By Rebecca Drew
THE SHOCKING contrast between the five-stone anorexic girl, whose body was so tortured by her illness she refused to sit down during the day in the hope of burning more calories, and her present stunning weight lifting self is laid bare in this incredible life-changing story.
Psychology student, Emelle Lewis (22), from Huddersfield, UK, developed her eating disorder when she was just 15 after all of her friends were getting boyfriends and she wasn’t, which made her feel ‘fat and ugly’. Taking action, she joined the gym to try to lose weight, but after she didn’t see results she started to make herself sick, and would only eat vegan and clean foods. This spiralled, and she was hospitalised seven times.
At just 5st, Emelle would dress herself in children’s clothes, but she had persuaded herself that she could maintain her weight and still live a normal life. Surprisingly, she didn’t feel weak in herself, as her body had adapted to its low weight but she felt cold permanently. In the throes of her anorexia, Emelle refused to comply with treatment, and in a fit of paranoia convinced herself that outsiders were trying to ruin her life.
Emelle’s turning point came after she started to follow recovery accounts on Instagram, and she became inspired by other girls who had overcome the illness. She soon realised she didn’t want to die and despite being terrified of the journey ahead of her, she told her mum she wanted to start weight training to recover. Now, Emelle eats six balanced meals a day, amounting to 2,800-calories and lifts weights in the gym. She is a healthy 8st 9lbs and a UK size 8-10.
“It started in high school when I wanted to lose weight because I always felt fat growing up. I always found it hard to fit in, and when all my friends were getting boyfriends at that time but I didn’t, I began to think it was because I was fat and ugly,” she said.
“So, I joined the gym but after a few months I didn’t see weight loss so I began making myself sick and from then on it spiralled out of control and I ended up being hospitalised seven-times over the years.
“When I was ill, I didn’t believe there was anything really wrong with me. I genuinely believed I could maintain at that weight and still live a fairly normal life. I didn’t want to get rid of my eating disorder.
“I refused to comply with treatment and was convinced that everyone was against me, lying to me and trying to ruin my life. I didn’t really feel that weak because my body had adapted to my low weight, however the thing that got me the most was the cold. I was so cold it was painful.
“Before recovery I would walk my dog for thirty-minutes twice a day. I would do yoga and abdominal workouts every morning. I wouldn’t sit down during the day until after 4pm.
“I claimed to be ‘vegan’ at the time so I could only eat fruit and veg and clean foods. I ate the same exact thing every day. Weetabix, hummus and rice cakes, salad and fruit before bed.
“I remember lying in bed one day feeling like I was really dying and realising I had achieved nothing in my life and this is not the way my story is meant to end.
“This switched something in my mind and I knew I had to start fighting and show the world who I am meant to be.
“When I first decided to choose recovery I was terrified, I knew once I had made that commitment I had to stick to it so there was a huge part of me that was questioning, ‘am I really ready to let it go?’ I was also terrified because I thought, ‘what if I fail?’
“I would feel embarrassed if I told everyone I was going to recover but then gave up half way.
“I told my mum first that I wanted to start weight training to help me recover and she believed in me one hundred percent. That day she made so many phone calls to different personal trainers to see if someone would work with me.
“Despite relapsing seven times, my mum always believed in me and was willing to do everything to help me recover. However, my dad and my doctors and psychologist were a bit unsure and thought that it would just be like all the other times where I said I would get better but didn’t.
“The need to prove people wrong was another factor that gave me motivation to recover.”
The most difficult aspect, Emelle says, about her recovery has been having to live her life in the opposite way to the path she had gone down for the past six-years, but she insists overcoming anorexia has made her mentally stronger. She trains at the gym in the evenings, and looks forward to the weekends to treat herself with a big ‘cheat meal’ such as a takeaway, dining out, or indulging in chocolate cake or ice cream.
Emelle’s friends and family are so proud of the woman she has become.
“Now, I still have bad days towards my body image but most days I am proud of what I have achieved and proud of my body. I love watching myself gradually improving at the gym and getting stronger, knowing that I have done this all on my own,” she said.
“The most difficult part of recovery was going against everything I had believed for the past six years. Physically stopping myself from doing things that had become second nature to me through years of suffering with anorexia. I literally had to ignore my own mind.
“Overcoming this illness has now made me such a strong person mentally, I see the world through different eyes.
“I am thankful for everyday I’m alive and I try to be as positive as I can in any situation. I feel like I can achieve anything now.”
Emelle credits weight lifting for helping her recovery and advises others to find and focus on something they are equally passionate about.
“Anorexia tricks you into believing that you don’t want to get better, that there is nothing really wrong with you. The best way to overcome this illness is realising that these thoughts are not you and they are a caused by something else that is not your friend,” she added.
“Find something you are passionate about, something you can work towards and focus all your time and energy towards achieving it.
“Life is too short and we only live once, don’t waste your life being controlled by an eating disorder.
“Love your body for what it is because one day we won’t have one.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/emellegetswell