By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A trainee dancer was left with an oversized jaw after chewing over 15,000 pieces of gum to sustain her appetite while battling anorexia.
Megan Brewer, 22, weighed just over five stone at the height of her anorexia and was constantly chewing gum to prevent herself from eating.
But her dangerous habit – which saw her chew up to 15 pieces per day – left her jaw in agony as it swelled to twice its normal size.
Megan from Southwark, London, said, “I used to chew constantly as a way of suppressing appetite.
“It also gave me a reason not to eat as chewing gum was in my mouth which stopped me from wanting food.
“But it gave me tummy ache as my stomach was essentially eating itself.
“It made my jaw really sore and my muscles overdeveloped which was exaggerated by my low weight.
“I would always be chewing and felt anxious if I’d leave the house without any.
“Looking back now it all seems like a crazy blur.
“After three years battling anorexia, I’m so thankful that I’ve finally on the road to recovery.
“ Healthy weight is no indication of recovery though, which I feel is overlooked by those who don’t understand.
“I no longer chew gum though, I can’t stand the sight of it.”
Megan moved away from home in 2015 to begin her three year dancing course.
But despite being a healthy eight stone, she began obsessed with her weight while at dance school and began comparing herself to other classmates and fitness models.
Megan said she was relying on chewing gum distract herself from eating.
And by September 2017, her anorexia had taken a dangerous turn and her weight spiralled downwards.
The effects of her chewing had taken its toll as Megan’s jaw became increasingly painful, while her weight loss called her to be admitted to anorexia day care.
The result of Megan’s extreme illness also meant she was unable to maintain muscle and began to fall over constantly.
She said: “By my second year, I developed anxiety and third year was when I engaged in eating disorder behaviours.
“But no-one took it seriously.
“Teachers seemed to actively encourage weight loss, but I just dismissed it as the dance world.
“I began skipping meals and doing extra exercise and quickly my weight plummeted.
“My parents didn’t notice at first as I was away from home but when I came home they were shocked.
“The bones in my chest were exposed and I was noticeably weak.
“At my worst, my heart was having palpations.
“I’d become terrified of food, and to give me energy, I was having on average nine cups of coffee per day.
“For breakfast, I’d have an egg white.
“At lunch I had only lettuce and a hard-boiled egg.
“Dinner would just be an omelette or white fish and veg. I was constantly hungry.”
Megan only realised how badly she needed to change earlier in February this year when she was admitted to an anorexia day clinic.
Thankfully Megan has since been doing much better in her battle with anorexia and ditched her chewing gum habit in February.
She is currently still living in London but has now chosen not to pursue her dance career after her ordeal, instead helping others battling the disorder.
Megan said: “Everyone around me wanted to recover.
“I needed to listen to my body, not my head.
“A friend reached out, encouraged me to go to the GP.
“At the start, I was incredibly angry, but my friends and family held hope when I didn’t.
“I had no trust in myself so I had to put my trust in the staff at the day care.
“The disease is evil.
“I’ll always struggle but I’m beginning to understand it wasn’t my fault.
“I still have all the voices in my head, but I’m able to take a step back from it now.”