pageant in both 2014 and 2016 and achieved runner-up each time.
The cut-off age for the competition is 27, but she then entered the Ms Great Britain contest, which is run by the organisation behind the Miss Great Britain competition for women aged 28 and over, going on to win the crown.
This is for women who are older and I’m so happy to make history and be the first.
I want to use this title to do good and what could be better than warning about the dangers of anorexia? It’s made my dad so proud. He was so happy when I told him I’d won.
My nan sadly passed away five years ago and I don’t ever hear from my mum, but I’m feeling so confident now. I know it doesn’t matter how you look – it’s about being healthy and happy.
The Ms Great Britain winner went on:
You only get one shot at life and you have to be strong. I’m absolute proof that you can do anything you want if you try. I was anorexic, had bad acne… and yet here I am – a beauty queen.
I’ve overcome everything. Now I’ve proved to myself that I didn’t let those bullies beat me down. If I can battle them and an eating disorder then I can do anything – and so can other women.
April’s incredible recovery is truly inspirational.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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