Woman’s ‘toxic’ eating disorder ‘robbed her life of happiness’

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A woman said the "toxic relationship" she had with anorexia and bulimia made her unable to take enjoyment from life.

Katie McKenzie from Wigan is a third year student at the University of Liverpool studying medicine.

The 22-year-old's battle with an eating disorder started in her first year at university.

Katie said: "I was first diagnosed when I first came to university in 2017, that was after a while of being unwell but I only accessed help after a few months.

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"From being quite academic and a perfectionist but going to university and medical school academically everyone seemed on the same level.

"I turned to controlling food as a way of achieving something else.

"It was a way to have control over something else because the curriculum of medicine is quite large and overwhelming."

Katie has suffered with both anorexia and bulimia.

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The NHS defines anorexia as an eating disorder and serious mental health condition where people: "try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve.

"They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they're fat even when they're underweight."

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Both men and women of any age can get anorexia but it's most common in young women and typically starts in the mid teenage years.

Bulimia is defined as a disorder where sufferers eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binge eating) and then make themselves sick, use laxatives or do excessive exercise to try to stop themselves gaining weight.

Katie said: "Sometimes I've done quite well on the anorexia front but I've struggled with bulimia and so I've been back in touch with the GP and eating disorder services with that.

"At it's worst it was something I thought about all the time. I didn't want to let myself eat.

"You just feel kind of scared of food really and feel like you don't need it.

"If I was to eat something then it would play on my mind for a long time after that.

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She added: "It was an overwhelming thing, it was like a devil on your shoulder really you do kind of want to follow what it's trying to get out of you.

"But at the same time it's very isolating and as much as I wanted to get better I felt I should carry on with it.

"I noticed that I had lost weight but it was when my friends and family were commenting on things. Noticed that I'd lost weight and not eating."

Katie McKenzie said she was so focused on food she was unable to enjoy her life

Katie said her obsession with food meant she was unable to enjoy social events such as birthday and holidays, even taking pleasure from time spent with her friends and family was affected by her mind which was "focussed on how many calories I could limit."

Katie admits she was "very underweight" by the time she was persuaded to access help in early 2017.

She took a year out from her studies to recover and underwent therapy to help overcome her problems with eating.

Despite a few set backs on her journey, Katie is now back studying medicine and has gained greater perspective on the destructive nature the eating disorder had on her life at the time.

Katie McKenzie is in her third year at the University of Liverpool studying medicine

She is now an ambassador for BEAT, an eating disorder charity and is passionate about the need for more awareness about how Anorexia and Bulimia can seriously affect people's lives.

More information on accessing help on eating disorders can be found on the charity's website here.

Katie said: "When I was diagnosed it was my life at that time. The thing with anorexia you want to be good at it when you are unwell you do want to lose weight. So it's a bit like a toxic relationship really."

Beat is the UK’s leading eating disorder charity.

They run online support groups and regional support services allowing people to talk to others with similar experiences, helping them to feel less alone with their eating disorder.

Their helplines are open 365 days a year from 12pm – 8pm during the week, and 4pm – 8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677

Studentline: 0808 801 0811

Youthline: 0808 801 0711

They also offer a one-to-one web chat service should phonelines be busy.

Adding: "I suppose there's days when it's still at the back of my mind but I think of everything I've been through and what I was missing out on. I keep reminding myself of that I suppose."

"To go and get help was the hardest step but the most important step, because without that you could settle for life with an eating disorder.

Katie is now on placement at the Royal Liverpool Hospital

"Because when you're in it you've got the problems of the disorder and you don't think about what else is happening out there."

"Friends and family have been amazing about it all. It was a difficult time for them as much as me as it definitely changed me at the time because I didn't want to be around people and was quite short tempered.

"It's good to be able to see that in the past and still have the friendships and family around me despite all that."

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