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Businesswoman, 24, shares the difficulty of living with anorexia and having a fear of weight gain

A 24-year-old Australian businesswoman weighed just 48 kilograms after what started as a fear of weight gain spiralled into a battle with anorexia nervosa.

In 2018, Bree Lenehan, from Queensland, fell into the grips of an eating disorder after becoming infatuated with losing weight and developing an ‘unhealthy relationship with food’.

Bree was struggling so much with her body image she would rarely leave the house and would shy away from wearing anything that showed her body shape – even around her boyfriend of four years. 

‘I became obsessed with watching the scale drop; I was exercising every day and I wasn’t eating,’ Bree, who then weighed 69 kilograms, told FEMAIL. 

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Bree Lenehan, from Queensland, said she had an 'unhealthy relationship with food'

But after the side effects became too severe, she sought assistance from a nutritionist to get her lifestyle back on track

Bree Lenehan (left in 2018 and right, now) weighed only 48 kilograms after living with anorexia and having a fear of gaining weight

In January 2018 (pictured) her lifestyle took a turn for the worse when she decided to lose weight with no clear goal or knowledge and avoided eating food for 72 hours each week

In January 2018 (pictured) her lifestyle took a turn for the worse when she decided to lose weight with no clear goal or knowledge and avoided eating food for 72 hours each week 

Bree recalled she tried a variety of ‘fad diets’ included keto and intermittent and only ate boiled eggs, a handful of almonds, tuna with cherry tomatoes and lettuce each day.

She wouldn’t eat for 72 hours of the week and felt constantly hungry, flustered, short tempered and often dizzy.  

‘I lost ten kilograms in six months and another ten two months later,’ she said, adding: ‘It got to the point where I was constantly focused on losing weight that I became on the verge of being hospitalised.’ 

She would exercise for an hour and a half six to seven times a week, incorporating 70 minutes of intense cardio and 30 minutes of weight training into each workout. 

What is anorexia nervosa?

* Anorexia nervosa is a psychological illness that has devastating physical consequences. 

* It is characterised by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight, which manifests itself through depriving the body of food. 

* It often coincides with increased levels of exercise. 

* There are two main sub-types of anorexia:

Restricting type — this is the most commonly known type of anorexia nervosa, whereby a person severely restricts their food intake.

Binge-eating or purging type — less recognised, this type of anorexia nervosa forms when a person restricts their intake as above, but also has regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behaviour.

* Anorexia nervosa can affect the mind and body in a multitude of ways:

Brain – preoccupation with food/calories, fear of gaining weight, headaches, fainting, dizziness, mood swings, anxiety, depression.

Hair and skin – dry skin, brittle nails, thin hair, bruises easily, yellow complexion, growth of thin white hair all over body (called lanugo), intolerance to cold.

Heart and blood – poor circulation, irregular or slow heartbeat, very low blood pressure, cardiac arrest, heart failure, low iron levels (anaemia).

Intestines – constipated, diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal pain.

Hormones – irregular or absent periods, loss of libido, infertility.

Kidneys – dehydration, kidney failure.

Bones and muscles – loss of bone calcium (osteopenia), osteoporosis, muscle loss, weakness, fatigue.

Source: Eating Disorders Org 

 

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Bree would only ate boiled eggs, a handful of almonds and tuna with cherry tomatoes and lettuce each day

'At the gym I would have the treadmill on the highest incline and wouldn't eat after the workout,' she said

Bree recalled she tried a variety of ‘fad diets’ included keto and intermittent and only ate boiled eggs, a handful of almonds and tuna with cherry tomatoes and lettuce each day

Bree started losing feeling in her right leg from her knee to her foot and stopped getting her regular monthly period – which was what she described as her final wake-up call.

In 2019 she focused on educating herself about health and ‘rewired’ her thinking on nutrition with the help of experts.

‘I took it upon myself to reverse what I had done and gain the weight I had lost, so I began eating more,’ she said.

‘It was scary that I took such unnecessary drastic measures and didn’t want to stop losing weight, but I didn’t have to knowledge to understand that I didn’t need to do that to look good.’

After three months of maintaining a well-balanced diet, Bree gained seven kilograms and regained her period.

With help from her nutritionist, she now incorporates up to seven meals into her daily diet and goes to the gym four times a week. 

In 2019 she focused on educating herself about health and 'rewired' her thinking on nutrition

In 2019 she focused on educating herself about health and ‘rewired’ her thinking on nutrition 

'I took it upon myself to reverse what I had done and gain the weight I had lost, so I began eating more and had help from a nutritionist,' she said

‘I took it upon myself to reverse what I had done and gain the weight I had lost, so I began eating more and had help from a nutritionist,’ she said 

After three months of maintaining a well-balanced diet, Bree gained seven kilograms and regained her period, which she was overjoyed about

After three months of maintaining a well-balanced diet, Bree gained seven kilograms and regained her period, which she was overjoyed about 

‘It was a very controlling lifestyle and looking back it makes me feel sad that it I was so obsessed with being skinny,’ she said.

She now hopes to inspire and motivate others to maintain a healthy lifestyle when losing weight and focus on balance. 

‘I feel amazing, I enjoy eating food I like and feeling confident in my body – and I accept my flaws rather than being picky about how I look,’ she said.

‘Learning to appreciate your body as it is and what it can do is really important no matter what your personal goals are.’ 

If you need help or support for an eating disorder or body image issue, please call Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 334 673 or email [email protected]

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