Lockdown may have been difficult for many people – but for Natalie Bradley, it saved her life.
The 32-year-old nearly died of anorexia after living on Diet Coke and laxatives for months. Natalie says if it weren’t for lockdown forcing her to face her demons, she likely would have starved herself to death.
“I knew I needed help and I know lockdown saved me,” she says. “It forced me to slow down because the gyms closed and shopping was restricted.”
Natalie, who is from Manchester in the UK, went from 121kg to 48kg in just 15 months after becoming obsessed with losing weight.
She’d spend hours in the gym and walked up to
50 000 steps a day. Her system became so compromised the skin on her feet started
to fall off.
“I was going to the gym twice a day and swallowing an entire box of laxatives every day,” she recalls.
“It was causing me to collapse, but I couldn't stop myself. But I knew if I carried on I’d die.”
Natalie’s eating disorder started when she was a teenager. When she was 16, she starved herself until she weighed just 38kg and became so weak she was bedbound and developed sores on her body.
At 1,53m tall, Natalie was severely underweight. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and spent the following 10 years in and out of hospital.
Her unhealthy relationship with food then turned into
overeating and in 2018 she tipped the scales at 121kg. Because she was so heavy,
Natalie was on crutches, had prediabetes and sleep apnoea and had to take
morphine to manage back pain.
She knew she needed a lifestyle change – but what started as healthy eating and moderate exercise soon became a deadly addiction.
“I became obsessed with the emotional feelings attached to losing weight,” says Natalie, who works as a volunteer with a local mental health charity.
“It felt really good and soon became addictive. It went too far and I couldn't stop. It didn't matter how much weight I lost, it didn't feel or look good enough.”
By last year February she had become so frail she had to be admitted to hospital.
“I knew I wasn't coping.”
After her skin started to fall off her
feet, doctors warned she was in danger of developing sepsis. Her excessive
exercise regime had exacerbated her skin condition and all the hours spent on
her feet was further shredding the skin on her toes. “I now have nerve damage,”
After three weeks in hospital Natalie was discharged to continue her recovery at home. Although she now weighs 76kg, it’s still a daily battle to develop a better relationship with food.
“I am taking it day by day and step by step,” Natalie says.
“I struggle a lot but I have a very supportive family and good friends. I’m now in recovery.”