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An anorexic survivor who weighed just 28kg is recovering


Gemma Walker spent seven lonely years in the grips of anorexia nervosa and bulimia before the “ugly” but essential to survival process of recovery began.

The 28-year-old from Gold Coast, Queensland, was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with an eating disorder and doctors warned her she would die without treatment at 28kg.

She was hospitalized several times with three periods in emergency care.

It’s a far cry from today’s confident Gemma who eats McDonald’s without a care in the world and opts for a quiet walk along the beach over a workout in the gym.

Gemma Walker has shared her journey through anorexia nervosa and binge eating to reach a comfortable weight in hopes of inspiring others.

The 28-year-old from Gold Coast, Queensland, was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with an eating disorder and doctors warned her she would die without treatment when she weighed just 28kg.

The 28-year-old from Gold Coast, Queensland, was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with an eating disorder and doctors warned her she would die without treatment when she weighed just 28kg.

Gemma can identify three main factors that led to the deterioration of her mental health: bullying, perfectionism at heart and trying to meet unreasonable expectations from her family.

I was in a more famous group in school but was selected. I had friends but I was always a target. As a perfectionist, I was good at things but never been the best and that bothered me,” she told Daily Mail Australia.

At the time, I felt like I was trying to meet my family’s expectations and when I started losing weight I felt like I was achieving something…but so quickly I didn’t want anyone to notice. escalated.

Gemma was tricking doctors into thinking she was gaining weight during her last teenage years by discreetly attaching gym weights to her body (pictured today)

Gemma was tricking doctors into thinking she was gaining weight during her last teenage years by discreetly attaching gym weights to her body (pictured today)

Her father, Steve, said seeing pictures of his daughter at her worst brought back the constant pain and anguish of those dark years.

‘It was the hardest and scariest years of our lives,’ he said, ‘and we were checking her every morning to see if she was still breathing, to see if her weak heart was still beating.

“Some nights we would sit on the floor by her bed, just to be with her, there was nothing else we could do.”

She was hospitalized three times with one emergency care and two long-term psychiatric and refeeding cases

She was hospitalized three times with one emergency care and two long-term psychiatric and refeeding cases

It's a far cry from today's confident Gemma who eats McDonald's and chooses to walk along the beach above the gym

It’s a far cry from today’s confident Gemma who eats McDonald’s and chooses to walk along the beach above the gym

What is anorexia nervosa?

* Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness with severe physical consequences.

* It is characterized by low body weight and distorted body image with an obsessive fear of gaining weight, which is manifested by depriving the body of food.

*Often coinciding with increased levels of exercise.

There are two main types of anorexia:

restriction type This is the most common type of anorexia nervosa, in which a person severely limits food intake.

Binge eating or purging Less well known, this type of anorexia nervosa forms when a person restricts their intake as mentioned above, but also regularly engages in binge eating or purging behavior.

* Anorexia nervosa can affect the mind and body in several ways:

brain Preoccupation with food/calories, fear of gaining weight, headache, fainting, dizziness, mood swings, anxiety, depression.

hair and skin Dry skin, brittle nails, thin hair, bruising easily, yellowing of the skin, growth of thin white hair all over the body (called lanugo), cold intolerance.

heart and blood Poor blood circulation, irregular or slow heartbeat, very low blood pressure, cardiac arrest, heart failure, low iron levels (anaemia).

Intestines – Constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain.

hormones – Irregular or absent periods, loss of sexual desire, infertility.

the kidneys Dehydration and kidney failure.

bones and muscles Loss of calcium in the bones (osteoporosis), osteoporosis, muscle loss, weakness, fatigue.

source: Eating Disorders Organization

Gemma had been tricking doctors into thinking she was gaining weight by discreetly attaching gym weights to her body.

It was totally insane. My life was a constant lie. “All day long I’ve been focused on numbers,” she said.

As a result, Gemma has missed out on regular teenage experiences, something she is trying to make amends now after more than a decade.

After her 21st birthday, Gemma decided she had had enough, and took her first few steps toward recovery. But for 18 months, she struggled with overeating and suffered from refeeding syndrome.

Refeeding syndrome is a dangerous shift in fluids and electrolytes that occurs after a severely malnourished person starts eating more than usual.

It was totally insane.  My life was a constant lie.  She said:

It was totally insane. My life was a constant lie. “All day long I’ve been focused on numbers,” she said.

After her 21st birthday, Gemma took her first tentative steps toward recovery but for 18 months she struggled with overeating and suffered from refeeding syndrome.

After her 21st birthday, Gemma took her first tentative steps toward recovery but for 18 months she struggled with overeating and suffered from refeeding syndrome.

A desperate teen would consume 6,500 calories – the equivalent of about 12 Big Macs – in just 20 minutes during binge-eating sessions that might cause her to faint and experience hallucinations.

“Fresh isn’t pretty. A girl wouldn’t eat a little more, gain weight, and feel good about herself right away,” she said.

My weight gain was very fast. In less than seven months, I gained 40 kilos, tripled my weight, but was mentally at my worst.

I had no control and was ashamed of what I looked like. My debit card and car key had been taken off, just to stop me eating. I thought the need to eat wouldn’t stop but it did.

“Fresh isn’t pretty. No girl would eat a little more, gain weight, and feel good about herself right away,” she said.

Her advice is to avoid taking a lot of photos and attending social events during this period, rather than spending the time getting to know your new and changed body.

Her advice is to avoid taking a lot of photos and attending social events during this period, rather than spending the time getting to know your new and changed body.

Her advice to sufferers is to avoid taking a lot of photos and attending social events during this time, rather than spending the time getting to know your new and changing body.

It’s been many years since Gemma struggled with her portion sizes or felt the need to restrict.

She will happily visit fast food restaurants and wear her favorite bikini without worrying about her size or shape.

Above anything else, eating disorders rob you of time. She said this addiction will never serve you.

“It’s important to know that you are not alone and you can get out the other side, no matter how difficult it is.”

If you need help or support with an eating disorder or body image issue, please call the Butterfly National Helpline at 673 1800334 or email [email protected]

To find out more about Gemma and her journey, follow her Instagram.





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