By Harriet Whitehead
An anorexia survivor whose weight plummeted to five stone as she ate just 100 calories a day has revealed how bodybuilding ‘saved her life’.
Ceri Thompson spent months eating just half a tin of tuna and lettuce a day and would even steal laxatives from relatives in a bid to keep her weight down.
The 24-year-old, who was bullied at school for being ‘chunky’, became obsessed with diet and exercise as a teen and her eating disorder spiralled out of control following an unhappy relationship.
But Ceri, who became so ill that her distraught grandfather even accused her of being a drug addict, decided to fight back against anorexia in September 2013 and took up boxing.
Feeling the benefits of being back in the gym, Ceri decided to take up bodybuilding in March 2016 – and credits lifting weights with helping her maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The barista, who having previously worn clothes for children aged nine is now 8st 3lbs and a size eight, enjoys being known as ‘gym Ceri’ instead of ‘anorexic Ceri’ – and is in a healthy relationship with her loving boyfriend Alan Fitton, 31.
Ceri, of Southport, Merseyside, said: “At school I was quite chunky. I found out later that they used to call me ‘little fat Ceri’.
“I wouldn’t say I was overweight but I did have some puppy fat. When I was 14 I started to go the gym and became interested in health and fitness.
“A couple of years later I decided I wanted to join the army and thought if I was skinnier I’d get better at the tests. It was at that age that I got more serious about it.
“I was eating 1,000 calories a day and started to get up early in the morning to do the insanity fitness workout. I would go running after college and do boxing.
“I was doing about four hours of exercise a day and restricting my calories. I stopped socialising because I realised that alcohol had calories in it.
“My weight started really dropping when I was 17 and people started to notice. I was excited because people would comment and say my legs looked good.
“I met this guy who was into fitness and it helped me hide my obsession with exercise by training with him.
“At first I was so happy with him. I felt like I was really wanted but the relationship started to turn sour.
“I think anorexia gave me a way of me having control over something and I started restricting my calories even more.
“I was eating just half a can of tuna a day and lettuce. I was eating about 100 calories a day.
“I would make protein shakes for me and my boyfriend but fill his up with more powder so it looked like the tub was going down at the same time.
“I was exercising for about five hours a day – running, insanity programmes and weight training sessions.
“I would go home every three weeks and my family would notice I was getting thinner. I remember trying on a dress and my aunt just started crying.
“I liked being away from them because they couldn’t tell me off.
“I just carried on eating half a can of tuna and lettuce then sometimes I wouldn’t even bother with the tuna.
“I used to have a notebook and I’d write down everything I was eating and all the calories. I felt good and focussed.”
Having dropped to just 5st and wearing clothes for children aged nine, Ceri’s boyfriend arranged for her to visit a doctor who did an electrocardiogram test and told her she was fine.
A couple of months later when the relationship ended, Ceri returned to live with her nan in Wales.
And when she visited her granddad, he was so convinced Ceri was using drugs that he stopped speaking to her – and sadly he passed away in February 2016.
Ceri said: “When I came home they were the worst few weeks of my life.
“The worst moment was going to see my granddad and he told me I looked like a smackhead. He was asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’
“He said he wouldn’t talk to me again and was asking what drugs I was on. He got cancer and passed away and we never really had the chance to talk about it.
“I was not exercising as much. I couldn’t get out to exercise because people were watching me.
“Fitness was my interest before I got ill but I’d stopped going to the gym because I was conscious of people looking at me and talking about me.
“I’d also stopped running after somebody shouted at me ‘look at the state of her’.
“I would go out to eat to pretend everything was normal but I’d just push the food around my plate or I’d tell people it didn’t taste nice.”
After her sister had a baby in August 2013 Ceri fell in love with her nephew and decided she had to make a change.
But the journey was harder than she anticipated and after suddenly gaining a stone Ceri developed bulimia and turned to laxative abuse.
Ceri said: “I fell in love with baby Alfie. I’d look after him all the time and threw all my energy into looking after him.
“My sister said to me if Alfie ate in a day what you eat in a day what would you think?
“I said ‘that would be awful, he would die’. That felt like a turning point for me.
“It felt like he saved me. I didn’t want to put my family through it anymore and didn’t want to leave Alfie.
“I was scared of eating meals so I would buy lots of junk food. I went from eating nothing at all to stuffing my face with cookies, crisps and chocolate.
“I did that for a few weeks then weighed myself and I’d put on a stone which felt like a lot so I started to make myself sick.
“I would go for walks so that people wouldn’t know I was doing it. I would take laxatives from family members. They didn’t know what I was doing.
“I’d also go to the shop and buy sugar free sweets which I was using as a laxative. I’d tell the people in the shop I was diabetic.
“I would put food in my mouth to taste it and take it out again.”
Ceri claims she was then bedridden for five days which she put down to re-feeding syndrome which happens when those who are undernourished start eating again.
Her family was terrified that she was going to die but Ceri fought back and joined a boxing gym to try and build up her strength.
Ceri said: “I went to the boxing gym and I just started training on my own. I didn’t involve myself with anyone else. I just trained on my own in the corner.
“I started to get more confident and would join in a bit more then this guy started talking to me.
“He said he could see I had anger inside me. He told me I was good at boxing and that I was going to fight and he helped me with my training.
“He took me out to watch a fight which was the first time I’d been out in ages. That was a big step.
“I started training more and getting more comfortable in the gym. I even took part in a boxing match in London and was named ‘fighter of the night’.
“I was eating better and decided I wanted to start weight training. I started training for a bikini fitness competition.
“I was eight weeks into a 12 week programme but stopped because I felt scared and could see I was starting to look skinny again and realised it wasn’t healthy for someone like me.”
Now Ceri is continuing to train but taking it slow and hopes to compete in bodybuilding competitions next year.
Ceri said: “I’m taking weight training seriously and it’s really helped me with my recovery. I’m going to the gym five or six times a week and working out for about an hour to two hours.
“I started to feel strong. I could see that my body was changing.
“I started taking pictures to show how it’s changed and for the first time I looked at a picture of myself and thought I liked the way I look.
“When I compare them to what I looked like before I can’t believe it. I didn’t realise I looked like that.
“Weight training has saved my life and I’m taking every day as it comes.
“I’m in healthy relationship and my boyfriend has helped me a lot. I moved to Southport to be near him and now people know me as gym Ceri rather than anorexic Ceri.
“I’m now able to eat meals off plates and if I’m getting worried about anything Alan will reassure me that it’s not a big deal.
“I’m trying all kinds of new foods now too. I’d never been to a fast food restaurant. I was scared of that kind of food but I’ve started to relax and eat without realising.
“I have my on and off days. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got no control and the next day I’ll feel totally relaxed.
“I know it’s a journey but I know I can’t put myself through that again and I don’t want to put my family through it again.
“I did it without help from doctors which is not something I’d recommend. For anyone else going through it I’d tell them to get help and try not to stress yourself out.
“Just know that life does get better.”