By Rebecca Drew
THIS inspirational young woman has beaten anorexia after years of suffering with the condition and being hospitalised for six months.
Growing up, college student, Oceane Maher (20) from Texas, USA was a keen runner and describes herself as always being ‘naturally very thin’. After hitting puberty, Oceane noticed she had gained weight and had become a slower runner.
Despite being a healthy BMI, her mother, pointed out her weight gain, which sparked Oceane’s obsession with the size of her body which eventually led to her hospitalisation. At her lowest, Oceane weighed just 6st 10lbs and was a UK size two. Now she is a healthy 8st 3lbs and a UK size six to eight.
“I developed anorexia when I was fourteen. As a kid, I’d always been naturally very thin but I gained weight as I was going through puberty,” said Oceane.
“I’ve never been overweight, but I was in the normal BMI range rather than the underweight range I’d naturally been in growing up.
“I was a serious runner at the time, I started running road races when I was seven, and being really thin gave me an advantage and allowed me to run faster. When I reached puberty I was no longer as fast as I used to be.
“Around that same time my mom started pointing out that I’d gained weight and saying I should go on a diet. She has her own struggles with eating and projected her insecurities onto me.
“I became very obsessive with my weight and I started cutting out certain foods. It quickly escalated to an extremely restricted intake, and ironically it made me an even slower runner because I had no more energy left in me.
“Over the next few years, I was somehow able to manage a more sustainable diet. Things got better for the rest of high school as I was able to make friends and focus on other activities.
“The eating disorder was still present but not nearly as strong, things got really bad however once I went on to university.
“My second time around was different from my first, the first time was pretty much directly related to my weight, I knew I gained weight through puberty, my mom told me to lose weight so I did and it became an obsession.
“I also believed that losing weight would help me become a faster runner.
“When I relapsed it was more complicated, it was a way for me to numb my emotions and gain back a sense of control.
“I felt mostly numb when I was suffering, I’d lost all of my personality and all I could think of were calories and weight. I was hungry, exhausted, cold and isolated but emotionally I was completely numb.”
Before embarking on her recovery, Oceane would survive on eating just 100 calories worth of porridge a day to kickstart her metabolism in the morning. She would continue to fuel herself with cups of coffee, diet pills with limited vegetables and rice cakes. Oceane would exercise all day long and would track her steps meticulously with her Fitbit wearable device.
“I decided to enter treatment four weeks into my second year at university after my doctor begged me to go. I was so exhausted I couldn’t resist it anymore, so I gave in,” she added.
“I had no idea what I was in for, I thought it would only last maybe one month and I would just have to gain a little weight. I didn’t realise the emotional component to it and how much of a coping skill my eating disorder was for me.
“Once I started eating again I was flooded with painful emotions. I ended up spending six months in that treatment centre, I outlasted all of the other patients.
“It takes years to recover from an eating disorder and it’s only been a couple months since I discharged from treatment.
“I can’t really say how overcoming anorexia has changed my life, but I can recognise the impact that the progress I’ve made has had on my life. I wasn’t in a great mindset when I first discharged from treatment.
“However, getting back into the real world and structuring my time with work, school, outpatient appointments and other activities has helped me immensely. I no longer isolate myself like I used to when my eating disorder was at its worse.
“I can appreciate joyful moments and share laughter with friends now that I am more in touch with my feelings. I can go back to school and focus on things that are actually important to me rather than obsess over my intake and weight.
“I now have a sense of hope that I didn’t have just a few months ago.”
Oceane visits a dietician once a week who helps her plan her meals to ensure she gets the right mix of grains, proteins and fats. She says that she wants to spread the message that eating disorders are about more than the numbers on the scales.
“An important message I wish I could pass onto those struggling with an eating disorder and just the world in general is that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes,” said Oceane.
“It’s so incredibly frustrating to me that the media portrays this image of eating disorders basically claiming that you must be extremely thin in order to be considered anorexic. This myth harms everyone who struggles with an eating disorder so much.
“All the way up to the day I was admitted into treatment I was told ‘you don’t look anorexic’ despite being severely underweight. Hearing words like that made it so difficult for me to seek treatment because I was so afraid I would be the fattest one there.
“In fact, I refused to even consider it until I was under 100-pounds. Had I known that once I stepped through the doors of the treatment centre I would be greeted by people of all sizes, I may not have gone as far as I went and I may have suffered less medical consequences.
“I want people to know that you don’t have to be a certain size in order to be considered ‘sick enough’ for treatment, and that the reality is when I went to treatment I was the thinnest of the group. The majority of patients were normal or even overweight.
“I may not be one-hundred-percent there yet but I’m working on it. I do go on runs every once in a while but I make sure to not overdo them so it doesn’t become obsessive again.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/healthoverana