Five stone anorexia sufferer left wheelchair bound after starving herself from age 11 now a bodybuilding champ
An anorexia sufferer who was left wheelchair-bound as her weight plummeted to just 5st after starving herself from age 11 has turned her life around to become a bodybuilding champion.
Emily Brand, 20, was so insecure about her weight as a child that she developed an ‘obsession’ with exercise and started skipping meals – and at 14 she spent a year in an inpatient unit only to relapse on her release.
After six years eating less and less because of the ‘little demon’ in her head telling her she was fat, Emily reached the point she was living on one apple a day – and eventually starved herself completely for an entire week.
The teen’s condition was so severe that when Emily, who weighed just 5st 3lbs, was admitted to hospital and doctors put her on a feeding tube, she instantly ripped it out.
Her size 0 body became so frail and fatigued that Emily had to rely on a wheelchair but now the impressive young woman is stronger than most after a bodybuilding coach ‘saved her life’.
After being released from a second nine-month stay an inpatient unit, Emily joined a gym and met Rob Reinaldo who offered to train her to be a bodybuilder but only if she started eating.
Now weighing 8st, Emily’s muscular 5’ 3” frame is a far cry from the ‘skin and bones’ it was just two years ago – and she is now a personal trainer hoping to help others.
Emily, of Market Deeping, Lincs, said: “I was never fat but I used to get bullied quite a bit. I remember girls making comments like ‘I bet you can’t feel your ribs’.
“Little things like that set me off. At 11 you shouldn’t be worried about your weight at all but kids can be cruel.
“I got obsessed with exercise and I started skipping meals. I would go to school without having breakfast then I wouldn’t eat my school lunch. At home I’d just push my dinner around on my plate.
“By 17 I was eating an apple a day if I ate at all and eventually I stopped eating completely, I was literally starving myself. And I was still exercising, I was trying to run on nothing.
“My mum would try to get me to eat and she tried to put her foot down with me but I would refuse. It really put a strain on our relationship.
“You go into this world where it’s like your body and mind have been taken over by this little demon. You don’t think you are ill at all and you push anyone away who tries to tell you otherwise.
“And this demon is constantly telling you you’re fat and not to eat when actually you’re skin and bone.
“I was so tired all the time and so cold because I had such bad circulation. And my body was so weak, I had to be put in a wheelchair. My hair started falling out.
“My heart rate was dangerously low. When I was in hospital it dropped so low a few times that all the machines started going off. I could have lost my life to anorexia.
“The doctors tried to put me on a feeding tube I ripped it straight out. Then they tried to get me to drink these high calorie shakes and I would just sneak out of bed and tip them out the window.”
After three years of rapidly deteriorating health, 14-year-old Emily was admitted to a child and adolescent mental health inpatient unit where she stayed for a year until her weight was deemed healthy.
But the fitness instructor admits that she ‘ate her way out’ simply gaining weight so she could return home to her mum Alex Gibbs, 47, instead of actually overcoming her body image issues.
Emily relapsed a year after going home and at 17 had to spend a week in hospital before returning to the inpatient unit for nine months.
Being forced to spend so much time away from her friends and family was so harrowing for Emily that after her second stint in care, she came out more determined to change and joined the gym.
Emily, who still lives with her mum and 49-year-old stepdad Paul Gibbs, said: “When you go into the unit you’re not allowed weekend home visits until you’ve got to a certain weight.
“When you reach that target you get family visits but you’ve still got to gain more to get home. On my first stay, I wasn’t allowed home for a whole month.
“It was so horrible. Not being able to see your family and your friends is awful. In the end, I ate my way out. I just did what I had to do to get home but I hadn’t actually got any better mentally.
“My second stay was more of a success. I came out and I still hadn’t completely overcome the psychological side of my anorexia but I was more determined to get better and I joined the gym.
“I started weightlifting and I did a few bikini competitions but I was still trying to function on way too few calories.
“Then I met Rob and he said he would train me and get me into bodybuilding but he really put his foot down when it came to my eating.
“He said if I didn’t start eating properly, I would never succeed and he wouldn’t be able to be my coach.
“That was the first time anyone who wasn’t my mum had put their foot down with me and it saved my life. I completely turned myself around.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now without him. He’s such an amazing person.”
After meeting Rob, Emily started to eat a high protein and high carbohydrate ‘bulking’ diet and upped her daily calorie intake to 3,000.
The bodybuilder has gained 3st of pure muscle by following a strict exercise regime that includes squats, deadlifts, shoulder and leg presses and isolation training.
Emily, who can squat 85kg and deadlift 110kg, said weightlifting has given her a renewed passion for life and every day she is amazed at how far she has come from being that girl in the wheelchair.
Out of seven competitions this year, Emily has consistently placed in the top four and been crowned champion three times – and her ‘supportive’ mum is always there cheering her on.
Emily has also qualified for the British finals in October.
Emily said: “I can’t believe how much my life has changed. It’s amazing to think I was in a wheelchair just three years ago and now I’m loving life.
“I feel so much stronger and happier than I ever have done. Bodybuilding has given me a way to stay in control of my body but in a healthy way.
“A lot of people who overcome anorexia face a constant battle for the rest of their lives but I don’t struggle at all now.
“I absolutely love my food. I eat six meals every day and I really enjoy eating healthy and cooking. It’s such a far cry from when I used to starve myself.
“And I have one cheat day a week when I can eat whatever I fancy – pizza, pasta, ice cream, whatever.
“People say that weightlifting hurts but what I put my body through with my anorexia was so painful that weightlifting is nothing. I really love it.
“It feels incredible to be able to overcome what I have done. I really make the most of life now. I’m making up for all the time I lost being in hospital.
“And my relationship with my mum is so good now, we’re really really close. She comes to all my competitions, she’s so supportive.
“And she loves Rob. She thinks he is an absolute lifesaver.
“I want other people struggling to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s hard but you have got to battle through it.
“Find something that you love and that lets you get all your emotions out like I have.”