'Beware resolutions, giving up chocolate for New Year turned me into an anorexic': Medical student’s weight plunged to 5st when she was 13 years old

  • Annabelle Harris, 25, from Solihull cut chocolate at age 9 on New Year
  • Developed anorexia and weight plunged to less than 5 stone at 13
  • By University she was 'beyond help' and organs were failing

By Deni Kirkova

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A medical student today 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, 25, from Solihull, West Midlands, cut the sugary snack from her diet when she was nine years old as a personal challenge after eating too much 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.

Annabelle Harris from Solihull warns against New Year's resolutions after becoming anorexic as a child

Annabelle Harris from Solihull warns against New Year's resolutions after becoming anorexic as a child

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 her weight had plunged to under five stone and she was admitted to an adolescent psychiatric unit in Birmingham after falling critically ill.

She stayed there for three ears and continued to battle with the disease until she went to university.

 

But, at 21, she again lost too much weight and was rushed to hospital 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 today warns youngsters not to crash diet in the New Year.

Annabelle aged 8 at home in Solihull
She says she looked at her body and thought she looked fat

At home in Solihull aged eight (left); Annabelle (pictured right, now) says she used to look at her body and think she was fat

'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,' she says.

'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.

'I was so poorly that I was beyond help. My organs started failing - I was more ill than I had ever been. I was completely yellow with jaundice and I started vomiting. Mum rushed me to A&E'

'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.

Annabelle aged seven before her harrowing ordeal, which led her to weigh 5 stone at 13

Annabelle aged seven before her harrowing ordeal, which led her to weigh 5 stone at 13

'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.

'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'

'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.

Annabelle agreed to be put on a drip after hitting an all-time low and realising things had to change

Annabelle agreed to be put on a drip after hitting an all-time low and realising things had to change

'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.'

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Although only a child when she gave up chocolate, I would suggest she was already an obsensive and this is the reason for the resolution. Not the other way round.

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Well obviously it was not the resolution that was the main cause, but it triggered her anorexia. It happened to me too. I already HAD problems with my confidence and my mental health, but the decision to "cut some carbs" and "losing some weight" was how I developed anorexia. It happened very quicky, in only few months I turned from that normal weight, outgoing and food loving girl into a frail skeleton that was terrified of eating an apple. IT DOES HAPPEN. Most anorexics I know have developed their eating disorder when they were thinking "Oh I'll just eat healthier and lose few pounds" and then it gets out of control. I just want to warn you. It's not worth it.

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Anorexia is a mental disorder. Making a new year resolution had nothing to do with it. She could have chosen to give up chocolate at any point, independently. Nice of her to share her story to assist others, but anorexia really isn't caused by giving up chocolate.

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The DM's 'sidebar of shame' serves as a wonderful example to young girls doesn't it. It's all about 'bikini bodies' or some z-list 'celeb' who has shamefully put on a few pounds. Makes me sick when the DM pontificates about anorexia when they peddle this sort of crap day-in day-out.

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A new year's resolution doesn't make you anorexic. Personal demons, peer pressure and any one or more of a myriad of other reasons do that. Sometimes it's about controlling your own body because you think your life is out of your control - sometimes it's because you don't want to grow up and being anorexic, particularly in a girl, stops puberty almost dead in its tracks. The body is so malnourished that breasts stay small; periods either don't start at all or stop occuring and the sufferer's height can also be stunted. Basically they remain childlike. The same for males - a lot of their puperty related growth is also affected; facial hair, muscle mass and height are all stunted. It's a terrible disease and catastrophic on both the sufferer and their families, but it's not the fault of a new year resolution.

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ban size zero model adverts & ban model airbrushing as females are trying to emulate their thin figures & that is dangerous!

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I was in a Children's Home and very happy. When it was nearing the time to leave there and go back home to live (I was almost 16), I felt I had lost control over my life. I gradually became Anorexic and ended up in a Psychiatric Unit for almost 2 years. The Anorexia has come and gone over the next 35 years of my life and I have been sectioned once, in my late 20's as I was severely underweight and suicidal.

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Having had anorexia as an adolescent/teen myself, my heart goes out to this young lady. Although...I think perhaps what she meant was to not make unreachable/unhealthy New Years resolutions, and don't get so carried away with them that they harm your life. Surely, making a resolution to eat healthy (and by healthy, I mean quality, not quantity, such as including whole foods and excluding processed foods) and exercise moderately would not be a bad thing. On the subject of chocolate, while white and milk chocolate can be very sugary, dark chocolate (say, 75-80% cacao) is extremely good for you and is especially high in magnesium, a key mineral in the human body. Magnesium deficiency usually presents itself as muscle cramping, involuntary eye twitching, fatigue, restlessness and/or inability to sleep. Not to criticize her, but chocolate gets a bad rap for how healthy it is in a purer form!

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buy chocolate, its good for you, says leading chocolate manufacturer

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This should be about obsession not resolutions.

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