A young Derbyshire woman who has bravely fought a severe eating disorder has shared her story to inspire fellow sufferers.
Annie Windley, 21, from Woolley Moor, has battled anorexia for around five years with numerous hospital admissions, professional treatment and intensive care along the way.
At her lowest point, she weighed just 29kg - just over four-and-a-half-stone - and was at risk of having a heart attack.
But now Annie is fighting fit and has used a love of running to help her recovery, including the Chesterfield Half Marathon, which she completed last October.
“I came to the beautiful conclusion that recovery is a stunning process which should be exciting, memorable and miraculous,” she said.
“I feel as though anorexia will be part of me forever but I have learnt how to control it and quieten the thoughts with every bite I take.
“It is never too late to choose recovery.”
Annie was first diagnosed with the eating disorder in 2012.
Her recovery journey started two years later and she experienced many difficulties including being sectioned and losing so much weight she could barely stand up.
She said: “I can’t pinpoint what changed but in October of 2017 I drastically began to fight harder then ever before and this time is was purely by myself, for myself.
“The struggle was unreal and every day was filled with excruciating emotions and massive courage. In four months I have gained three-stone and I am now at my highest weight since 2014.”
Annie said that she came to the realisation that a person’s weight does not mean anything and what really matters is how someone acts, how they treat other people and how kind they are.
“These are the things that make a difference in life,” Annie said. “These are the important things and these are the things that will make you happy.
“So how about instead of planning your day around food or spending that time thinking of how to restrict, take that time to work on what people actually care about. Be a good friend, a good daughter, laugh with them and talk with them.”
Exercise is often said to have a positive impact’s on a person’s mental health, and that certainly is the case with Annie.
For her love of running has aided her recovery and allowed her to stay on track and give her something to aim for.
Last October she took to the streets of Chesterfield to complete the town’s annual half marathon, a gruelling course of 13.1 miles.
Getting over the finish line was reward for all her hard work and dedication in putting in the miles during her training.
“Now that I am well I can live a flexible more free lifestyle and each morning that I wake up and run I take that time for myself to remember how valuable and precious life is,” she said.
“I’m blessed to have strong legs to run and a beating heart so I no longer waste my hours fretting over food or counting calories. Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate. Focus on passion and use drive to get you to where you aspire to be.”
Annie said that all she had ever done was avoid foods like pizza and chocolate because the voices in her head would reduce them down to numbers and percentage signs.
But thankfully she no longer thinks like that, and she has an important message for anyone in the same position that she once was.
“Some days are tough, you feel awful, you feel ‘fat’, you don’t feel like you need to eat, you feel like recovery isn’t for you,” she added.
“But that’s exactly why we need to keep going. We need to prove to our disorders that we can do it. We do not want to spend our lives full of regret and misery and in the depths of anorexia wishing we could have done the things we missed out on.That’s why we need to keep going.”