A medical student yesterday warned young people not to make New Year’s resolutions after she gave up chocolate as a bit of fun as a child – and became ANOREXIC.
Annabelle Harris cut the sugary snack from her diet when she was nine years old as a personal challenge after indulging herself over Christmas in 1997.
But her New Year’s resolution soon became an obsession and within months she began skipping meals after becoming convinced she was overweight.
She did everything she could to avoid consuming carbohydrates and even diluted skimmed milk with water because she was convinced she would get fat.
Shockingly, by the age of 13 she had plunged to under five stone and was admitted to an adolescent psychiatric unit in Birmingham after falling critically ill.
She stayed there for three years and continued to battle with the disease until she went to university.
But she again became badly underweight and was rushed to hospital when she was 21 when she suffered organ failure as a result of being so undernourished.
Finally she beat the disease and is now studying to be a doctor.
Annabelle, now aged 25, yesterday she warned youngsters not to crash diet in the New Year.
Annabelle, from Solihull, West Mids., said: “When I was nine, I looked at my body and thought I looked fat so I made my New Year’s resolution, I banned chocolate.
“But at the age of 13, I started cutting out carbs and fats. I began to dilute my skimmed milk. In the end I was just eating a tiny amount, a small number of calories a day.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint why I did it. I think it was possibly a number of factors – a genetic disposition, my personality and the fact that I was bullied at school.
“My mother thought I was underweight. She took me to the GP, who asked me whether I had a problem.
“I said no. I thought I was just being sensible about what I ate.
“And on the third time she took me to the surgery, she was told she was fussing. There was nothing to worry about.
“She wasn’t having it, finally, she took me to a different GP who said straight away that I had quite severe anorexia and referred me to a specialist.
“I couldn’t believe I was anorexic, I didn’t think that was me, I felt I quite enjoyed food.
“I’ve since read that most anorexics feel the same way.
“My parents were upset and angry, as most parents would be. They couldn’t understand why I was doing what I was doing to myself.
“Three months later, I became critically ill.
“My BMI (body mass index) was so low that I was exhausted and freezing, I hurt all over, I was miserable, I couldn’t concentrate.
“I was in a really awful way.
“I was referred to an adolescent psychiatric unit in Birmingham. They said I’d stay there for four months – but I ended up staying for two years.
“But I wasn’t scared. I had completely lost my emotional response. There were other kids in there and we got on quite well. The staff made it a friendly place.
“I was put on a strict regime of eating, had one-to-one psychotherapy, attended body image groups, lessons in family therapy and group therapeutic sessions.
“When I looked at myself in the mirror I thought I looked normal, or that I could still lose a bit.
“But others there looked completely emaciated. I couldn’t believe I was grouped with them.
“Then I’d be shocked to find that their BMI was actually higher than mine.
“I finally came out of hospital when I was 16 years old. I found adjusting to everyday life difficult but I’d had so much help and treatment that I was ready for it.
“And I desperately didn’t want to go back to hospital.
“I passed five GCSEs and went on to sixth form to do A-levels. I think I was lucky that I landed on my feet.
“I had a good time at sixth form, and I was quite well for around 18 months.
“Then, gradually, various things like boyfriend trouble, triggered off a chain of weight yo-yoing.
“I lost a stone, then I put on a bit. That went on for three years until I went to university.
“By the end of the year, I was so poorly that I was beyond help.
“My organs started failing – I was more seriously ill than I had ever been.
“I was completely yellow with jaundice and I started vomiting. Mum rushed me to A&E. They wanted to put me on a drip.
“I remember thinking they were going to pump me with liquidised Mars bar.
“I had a big tantrum. Mum burst into tears.
“They threatened to section me and I finally agreed for them to put me on a drip. I knew I was at an all-time low. I realised things had got to change.
“I would urge all young people not to give up food as a New Year’s resolution because it could trigger something much more serious.”
Eating disorder charity BEAT warned people not to make drastic New Year’s resolutions.
A spokesperson said: “New Year’s resolutions made rashly after overeating at Christmas can be a trigger for anyone who is susceptible to eating disorders.
“We would advise people to be careful with what they do and what resolutions they make and that if they find themselves struggling to contact their GP straight away and sort out a proper healthy eating plan.
“And even people who have a problem with over eating the advice is the same, don’t make rash New Year choices and if you have a problem contact a medical professional straight away.”