By Liana Jacob
MEET the woman whose eagerness to lose weight got out of hand when she began consuming only three-hundred calories a day and shrunk down to just over four-stone.
In 1997 when Lifestyle coach, Lauren D’Ambra (34), from New York, USA, was in year eight, she wanted to trim down her figure, by choosing ‘healthy’ food and exercise.
In her view, she was ‘chunky’ and wanted to slim down, carefully counting her calories. But the more she slimmed down, the more compliments she would receive that caused her to take it to ‘extremes’.
She would consume as little as 300 to 400 calories a day, which reduced her weight to 4st 2Ibs and a UK size two. Her skinny frame meant that she would have to layer up her clothes to keep herself warm and at Christmas 1997, she had lanugo, where her hair became finer, which is what the body does to keep itself warm.
The next year after feeling constantly low from anorexia, she decided she wanted to be happy, and looked to changing her routine altogether to get better. Her decision to recover resulted in her working out five to six days a week with weights, cardio and no longer counting calories while she now sticks to three meals a day. The five-foot fitness fanatic is now a healthy 7st 9Ibs and a UK size four.
“It started very innocently. It was before my 8th grade semi-formal and graduation, I was a little ‘chunky’ I guess, even though I was always into sports,” Lauren said.
“I decided to try to eat healthier foods and exercise at home (treadmill and stair master). Nothing wrong with making those conscious decisions to be healthy, right?
“Except when I started to lose weight, started feeling better about myself, started getting compliments, I then began to take it too far.
“There wasn’t anything major going on in my life at the time except graduating eighth grade to go on to high school, which wasn’t a big deal to me at the time as I was continuing on in school with most of my friends.
“It just goes to show you how anorexia can start off so innocently. I just want to make it clear though, there obviously was something subconscious and deep-rooted going on that can make an individual take something to such an extreme.
“While I couldn’t always pinpoint the exact, precise things, I knew I loved feeling good about myself and not self-conscious and I was definitely getting attention, even though it was more negative because it was out of concern from family.
“I was always feeling down. I had a low mood, there was little that made me happy. I felt so lost. I remember the fall and winter of 1997-18, I was wearing like two layers of clothes under my pyjamas.
“I wore thermal top and trousers, a t-shirt on top and then the pyjamas. I was always so cold, and this was when I started to get lanugo; really fine, soft hair which is the body’s way of trying to protect it and keep it warm.
“I was getting all of these brown patches on my back this time too. I remember that starting to scare me a bit.
“So, I decided I wanted to be happy. I was so down all the time. I also hated seeing my family, especially my mum, so worried and sad about me all the time.
“Figuring out what was causing it all to happen was difficult. It was just such a low point of my life. I felt lost; finding your way in the midst of such mixed and confusing emotions is never easy.
Getting into a regular eating pattern was difficult for Lauren, who says that gaining the weight was a tough process.
“I struggled a lot with the notion of gaining weight back on and how I would feel and look, but I was honestly so unhappy and looked so sick then,” she said.
“I started using diet pills at around the age of seventeen and was on them for almost ten or eleven years. All they did was give me fake energy from caffeine and stress my adrenal glands.
“My recovery has made me realise how strong and resilient I am – that there’s really nothing I can’t get through. I feel strong and empowered.
“My friends and family are just amazed. They didn’t know how I would ever pull out of it. For me, it was a major empowering life lesson.
“My healthy lifestyle began by slowly and steadily increasing my food intake with a nutritionist. I ate all healthy, nutrient dense foods.
“I was never pushed to eat things that triggered any fearful or negative emotions. It was a very long and slow process.
“When I was strong enough and gained enough weight, I started to walk either outside or on the treadmill. As time went on then, I increased my exercise and varied it.
“I went through a period where I loved running – which I still do and the stress release from it helped me a lot.
“Now, I don’t really count anything or track my food now. I eat a wide variety of healthy food and it must be stuff I like. I won’t eat things I don’t like.
“For breakfast, I may have berries with a vegetable frittata and whole grain toast, for lunch, it may be a shake, dinner a big salad, roasted vegetables and fish. For my snacks, I would have nut butter on fiber crisps, homemade protein treats, yogurt and fruit.
“What I would say to anyone suffering is, what is on the other side of this eating disorder is something more beautiful than you can ever even imagine. You owe it to yourself to live your best life.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Needing help doesn’t mean you are weak. Don’t be afraid to let people know you’re confused or don’t know why this is happening or that you’re afraid of what comes next.
“This disorder is a part of who you are now, and it will always be. It’s part of your life journey but it doesn’t have to be your whole identity or control you.”
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