By Rebecca Drew
THIS inspirational young woman has finally beaten the anorexia and bulimia demons that tortured her for years and now feels ‘beautiful and strong’ after gaining four-stone.
Teaching assistant, Ashlie Bradley (22) from Virginia, USA, developed anorexia in 2011 after her peers taunted her for being overweight throughout her childhood and her grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At the same time, Ashlie was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and OCD which saw her avoid social events and ignore her hunger pangs.
On a typical day, Ashlie would live off bowls of cereal and apples and counted every calorie. This morphed into exercise bulimia, where on occasion, she would binge on calorie laden meals and then do hundreds of crunches a day and run for miles to burn them off.
At her lowest point, Ashlie weighed just 6st 3lbs. It wasn’t until she saw how much she was hurting her friends and family through her eating disorder and constant analysis of food that she decided to turn her life around. She now weighs a healthy and strong 10st.
“Not only did I battle with my eating disorder, I was also diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and OCD. I would feel so alone, yet surrounded by people who loved me,” she said.
“I remember crying nearly every day and wishing my pain would go away. I isolated myself and stopped going out with friends and didn’t want anyone to see me because I felt so horrible and ugly.
“I constantly felt hungry, but I forced myself to ignore it. I felt as though the internal torture was never going to end.
“I don’t like mentioning numbers, but I do remember that my food intake was very minimal. I’d eat cereal for breakfast with skimmed milk, an apple and a cup of cereal when I got home from school, and either a tiny portion of my family dinner or an apple and cereal again.
“I would ‘treat’ myself to a small chocolate petit four after lunch every day. I counted every calorie. I was also doing upwards of hundreds to thousands of crunches a day and always wore my exercise ‘sweat’ belts to work out.
“I was also increasing my running duration and distance. Once it morphed into exercise bulimia, I would eat upwards of four-thousand calories and then go and run it off. I once ate three whole pizzas at a restaurant and the people couldn’t believe it since I was still very small.
“I could see the hurt that my friends and family were experiencing from seeing me in the condition that I was. I could have just lost 5lbs, been in the smallest size jeans I owned, and still tell my loved ones that I was fat and needed to lose weight.
“I didn’t see it right away, but I came to realize that seeing me hurting, was hurting them just as much. I didn’t want them to have to watch the once loving and caring girl they knew slowly die while hating everything about her life.
“I also didn’t want to live that way forever. I didn’t want to live every day constantly worrying about food or weight or fear going outside because of unknown food choices. I didn’t want to pick my body apart and hate myself every morning that I woke up.”
Ashlie no longer counts calories or tracks what she eats and enjoys weight lifting and eats so that she can work out and build muscle and become strong. She tries to work out four times a week but doesn’t beat herself up if she doesn’t have time to fit them in.
At the start of her recovery, Ashlie admits that she struggled with not being able to weigh herself but agrees it was the best thing for her at the time.
“I can go out to eat without needing to analysis the menu beforehand. I can eat fast food and not feel guilty or feel the need to compensate for it. I don’t hate my body and I’m thankful that it’s keeping me alive and strong,” she added.
“I used to think that trying to control everything and being the smallest would make me happy, but I found that being carefree and loving my body for what it is, was what happiness was to me.
“My mental attitude towards food, weight, clothing, body image, and the like have changed and I’m so thankful that I am no longer in a place of self-destruction and hatred.
“I don’t worry about my weight and how I look to others anymore. My self-confidence has blossomed and I’m definitely loving the effects.
“I feel pretty happy in my body. I no longer pick it apart and can honestly say that I feel beautiful and strong again.
“Gaining weight and not being able to weight myself was probably the hardest part of recovery for me. Gaining weight was my biggest fear during my eating disorder days and not being able to weigh myself was taking away what little control I did have.
“Though not weighing myself was extremely difficult at first, it ended up being the best thing for me since I no longer could obsess over making that number go even lower.”
Ashlie now wants to show others that recovery is achievable.
“I want others to know that recovery is possible. It’s not easy by any means, but everything you go through in recovery is absolutely worth it,” she added.
“Though they may not be able to see it, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is that of recovery shining brightly around them.
“I would also like to say that weight restored does not necessarily equate to being recovered. My eating disorder began in summer of 2011, but I was weight restored by doctors’ standards near the end of 2012.
“It wasn’t until 2016 that I was recovered mentally, however. Some of those eating disorder thoughts, they will carry around for their entire lifetime, but one must learn to silence the voices and live their happy life. Also, it is okay to not be okay.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/workthatashfit