By Rebecca Drew
THIS incredible young woman says overcoming anorexia saved her life after she was dumped on Christmas Eve leading her to starve herself for three days and punish herself with a gruelling ten-miles-a-day running regime.
Barista and full-time college student, Alexis Paulson (19) from Iowa, USA, started feeling self-conscious about her body as she entered her last years of high school, but getting a boyfriend made her accept herself. When they broke up on Christmas Eve 2015, Alexis starved herself for days and then cut out whole food types such as dairy and gluten. This combined with excessively running between 6-10 miles every day without fail, saw Alexis’ weight drop to just 7-stone and a UK size 2.
After watching her sister survive an eating disorder, Alexis knew she needed to get help. She is now a much healthier 8st 4lbs and a UK size 6-8.
“Pinpointing the exact time that I started struggling with anorexia is challenging for me, I started noticing things I hated about my body when I was going into my sophomore year of high school but got into a relationship around the same time,” she said.
“I thought that if he was attracted to me, then my body must be okay. When he broke up with me on Christmas Eve, I thought it was because of my body. So that exact day, I started starving myself. Literally I did not allow myself to eat anything for two or three days.
“Then I realized my family would start catching on, so I started making it more of a healthy eating only kind of thing. No sweets, no dairy, nothing I deemed as ‘bad’, although there is no such thing as good or bad foods. All foods are good in moderation. Too much of any food can be bad.
“When I saw how easy it was for me to eat healthy, I wanted to see how much further I could take it and started exercising. I would run six to ten miles a day and would not allow a rest day. It got to the point where I would go to my dance class and couldn’t even finish it because I was too weak.
“Eating healthy started getting harder because of my family asking questions, so I decided to tell them that I thought I had coeliac disease and cut out all gluten.
“Basically, the entire thing was just a huge butterfly affect that dug me deeper and deeper into the hole of anorexia.
“Not only was I physically drained, but I didn’t like the way I looked, regardless of how much weight I lost. In fact, I think I hated myself even more because I was losing weight in areas I didn’t think needed weight to be gone but I wanted to keep watching the weight fall off.
“After losing so much body fat, I became anaemic, which caused me to be painfully cold all the time. It got to the point that I would carry a blanket around with me in my high school.”
Anorexia made Alexis’ hair limp and lifeless and getting her shiny, flowing locks back was a motivation for change.
“I do not think I would have ever been motivated to overcome anorexia had I not seen my sister go through it herself years before. Because I was able to see how much it affected her, her family, friends, and her mood in general, I knew I didn’t want to lose relationships and be in a bad mood all the time like that,” she added.
“Honestly, one of the things that motivated me the most to overcome it was the fact that I was so malnourished that my hair was dull and wouldn’t curl anymore and I knew that if I could get better, it would get life back in it again.
“My hair always used to be the thing that made me feel beautiful and when anorexia took that away, I was pretty sad.
“Overcoming anorexia didn’t just change my life, but I am positive that it saved my life. I honestly don’t know how much longer I would have made it had I not decided to start working towards recovery.
“Now, I am so much more able to focus on my relationships, I don’t get grumpy and anxious when I get to go out to eat with my family and friends, I don’t feel on edge all the time.
“Overcoming anorexia helped save my relationships and made me realise that being skinny isn’t everything. Actually, most people don’t find being that skinny beautiful. It showed me that beauty is not about your size.
“The most difficult thing about my recovery was letting go of control. I found it very difficult to stray from what I call safe foods and the rules. If I ever did eat something I wasn’t used to, I had an overwhelming anxiety come over me and feelings of needing to restrict.”
Alexis’ family were her rock throughout her recovery and she can now eat what she wants without feeling guilty and exercises when she feels like it. She now wants to help others overcome eating disorders.
“If you are struggling, tell someone, reach out and seek help. When you bring the issue out into the light, the love, support, and the feeling of the burden being lifted will push you forward to a place of more peace than you will ever get from eating disorders,” said Alexis.
“I will not lie and tell you recovery is easy or even immediately satisfying but I will tell you the truth in that it is worth it. I am so thankful that I experienced this because I know God will use my struggle to show and inspire other people to get better.
“I want to be there to give advice to people experiencing this, tell them the truth about it without sugar coating it, and simply be a support for people who might not have the kind of support I got.”
For more information and support see www.instagram.com/lexie_paulson