Most people are familiar with the concept of eating disorders. Anorexia is a mental disorder that causes self-starvation and restriction, while bulimia involves binging, purging, and other psychological responses. Despite knowing the basics, the world of eating disorders is very complicated and nuanced, and each and every sufferer of these diseases responds in different ways. And to hear a human side of the story is a lot different than reading about it in a book.
This story is all about a young woman named Gemma Walker, a girl who look the darkest parts of her eating disorder in its eyes and managed to find a way to overcome it. It’s not an easy story to read — and the photos of her in the throes of anorexia are hard to look at — but it’s a story that will leave you inspired by the strength of the human spirit. Read more about Gemma and her struggle below.
For young people with eating disorders, it can often feel like you’re living a double life.
One the one hand, you present as happy and normal to the outside world. On the inside, though, something else entirely is going on.
Gemma Walker is a young woman who knows about this paradox all too well.
At the young age of 14, she was diagnosed with both anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In Gemma’s case, the issue became life-threatening.
At her lowest point, she weighed just 63 pounds.
In fact, Gemma’s parents were told by doctors that she would have only 48 hours to live if she didn’t receive immediate medical intervention.
For her family, it was like living a nightmare.
Her father had to check up on her every morning to see if she was still breathing, something no parent should ever have to do.
For a time, they were even considering palliative care.
Throughout the entire 7 years of her recovery, Gemma was admitted to the hospital three times.
And it wasn’t all just weight loss, either.
The cycle of restriction and binge eating is a dangerous one for the body. Gemma frequently partook in binge eating and “re-feeding syndrome,” which would cause her to consume enormous amounts of food in one sitting.
It was all about the back and forth.
In as little as 20 minutes, Gemma could consume upwards of 6,000 calories which would cause her to pass out and hallucinate. Then, weeks later, she’d end up restricting herself and lose a dangerous amount of weight.
The pain was often too much to bear.
That’s why Gemma began cutting her arms, a practice that has it’s own terrifying set of risks.
Eventually, though, she was able to begin recovering.
And this young woman knows she has her parents to thank.
Now, at age 22, she is running a successful business.
She’s also dedicated her life to being an inspiration on social media and the internet for other girls just like her.
Eventually, her scars healed.
Physically and emotionally, Gemma was able to figure out how to heal and move forward.
Seeing these images together is pretty shocking.
But her progress and strength throughout is apparent.
As we mentioned, Gemma shared all of of her story online to help other girls with similar struggles. Hearing it in her own words is very moving.
“I have suffered with anorexia nervosa and severe depression for 5 years now. In grade 10, when I was 14, I was an elite runner and swimmer, yet I was never happy with body in comparison to the other girls I trained with.”
From there, things went from bad to worse for this young woman.
“These along with being bullied at school, having a mentally sick sister and a pushy dad quite possibly are the reasons why I decided to start dieting.”
She started as most young girls with these issues do: By restricting food.
“Initially I cut out all junk food and kept decreasing my food until I got down to almost nothing. The weight dropped off for months, it was the greatest sense of achievement and people commented on how great I looked being smaller. So I wanted to get thinner and thinner, it was something that I was good at.”
During her darkest times, she wrote honestly and painfully about her experiences.
“Never have I loved myself or never have I been loved. I have been emotionless and numb for over 5 years now. But I am ready to change, I am sick of my life. I want to experience happiness, I want to be comfortable and maybe even learn to love myself, I want to have energy, I want to learn how to eat and not think about it, but most of all … I want to stop merely existing and start living.”
Staying seriously committed to her health is one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.
“So I am embarking on a life changing challenge to change the way I live my life. Right now though, I’m not doing this for me, because sadly I am still in that place where I often do not care whether I am here or not tomorrow. So this is for a few people in particular, but very soon it will be for ME.”
Now, Gemma is fully committed to her recovery.
As you can see, she looks much happier and healthier than in previous photos. This is a young woman who has reclaimed her power over herself.
It’s not all easy, though.
In addition to treating her eating disorders, Gemma has had to find ways to help her scarring heal.
But something tells us that she’s going to be okay.
There’s no story more inspiring than Gemma’s. Once you’ve seen what she’s been through, you realize that human beings are strong enough to get through just about anything.