By Liana Jacob
THIS BRITISH woman claims the side effects of a contraceptive implant led to her weight plunging to just over seven-stone with a shocking anorexia-wracked body and periods that stopped completely.
In June 2017, photographer, Meg Sheppard (27), from Hertfordshire, UK, had a contraceptive implant inserted into her arm and for the three months she had it, she suffered from extreme side effects of aggression and mood changes.
The side effects got progressively worse by September 2017 when the doctors removed the implant, she had the overwhelming urge of increasing her fitness and workout routine. She started running every day of the week pushing her limits and working out at the gym two hours a day for four days a week. She became anorexic in September but wasn’t diagnosed with the condition until a few months later.
Her intense schedule caused her weight to drop to 7st 3Ibs and was a UK size four. Meg didn’t recognise she had anorexia until January 2018 at a private doctor appointment with her mum. The doctor told her the severity of her condition and that she would have to fight through ‘hell and fire’ to recover.
This was her lightbulb moment and Meg agreed to reduce her work out and running routine. She now consumes 2,500 calories a day which has helped her get to a size eight and is nearly 8st.
Doctors warned her that eating disorders could lead to her having amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation; women who have one or more missed menstrual periods in a row would have this.
She started her recovery process before any lasting damage and her hormones are now back to normal.
“Doctors warned me an imbalance of hormones due to having such a low body fat percentage (my body fat was eight percent which is too low) I was worried that it would affect my chance to have children,” Meg said.
“However luckily I started my recovery before any lasting damage was done and my hormones are now returning to normal.
“It started in September 2017 and got progressively worse. I believe it stemmed from side effects from the contraceptive implant.
“I suffered from side effects throughout the summer of 2017 including aggression and mood changes for the three months I had the implant.
“For me, it was never about being ‘thin’ and I have never had any issues with body image. There were no other life changes that could have triggered it.
“It was about being the best with my fitness and my idea of ‘perfect’. I decided one day that I wanted to be healthier and train for a half marathon.
“I started just eating more healthy foods and avoiding cake or chocolate and as the months went on, I became more and more strict with my diet and exercise regime.
“Throughout this period, I had a low mood, I was depressed, not enjoying things that I used to. It took me a long time to admit I had an issue as people were still complimenting me at the gym.
“I am still in recovery, but it has already changed my perception of mental health. I used to think that anorexia was about being thin and not eating.
“However now I can see that it can affect anyone, even simply over exercising can be a start to an eating disorder. Anorexia is not always about food, I realise now that it is my way of trying to control my life.”
Meg says that her ‘obsession’ with being fit and healthy caused some issues in her personal life and her fiancé was concerned about how much time she spent running.
However, strangers complimenting her look at the time caused her to feel confident in herself and she never fully came to terms with her condition until January 2018.
“Before I started recovery, I was working out at the gym four-times-a-week for two hours a session and running three-times-a-week,” she said.
“Before I knew it, each run had to be faster than the one before. I ran thirteen miles in one-hour and thirty-four minutes and it still wasn’t fast enough. I pushed myself more and more.
“Around November 2017, people started getting concerned about my appearance. ‘Too skinny’ comments were made, and my family were getting worried.
“I reassured them and said I was fine, my body genuinely felt great, and I had plenty of energy for my fitness. I actually thought that people were jealous of my commitment to fitness and health.
“Then I started to feel down, low mood and took little pleasure in doing things. My life revolved around fitness and eating healthy.
“I checked menus of restaurants before I went out for dinner, to make sure there was something healthy for me to eat, it was all I could think about.
“So why was everyone around me aware of my illness but I wasn’t? Why did it take me so long to realise that I was slowly killing my body? When did it actually hit me?
“It didn’t hit me when my heart rate was at 40bpm and the Doctor called Cardiology at the hospital in a panic. It didn’t hit me when I was freezing cold in the summer heat.
“It didn’t hit me when I woke up at 3am every morning dripping in sweat. It didn’t hit me when I was out running at midnight. It didn’t even hit me when I stopped having periods and my cheek bones could cut glass.
“Then one afternoon, at a private appointment with my mum, I sat across from a doctor; he looked at me and said, ‘Well Meg, you have anorexia, and you’re going to have to fight through hell and fire to get rid of it.’
“That was it. That was the moment. That was the first time I actually believed I had anorexia, it finally hit me. After I had the moment, I found it really hard.
“I knew I was ill, but people were still coming up to me in the gym and asking what my secret was. ‘Wow you must be a runner, you’re so lean!’ and ‘I wish I had your figure.’
“I would nod and smile, but think, ‘Yes I’m so lucky, I only had to sacrifice my hormones, my social life, my peachy bum and mental wellbeing, but hey at least I’m lean!’
“I was trying to be my idea of perfect, when actually I don’t even know what my idea of perfect is. I just kept going and couldn’t stop.
“I feel like myself again. I no longer feel down or obsessed with fitness. My partner is proud of my progress and is happy that we can eat pizza together again.
“My family say I look a lot better and my mum says she is proud that I’m not running marathons anymore.”
While she is now recovering, Meg says the process has been very difficult. She found the term orthodexia, a condition that include symptoms of obsessive behaviour in pursuit of a healthy diet, when she first noticed a problem that fit her symptoms.
“It was also very difficult with family, most people believe it is as simple as “just eat more” but unfortunately it’s much more than that,” she said.
“For me, the most difficult thing was giving up the gym and running. I have always enjoyed running mud races and going to the gym after work.
“I felt very alone when I first started recovering, there is not a lot of help or advice available and GPs don’t seem to recognise the symptoms if you don’t fit the stereotype and your BMI isn’t low enough.
“An obsession with health and fitness could easily lead to an eating disorder. If you feel like it is taking over your life, then take a break and let your body rest.
“Now I run once a week for about three miles, I go for walks with my partner and no longer feel the need to exercise because I’ve eaten loads of food. I run because I enjoy it, not because I earned it! I will start weight training again once my weight increases.”
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