Updated 19 June 2018

Meet the anorexia survivor who lived on water and gum

Amanda hid her food so her family wouldn’t notice she wasn’t eating.

An eating disorder sufferer has managed to double her weight after she’d been living on nothing but sparkling water and chewing gum – which, she says, had left her feeling like she was dead.

Amanda Kristiansen (18), a receptionist from Gothenburg, Sweden, was just 11 when her struggle with anorexia began. Hating the way she looked, she decided to lose weight hoping it would make people notice her and want to be her friend.

However, over time her eating disorder caused her to cut herself off from her peers and she became isolated.

'I was the silent girl'

Amanda started training every day and cut out sweets and carbs from her diet. Eventually she was only eating chewing gum and drinking sparkling water.

“At that time I was incredibly insecure and hated how I looked and how I was,” she says. “I was the silent girl and barely had any friends. My weight had always been normal but I always had a very wrong body image.

“In 2010 I became very depressed and felt incredibly lonely. I felt there was something was wrong with me, so I got the idea that I should start to lose weight to change myself.”

Amanda hid her food so her family wouldn’t notice she wasn’t eating.

“I hid a lot of food in my slippers, bra and pockets and I was an expert at lying.

“I had no control of my own thoughts or actions at all. Every day that went by I was losing more and more control of myself and my disease gained more and more control over me.

No control

“When I was at my worst my family told me it was as if I was dead. And that’s the truth, I felt as if I was dead. I had no control at all, I just wanted to die.”

At her lowest Amanda wore children’s clothes and weighed just 32kg.

“I trained several times a week, which then became every day. I gave myself a ban on candy, which then led to not eating carbs at all. Then I went so far as to not eat at all.”

Amanda is now a fit and healthy 69kg and her dress size is medium. She’s fallen in love with weightlifting and has not only been able to reconnect with her old friends, she’s made new ones.

She says at first she wanted to get better only to please her family but as time went by she started to fight for herself.

“It wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to be free that the treatment started to work. You have to want it for yourself to truly recover. For years I didn’t want to be free. That’s why I had several relapses.

“I found a love for strength training and that was a motivation to start eating. I also started to hang out with old friends again and even made new friends. I wanted to be able to do everything that they did.

“I started to see the positive things in life and that made me fight harder.”

Overcoming anorexia has changed Amanda’s life for the better and she’s now happy with her body.

She shared what she found the most difficult about her journey.

“I’d say the hardest things were to start sitting again and to start eating, just because they were the things I hadn’t done for the longest. I couldn’t remember what it was like to eat normally and I couldn’t sit down without getting anxious.

Rock bottom

“When I was at my worst I was afraid to let my little brother touch me if he’d eaten and not washed his hands. I thought if he touched me and had a little food left on his hands it could go through my skin and make me gain weight.”

Amanda shared her advice to others struggling with eating disorders.

“I know that maybe it feels as if you’ll never get better and will never live a good life, but I promise you it will. I know that perhaps you don’t believe me now, but I reached rock bottom. I almost died and for years my life felt like hell. But I did it, I got out of it.

“I won’t lie, it’s not going to be easy. You’ll cry a lot, be angry and feel a lot of anxiety, but every day you go against your disease you’ll get a little stronger, step by step.

“It’s not easy but the only thing that will help you get better is not to do what the disease tells you to do.

“Fight against it – you have to really want to recover, otherwise it’ll never work.”

Image credit: Magazine Features