By Mollie Mansfield
A former anorexia sufferer who dropped to a tiny four and a half stone due to ‘exam stress’ has turned her life around to become a mental health nurse in order to help others.
During her teenage years, after watching her older sister try different diets, Rebecca Hackfath started to focus on eating healthier.
However, as she became increasingly more stressed by exams, friendship and family problems, Rebecca took her health eating to a whole new level.
Deeming her diet as the only thing she could control in her life, Rebecca began to become obsessed with being as skinny as possible – to the extent where she would hide food from her family and some days would not eat at all.
After becoming so malnourished that she was physically unable to leave her bed and only weighed four-and-a-half stone, 19-year-old Rebecca was admitted to hospital during her first year of University.
Following two years of re-admissions, Rebecca, now 25, was able to beat her eating disorder and start a new degree at De Montfort University and is now training to be a Mental Health nurse to help others with her own experiences.
Rebecca, from Anstey, Leics, said: “I was always a fussy eater as a kid, but never thought anything of it.
“I always looked up to my older sister and always wanted to be like her – so when I saw her dieting I decided to try it too.
“I started by just eating healthy and then over time I cut more and more things out like chocolate and anything remotely unhealthy.
“I had recently started my GCSEs, had issues with my friendship circles and family problems, so I was constantly going through changes and stress.
“I decided that the only thing I could control myself was my diet, so took it to the next extreme.”
Despite her stress levels and diet control getting worse as she took her A-levels, Rebecca was able to get the grades to go to University.
However, living by herself caused her anorexia to get worse and her weight to rapidly drop.
She said: “When I was living with my parents I would do everything I could to look like I had eaten food – I would mash it on my plate or hide it in my pockets to throw in the bin when I was away from the table.
“I would even ‘stage’ that I had eaten meals by putting crumbs on clean plates, but even then there were times I would have to eat around them.
“Then, once I moved to university and was living by myself, I had no one to make sure I was eating.
“I definitely took advantage of it and would make sure that I was eating the bare minimum, and this is when I started to look unwell.
“My university at the time picked up on it and I was admitted to hospital to get some help when I was 19, but I only got worse when I came out.
“I would eat little to no calories a day which made me weak to the point that I couldn’t get out of bed and I only weighed four-and-a-half stone – so I moved back to my hometown.
“Then, when I was 20, I was re-admitted to hospital for another two months which is when I had a ‘light bulb’ moment
“After watching friends graduate at the same time I was supposed to, I knew that I had to take control of my life and get myself back on track.
“It was a slow process, but I kept my goals in my mind and eventually started getting better and letting go of my unhealthy obsession with my diet.”
After spending three years with the hospital as an-outpatient, Rebecca decided to start a new course studying at De Montfort University to become a mental health nurse.
She said: “Being in hospital so much I saw a lot of things a young girl shouldn’t see, and saw first-hand how much nurses help the situation.
“I feel like my first-hand experience will really help me in the job because I am living proof that it does get better.
“I want to teach people that they should confide in someone they trust early so they can get help before it’s too late.
“I can sympathise with everyone in hospital – being unwell and away from your friends and family is tough, so I want to help people make this situation as easy as possible.
“I’m in my second year now and absolutely loving it and if I ever get bad thoughts, I just remember that if I get ill again I won’t be able to do a course that I really love and help people for the rest of my life.
“Finally I’m really excited to be moving forward with my life and doing something so positive that now neither my weight nor my diet comes into it anymore!”