By Josh Saunders
A skeletal student who was so dangerously thin she had ‘no body fat percentage’ reading beats anorexia to travel to Australia.
Shannon Crilly, 22, from Dublin, Ireland, was told she would die by dieticians if she didn’t turn her life around when weighing a tiny 6st 2 (40kg/86lb) two years ago.
During her teen years, she became obsessed with calorie counting but after starting university the pressure of studying led her to restrict her intake until she was almost only eating berries.
After dropping three stone (35lb) in six months, her mum Betty recognised she had an eating disorder and took her for professional help.
Shannon was given a life or death ultimatum when her BMI was revealed to be 13.9 and more concerningly the body fat scanner could read any percentage of fat on her body.
She spent six-weeks in hospital, which gave her the determination to never fall to such a dangerously-low weight again and used her hopes of travelling to keep her on track.
Now Shannon, who is in Brisbane, Australia, says she’s happy, healthy and isn’t obsessed with food anymore thanks to her family’s love.
Shannon, a call centre worker, said: “At first I convinced myself I wanted to get healthy and lose a couple of pounds eating fruit and vegetables.
“But over time my diet became less and less varied, then I started to eat smaller and smaller portions and then I was basically only eating fruit and vegetables.
“During my worst times, I had convinced myself that apples and bananas were out of bounds because they contained too much sugar so I would only eat berries.
“I lost three stone in six months, which for someone at 5ft 7 was particularly telling.
“My face was so gaunt and drawn-out that I looked like a skeleton, I was skin and bone the whole way through, it was awful, there was nothing to me.
“At my dieticians, she calculated my BMI which was 13.9 and for the body fat percentage the scale could read any fat on my body at all, it was unreadable.
“When I went into hospital they told me I was almost too underweight to be taken in for treatment and I would have to be on a drip if I lost anymore.
“My time in hospital was the best and worst six weeks of my life, I was a wreck and hated it – but I knew when I came out there was no way I would ever let myself become hospitalised again.
“I gained weight very slowly from then onwards and I got to a good place where doctors weren’t concerned any more.
“Now I have a good thought process, I used to have irritational thoughts but now I’m happy and healthier.
“If I hadn’t turned my life around I was going to die, thankfully I had a great support system that help me to turn everything around.”
Shannon believes suffering from depression and a low self-esteem during her teen years led her to subconsciously develop the beginnings of an eating disorder.
She said: “I was always in my shell from 15-years-old, I didn’t really talk to anyone or think anything of it, I believed it was just my personality.
“Then when I was older, everything from the stress of going to university to not being in a good friendship group, feeling alone and struggling to find my place led me down a bad path.
“Because I was so lost, the one thing I did have control over was food and the eating disorder emerged from there.”
Within six-months Shannon went from 9st 6 (60kg/132lb) to losing over three stone (3st 4/20kg/46lb) from restricting her intake to small portions of berries and vegetables.
Her diet led her to struggle to concentrate on daily activities, left her clothes hanging off her and with a dangerously low BMI of 13.9 – a healthy range is between 18.5 and 25.
Shannon said: “My brain was fuzzy, I don’t remember a lot because I wasn’t there, I was just a robot going through the days.
“Even in summer I needed to wear three or four layers just to get through the day because I was so cold.
“Before even lying in bed would hurt me and it got to the point where I physically couldn’t go into university because I was so ill.”
It was mum Betty who recognised how badly the eating disorder was affecting her daughter and forced her to seek help.
Shannon said: “My mum was a wreck when she realised how ill I was, she knew she couldn’t do anything to help me and would cry.
“We went to see a dietician and when I stepped on the scales it read 40kg, which I was told was ‘not ok’ at all.
“She was so shocked she told me I needed to turn my life around or there would be no going back.”
Shannon was referred to an eating disorder specialist two-years-ago and put in hospital for six weeks to help her recover.
She used her motivation of being well enough to go on an exchange trip to Australia as her motivation.
Shannon said: “Even when I started to realise I was ill, in my head I was still in denial, believing I couldn’t be as bad as they made out.
“But putting on weight helped me to clear my mind, when I was that underweight I couldn’t think straight or process everything
“After leaving hospital I was determined to go on an exchange programme to Australia for university and after visiting I knew I had to go back again.”
Now she’s been keeping her eating disorder demons at bay and believes her life is drastically different.
Shannon said: “I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I’m not obsessing over food anymore and am not letting it take over my life.
“Now I don’t plan any of my meals, I just eat whatever I fancy and see what I’m craving instead of constantly calorie counting and avoiding certain foods.
“Also clothes actually fit my body shape now, before I looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin on top that clothes would just hang off, now I look human shaped.”
Shannon thanks her mum for her encouragement and assistance while battling her eating disorder, without whom she could have died.
She added: “I was so dependent on everyone and my family for that year that I couldn’t do anything for myself or be anywhere as near as independent as I am now.
“My mum is very proud of me, we both battled through this together, so I’m proud of her for holding the fort while I wasn’t well.
“My mindset is fully different, it’s the best it’s ever been and I’m in a happy place in my life.
“I don’t feel like anyone can fully overcome an eating disorder, but I’m as recovered as a person ever can be.”