Woman Overcomes Anorexia Which Left Her In Wheelchair To Become Bodybuilder

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A teenager whose battle with anorexia left her needing a wheelchair has overcome the eating disorder and become a bodybuilder. 

Emily Brand from Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, began struggling with her weight and what she was eating at the young age of 11 after being bullied at school.

Now 20 years old, Emily has revealed she developed an ‘obsession’ with exercise, and even skipped meals to try and keep control of her weight.

Speaking about her situation at school, Emily explained:

I was never fat but I used to get bullied quite a bit. I remember girls making comments like ‘I bet you can’t feel your ribs’.

Little things like that set me off. At 11 you shouldn’t be worried about your weight at all but kids can be cruel.

I got obsessed with exercise and I started skipping meals.

The young girl was admitted to hospital twice when she was a teenager, but she was so determined not to gain weight that she ripped out her own feeding tube during treatment.

Emily’s weight dropped well below six stone, and she described her body as ‘skin and bones’.

The 20-year-old explained how she would eat barely anything each day, but still pushed herself to exercise despite her lack of calorie intake.

She described the eating disorder as a ‘little demon’ taking over her body.

She said:

By 17 I was eating an apple a day if I ate at all and eventually I stopped eating completely, I was literally starving myself.

And I was still exercising, I was trying to run on nothing.

You go into this world where it’s like your body and mind have been taken over by this little demon. You don’t think you are ill at all and you push anyone away who tries to tell you otherwise.

And this demon is constantly telling you you’re fat and not to eat when actually you’re skin and bone.

Awfully, Emily became so weak that she had to start using a wheelchair.

At 14 years old, the struggling girl was admitted to a child and adolescent mental health inpatient unit.

As well as using a wheelchair, Emily revealed that the severity of her eating disorder put her life at risk.

She explained:

I was so tired all the time and so cold because I had such bad circulation. And my body was so weak, I had to be put in a wheelchair. My hair started falling out.

My heart rate was dangerously low. When I was in hospital it dropped so low a few times that all the machines started going off. I could have lost my life to anorexia.

The doctors tried to put me on a feeding tube I ripped it straight out. Then they tried to get me to drink these high calorie shakes and I would just sneak out of bed and tip them out the window.

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Emily was in the unit for a year, until she managed to gain enough weight to return home. Despite this, she still hadn’t overcome her issues with eating and exercise.

After a year at home, the teenager relapsed, and had to return to the inpatient unit for nine months. During her time in hospital, Emily was limited in her visits with friends and family.

Her separation from the outside world encouraged Emily to change.

The bodybuilder said:

When you go into the unit you’re not allowed weekend home visits until you’ve got to a certain weight.

When you reach that target you get family visits but you’ve still got to gain more to get home. On my first stay, I wasn’t allowed home for a whole month.

She continued:

It was so horrible. Not being able to see your family and your friends is awful. In the end, I ate my way out. I just did what I had to do to get home but I hadn’t actually got any better mentally.

My second stay was more of a success. I came out and I still hadn’t completely overcome the psychological side of my anorexia but I was more determined to get better and I joined the gym.

I started weightlifting and I did a few bikini competitions but I was still trying to function on way too few calories.

Emily then met Rob Reinaldo, a bodybuilding coach who helped her turn her life around.

The 20-year-old continued:

I met Rob and he said he would train me and get me into bodybuilding but he really put his foot down when it came to my eating.

He said if I didn’t start eating properly, I would never succeed and he wouldn’t be able to be my coach.

That was the first time anyone who wasn’t my mum had put their foot down with me and it saved my life. I completely turned myself around.

I wouldn’t be where I am now without him.

Emily changed her diet, managed to gain three stone and put on a healthy amount of muscle mass.

She has explained how weightlifting has given her a new passion in life, saying:

I can’t believe how much my life has changed. It’s amazing to think I was in a wheelchair just three years ago and now I’m loving life.

I feel so much stronger and happier than I ever have done. Bodybuilding has given me a way to stay in control of my body but in a healthy way.

Emily hopes her story will help and inspire others who are struggling with eating disorders.

She said:

I want other people struggling to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s hard but you have got to battle through it.

Find something that you love and that lets you get all your emotions out like I have.


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