By Rebecca Drew
THIS inspirational student who thought she ‘would never get better’ has beaten her anorexia demons that saw her lose her hair and made her toenails fall off after she would force herself to run for seven miles every day.
Esme Park (21), from Glendale, California, USA, developed anorexia when she was just 16 after her family moved from California to Canada. In Canada, Esme didn’t feel like she fitted in so she believed that if she could make herself smaller, people wouldn’t notice her. She started running every day and obsessed over the number of calories she ate, avoiding carbs and fat in favour of ‘safe’ foods like cucumber, low sugar fruit and egg whites.
This saw Esme’s weight drop to 6st 2lbs, but it wasn’t until she turned 19 that things began to change and she realised that she wanted to get better for herself instead of others. Esme now does one cardio session a week and weight trains four times a week, never denying herself the occasional treat and is a strong and healthy 7st 7lbs.
“It’s impossible to pin point the exact reason my eating disorder started because mental illness is an extremely complicated thing. However, the main factor that contributed to me developing it was the fact that I felt like I did not fit in,” said Esme.
“I moved to a very small town in Canada from a big town in California. Everyone in the town had grown up together. I didn’t know anyone and I was completely different from everyone I knew.
“I never really fit in and was never fully accepted. In my mind, if I could make myself physically smaller, I wouldn’t stand out as much. It was a way for me to change who I was to be accepted.
“I could also feel like I was doing something right. When I would see the number on the scale go down, I felt like I was successful. I wasn’t successful at fitting in but I was doing something right because I was losing weight. It was a way to distract myself from feeling lonely.
“Physically, I was exhausted. My hair would fall out and my toenails would fall off. Dark hair grew all over my body and face. I was always cold. My joints and bones ached. I was constantly injuring myself, including a hip injury that took months to recover from, because I was pushing myself to exercise when my body was too weak. My heart rate and blood pressure dropped so low that my doctors threatened hospitalisation.
“Mentally, I was also exhausted. I was depressed and anxious. I isolated myself from everyone I loved, including my family. I lost my personality and my motivation to do anything besides obsess over calories and exercise.
“I skipped parties because I was too tired and anxious. I hated how I looked and constantly picked myself apart. I became cold and unfriendly. I felt trapped and so scared. I honestly thought I would never get better.”
Now recovered, Esme is at university studying Journalism and hopes to be able to inspire others through her writing. She says overcoming her eating disorder made her a better person.
“Although the years I struggled with anorexia were the worst years of my life, they made me who I am today. They made stronger, more empathetic, wiser and grateful,” she added.
“It proved to me that I am stronger than I think. It showed me that I have a passion for health, nutrition and fitness. Most importantly, it gave me a story to tell and a way to help people who are struggling.
“Every time I get a message from someone saying that I inspired them to choose recovery, I think “It was all worth it”.
“The most difficult part about recovery for me was later on in recovery, when you begin to physically look healthy but you are still struggling mentally. People tend to forget that eating disorders are a mental disorder with physical symptoms.
“Just because someone looks healthy, it doesn’t mean they are on the inside. Everyone starts to act like you aren’t still struggling or that you’re all better because you look better.
“This is when you need to stay true to your recovery and refuse to relapse. Be honest with everyone around you and ask for more support. Remind yourself that recovery is more than physically healing yourself, but healing your relationship with food, exercise and most importantly, yourself.”
Esme’s family supported her throughout her recovery and she now hopes to inspire others to get better.
“I’m trying to think about what I would want to hear when I was struggling, but I just remember feeling hopeless and scared. So, I guess I want to say that there is always hope,” she explained.
“I know you feel like you’ll never get better or that you’re the one person that can’t be saved, but you’re wrong. You have so much more strength and potential than you know. There is not one person on this earth that has struggled with something like this that is “too sick” to get better.
“You can do this. You can choose to believe again and it’s going to be so hard. It’s probably going to be the hardest thing in your life, I’m not going to lie to you. But it will be worth it.
“You will be happy and excited about life again and it’s going to feel amazing. You just can’t give up and you have to start.”
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