tough journey Anorexia survivor shares incredible battle to beat eating disorder
"When I went to the hospital doctors told me: 'If you keep going the way you are going, you are not giving yourself the best chance at life.'"
An anorexia survivor whose weight plummeted to just six-and-a-half stone has shared her incredible recovery.
Laura Harrington (20), from Limerick, was just 13 when she first began fixating on her weight.
The fitness model, who has bravely used her social media platforms to dismantle the stigma attached to the illness, said: "In primary school my friends were always slimmer than me. I was by no means big but they probably hadn't hit puberty and I was comparing myself to them.
"The thigh gap and prominent hips were all the rage and I didn't have any of that. I was really hard on myself.
"My parents were going through a separation and for a whole host of reasons my mental health declined. By the time I was 14 I was on anti-depressants and going to counselling."
In 2017 at the age of 17, Laura found herself in the grips of an eating disorder.
"I felt there was so much going on in my life; I had sixth year coming up and I had a very messy first breakup. I had bad body image in general, I didn't know how to cope.
"I felt that food at that point was the only thing I could control. I became obsessive with food, not eating food, just thinking about it and talking about it. I would cook my family meals and not eat it -there was so much secrecy around my eating habits. I hid everything and I ate at specific times and I had to use specific cutlery.
"The gym also became an obsession. I was there seven days a week for two hours every day. I stopped doing all the things I enjoyed. I stopped going out with my friends. It took over my life.
"I weighed myself every day multiple times a day and I would obsessively check my body throughout the day in the mirror. I would constantly try on clothes to see how they would fit.
"In the gym, if I didn't hit the same target on the treadmill that I had previously I would punish myself and not eat. At that point I had lost my period and my hair was falling out in clumps."
Things came to a head when Laura was hospitalised.
"I collapsed outside the gym and I was taken to hospital. When I went to the hospital doctors told me: 'If you keep going the way you are going, you are not giving yourself the best chance at life.'
"I was told that my bones were becoming very brittle and that I was in real danger. I didn't care and that was the scary thing. I wasn't afraid.
"It was self-harm over this long period of time, imagine being so depressed that you don't care about how long you lived, that's what it was.
"I weighed six-and-a-half stone and I am 5ft 7ins. It was very apparent that I was deeply unwell.
"My parents and family and friends were pleading with me they told me, 'this isn't OK, you're not healthy, you are tiny, but I couldn't stop.'
"It is completely about control. Anorexia has no looks, I was struggling just as much before I looked noticeably thin."
In September 2018 everything changed when Laura took the first steps towards recovery.
"I was so fed up and something in me clicked. I had taken a gap year and seeing my friends going off to college, I knew I owed it to myself to turn things around.
"I said to my mam 'I am going to do this but I don't know what is going to happen.' We started going to a therapist that specialised in eating disorders and anorexia.
"I have been there where I said 'I am going to recover' and then a week later been back to square one. This time I dug in and had to go through all the painful [therapy]."
Despite committing to recovery Laura explains that in the depths of despair she contemplated taking her own life.
"While there was pride in knowing that I was changing my life around, there was also angst in not knowing where things were going. I was terrified, vulnerable and despondent. One night those feelings overwhelmed me and I planned to carry out a permanent solution to resolve a temporary feeling.
"Something came over me and I decided to push it off for another few weeks and see could things get better. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and months turned into years and with a lot of time, help and inner work, those thoughts lessened and lessened.
"If there's one thing I have learned over the last few years it's that, this - pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day or a year. But eventually that pain will subside and something will take its place. If you quit however, that lasts forever."
Having come through her illness, the Cocoa Brown tan brand ambassador is now celebrating life.
"I'm finally celebrating what my body can do and appreciating myself for the kind person I am. It's not just about how I look any more.
"I always say I train for strength, it is less and less for aesthetic purposes. I get so much satisfaction out of going to a gym and getting a personal best, that is so empowering."
Using her Instagram platform @laurafit_ireland to raise vital awareness about eating disorders, the Fit Ola fitness model, who has aspirations of becoming a personal trainer, revealed: "To anyone who is suffering I promise you can do it, I promise you can get help. If my story can help one other person then it is worth it, I want to give someone else hope and to uplift others.
"Everything is so fabricated online, it would be valuable to know that not everything is as it seems."
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