As a child, Amy Hutching loved food so much, her family often joked that she would never be anorexic.
So it came as a huge shock when the 26-year-old was diagnosed with the eating disorder last month and, in her own words, ended up looking like “a skeleton with skin”. It made the Christchurch woman realise that the debilitating illness can affect anyone, at any time.
“I didn’t realise how badly I was treating my body. I was in denial. I knew I had a problem, and I didn’t really know what it was,” she explains.
Amy was recently released from hospital and it will take her months to fully recover. The time has allowed her to reflect on the past year and evaluate how a simple desire to tone her body turned into a life-threatening situation.
“I started going to a personal trainer, who mentioned I should watch my carbs and calories,” she remembers.
Suddenly, Amy, who’d always been happy with how she looked and never succumbed to peer pressure, became focused on losing weight.
“I’d always been confident about my size, but everyone around me seemed to be going on diets, and I got on the bandwagon. But I got too involved and went too far.”
Amy would eat only a tiny portion of cereal and salad at mealtimes and supplemented her drastic diet with an excessive exercise regime.
She wasted away, going from 85kg to 45kg in less than a year. Loved ones were concerned she was becoming “skin and bone”.
“At a healthy weight, I was 70kg. Once I started going under that, people were noticing. My face was sunken and I was losing weight in places where I shouldn’t be. Everyone was telling me, but I wouldn’t listen. I was too focused on my goal to keep losing weight. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t see there was a problem,” she reveals.
Her family couldn’t take it any longer and begged Amy to seek help. With their support, she visited her doctor this year and was referred to an eating disorder clinic. When she finally got an appointment in August, a medical emergency ensued that nearly cost Amy her life.
“Within 30 minutes of being there, I was rushed to hospital with heart failure, hypothermia and limited brain function. My body was in starvation mode and started eating my internal organs. I spent five days in hospital with a nasal gastric tube, teaching my body to feed again and getting my heart stronger.”
Doctors told Amy her situation had been so dire, they were surprised she was still alive. If she hadn’t seen them when she did, Amy would certainly have died within days.
The drama was the wake-up call she needed to force her to change her life.
“It’s like a switch had flicked on in my brain, telling me I needed to change. I needed to sort myself out,” she explains.
“Now when I look at myself, I think I look disgusting. Before, I would look at myself and think there was still fat on me.”
Amy is heartbroken when she thinks about the pain and suffering she caused her family.
“Instead of visiting my hospital bed, my parents could have been planning my funeral,” she says.
Amy is grateful to be alive, believing she was saved to fulfill an important purpose in life.
“Clearly, there’s something out there waiting for me. I wasn’t supposed to pass away. Something good is going to happen from this.”
Thankful she has been given a second chance, Amy now eats six full meals every day and hopes her story can help other men and women who suffer from serious eating disorders.
“To finally say I’m a recovering anorexic will help me get better and understand how to mentally overcome this,” she tells.
“Don’t let people tell you that you need to be skinny. You just need to be healthy and happy with who you are.”
Photos: Kelly Shakespeare • make-up: Callie Sandford