By Rebecca Drew
AN ANOREXIC student whose weight plummeted to just over five stone after splitting with her boyfriend has showcased her remarkable recovery which has seen her almost double her weight.
Hospitality management student, Gaia Rio (19) who is from Italy but studies in Switzerland dropped to just 5st 4lbs and had to wear children’s clothes after a split from her ex-boyfriend triggered her eating disorder, which left her “basically dying”.
Now a healthy 10st 3lbs and around a slim size 12, Gaia said that she wasted two years of her life obsessing over calories and convincing herself she was becoming a better person.
“I broke up with my ex-boyfriend and I barely ate for a week because I was feeling sad, my stomach felt completely closed,” Gaia explained.
“My feelings for him slowly disappeared but that week of barely eating made me lose two-kilograms so easily, so I thought that if I could lose one or two kilos more I would feel much better about myself.
“I have never been chubby, but after losing those two kilos I started having bad thoughts about myself.
“I kept thinking, I am not beautiful enough, that’s why he broke up with me and if I don’t do something no one will like me.
“Actually, these were the most stupid thoughts I could have ever had and it was the beginning of what I believe to be the worst period of my life.
“Two years of my life were wasted on counting calories, being isolated, starving, feeling sad and angry at anything and anyone around me for no reason and preventing myself from being happy and free.”
Gaia refers to anorexia as a “terrible monster” that took control of her life and explains that she lost her friends because of it. Whilst suffering, she only ate plain salads and kept herself full by drinking plenty of water and tea.
“I basically stopped eating and my weight went down drastically, paradoxically the lower the number on the scale, the more I felt strong,” she said.
“Food became my only obsession, I couldn’t see anything but food, the food I had to stop myself from eating, I lost all of my friends because I could not allow myself to go out with them for lunch or dinner.
“I started thinking that there was no point in me spending time with them if I was not like them because I was different, at the same time this made me proud too because yes I wanted to be different from them, I wanted to be special.
“Being anorexic could help me to be different, my parents did so much for me, but I was too sick to realise how much love they were showing me and my obsession made me totally blind.”
Now recovered, Gaia dreams of opening her own hotel one day and says that a turning point came when she realised that she wanted to start living again.
“When I reached my lowest weight, I understood that I was basically wasting the only life I have for no reason, I asked myself, why did I have to be different from others just because I was anorexic and basically dying, could I not be special for some other more positive reasons,” she added.
“All of these questions finally made me change and little by little, I allowed myself to start eating again, recovering was the best choice I could have ever made.
“My life has totally changed, I feel proud of myself and not because I weigh the same as a child.
“I feel proud because I finally overcame something which unfortunately kills so many people nowadays, I finally won against what was preventing me to be happy and now I am free.
“The most difficult part was allowing myself to get out of what I used to call my comfort zone.
“I still exercise everyday but just to keep myself fit, my diet includes all types of nutrients, including carbs and fats, eating is one of the best things on earth, so there is no point in restricting.
“My family loves me even more and my friends see me as an example of a really determined person who faced something really hard throughout her life and ended up winning.
Gaia says that she receives messages from others who are suffering from eating disorders asking for advice.
“I am actually helping or at least trying to help a lot of people who are going through this, I did not know that so many people are suffering from anorexia,” she said.
“Every day, lots of girls text me in order to get motivation from me and suggestions.
“I would say that I know recovering is going to be hard but it’s actually the best thing you could ever do for yourself.
“Put yourself first, put your happiness first, I am sure suffering is not what you really want to do for your whole life so what are you waiting for.”