By Sophie Norris
An anorexia survivor who ‘never thought she’d live past eighteen’ has celebrated three years since recovery and is now using her social media status to educate others.
Isabella Clark had been bullied as a child and suffered with self-harm and depression since her early teens, so when the compliments on her weight loss started, they spurred her on.
In the space of months, Isabella, now 20, was starving herself, hoarding food in plastic bags to deceive her parents and even facing a stay in hospital.
After an ultimatum from her loved ones she spent the night plotting how to get better and now has her life back on track – moving in with her partner, holding down a job and enjoying time with friends.
The make up artist and retail worker has 10,400 followers on Twitter and uses her platform to educate others on positive body image.
Isabella, from Edgbaston, Birmingham, said: “I’d always struggled with eating even at 12 years old, but it only got really bad when I was about 16.
“Everything I was doing to avoid eating was getting worse. I started taking laxatives and not eating for days on end. I used to suffer really badly with self-harm and had counselling at school for that. I also had two failed suicide attempts.
“When I was younger I used to eat a lot because I got bullied and I gained a lot of weight. As the bullying continued, I started going to school and looking at the other girls and stopped eating as much.
“At first it was more compliments saying I looked really good and thin. When you’re ill though, you don’t think ‘that’s good’ because you don’t believe them. You think ‘everybody is lying. They feel bad for me because I’m so big.’
“The compliments began to spur me on even more.”
As the comments about her new figure continued, Isabella cut out more and more meals until she stopped eating for days on end.
When it became apparent that her weight loss was spiralling out of control, Isabella feels those close to her began to feel awkward and unable to intervene.
As Isabella approached her lowest weight and her school stepped in, she was issued an ultimatum by her parents and teachers that if she didn’t get better, she would have to stay in hospital.
Isabella said: “As my mental health declined, I was trying to find more ways to inflict pain on myself and people soon started picking up on it.
“When my weight started to get really low, people wouldn’t say anything because it was an awkward thing to talk about.
“My parents did notice and tried to make sure I was eating but I was very sneaky about it.
“I would bring food into my bedroom then hide it in a plastic bag and throw it away when I went out.
“I would try to keep up with what they were doing so they didn’t get suspicious and think I was eating normally.
“My way to cope with things going wrong in my life was to stop eating.
“The school were really pushing my parents to take me to hospital and I didn’t want to go there and put my parents through even more.
“I knew I had to try and get better or it was going to just keep getting worse. During that night after we had discussed hospital, I thought how can I get better?
“I knew if I didn’t get better then I would have to go to hospital.”
Already quite tall for her age, Isabella dropped to a tiny six stone and could fit into aged 12 children’s clothes
Her social life began to suffer as she was too scared to socialise in case it involved eating.
Now, celebrating three years anorexia-free, Isabella feels more confident and beautiful than ever and is taking to Twitter to help others.
Isabella said: “This illness was with me from the age of about 15 and at my worst, I was around six stone. I’m quite tall at 5 ft 8 so that was very low.
“I went to Florida when I was about six stone and at that point, I fit into UK aged 12 children’s clothing.
“Now I’m better, I’m over 10 stone and a size 16. I just eat whenever I want and whatever I want. I have to make sure I have no restrictions.
“I am vegan and people think you can’t eat a lot of things but there aren’t many restrictions with a vegan diet. I can even have a McDonald’s if I want to and if I’m hungry I’ll eat.
“I think deciding to get better and working hard at it is the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I used to avoid going out in case I had to eat. That time was very difficult and horrible. I was excluded a lot from friendship groups.
“Now I have so many more opportunities and experiences and my confidence has grown.
“My life has turned around since then and I have a job, I’m living with my partner in our own flat and it’s kind of weird because I never thought I’d live past 18. Just being alive is a great thing to me.
“I thought I’d end up killed myself or Anorexia would take my life. Now I want to experience life for what it is.
“It’s my birthday today [Thursday, March 15] and I’m going to get a tattoo of two hands holding a bouquet of flowers over some of my self-harming scars.”
With a Twitter following of over 10,000, Isabella uses her new-found confidence and knowledge to educate people on anorexia and claims followers have contacted her in the past to say she helped with their recovery.
On her account, she shares make-up looks which she claims acts as an on-going therapy for her when she has off days and pulls up misinformed social media users by educating them on the realities of anorexia.
Isabella said: “I’ve used make-up since I was around 13 and it acts almost as a therapy for me.
“It allows me to be myself but not in an unhealthy way where I’m trying to hide myself, but as a way to express myself. I love looking a bit different and have tattoos and piercings and make-up allows me to do that too.
“When I come up with a new look or master a new technique, I feel really satisfied and it’s just that – make up gives me so much satisfaction.
“I’ve had Twitter for about four years and it started off as a bit of a ranting account where I would vent my anxieties and things that bothered me, but it’s now also tracked my recovery.
“Now I’m really vocal about getting better and feel that I have a responsibility to inform others about anorexia.”