Laxative weight loss success stories or catastrophes? In this article, two women, Natalie Bradley, and Anna Fields, will tell us about it.
A remarkable journey unfolded in the life of Natalie Bradley, 32, who transformed from morbid obesity to battling anorexia. She credits the lockdown period for saving her life.
Natalie’s worrying reliance on laxatives
Natalie Bradley, 32, found herself hospitalised shortly before the entire country went into lockdown as she attempted to control her weight through extreme measures.
She recounts how, for weeks on end, all she would consume or drink were cans of Diet Coke. Additionally, she went to the gym twice daily and became addicted to laxatives so much so that she was taking an entire box every day.
Natalie noticed her heart rate was rapidly decreasing from normal levels, often down into the 30s and 40s, leading her to faint or collapse, with doctors warning of possible sepsis infection on her foot due to exertion at gym classes.
“In 15 months I went from almost 19 stone to 7 1/2 stone,” she told Manchester Evening News.
“I couldn’t stop myself. If I hadn’t stopped myself in time, I would have perished.
Natalie decided to lose weight due to all the health complications related to being morbidly obese, such as being too large for dental treatments, needing crutches for mobility purposes and suffering from prediabetes, sleep apnea and an injured back.
She had been taking morphine to help alleviate her back pain, but after an accidental overdose it became clear something needed to change.
Natalie started off eating healthily and practicing gentle exercise but quickly became obsessed.
At first, losing weight felt great; losing even more was even better!
Unfortunately, she soon began feeling worse; no matter how much weight she lost, it never felt enough.
Natalie transformed from wearing clothes in sizes 22 and 24 to 4 and 6.
She first entered a psychiatric hospital at 16 and struggled with both her mental health and weight throughout the next 10 years, frequently being admitted back.
Natalie reached her lowest point when she was admitted back into hospital in February 2020.
She spent two weeks there without eating and simply wanted for life to end.
Natalie’s life dramatically altered once March rolled around and Lockdown happened, turning everything on its axis.
“I needed to slow down,” she admitted.
Natalie found herself without the means to continue going to the gym or purchasing more laxatives as usual, which made controlling her weight impossible. With no other option left open to her but to take action herself, Natalie needed to enact change quickly in order to better herself.
Now, Natalie has reached a healthy weight, with help from social workers and charities, she has taught herself how to deal with and control her thoughts.
Women of Worth was a charity run by women for women that offered telephone and in-person support services for those experiencing life challenges.
“Their support was and remains priceless,” Natalie noted.
Bury charity BIG in Mental Health runs groups for those in Bury with mental health problems; during lockdown Natalie was able to receive help over the phone from them.
At first, Natalie struggled to form healthy eating habits. She would only consume certain food items like jelly, fruit, chocolate and sweets.
Under lockdown conditions this was especially challenging, with people panic-buying food they needed and some stores running out.
“I had to find alternative strategies and confront my fear, as food shopping can be daunting. Yet, I still managed to go ahead and buy groceries,” she stated.
“They thought I would leave in a wooden box,” Natalie noted, referencing her time spent at a psychiatric hospital for 10 years.
“I never would have predicted that pandemic would save my life.”
Natalie now volunteers at BIG in Mental Health – the charity which helped her for so many years. She works on its support line by calling up individuals to check on them and creating arts and crafts to sell in order to raise money.
“I want to give back something for all the help they provided during lockdown,” she stated.
Natalie notes that it’s only now, after being through it all, that she can see just how ill she really was.
“I wasn’t realizing it; it just wasn’t sinking in. Every night I would lay in bed thinking: ‘I don’t wake up tomorrow morning.'” she lamented.
“I didn’t realize it at the time.
Natalie says that, even after getting through her worst struggles with mental health, she will always struggle.
She admitted: “I struggle with mental health on a daily basis and am proud that that’s who I am; however, that does not make me ashamed – I am still alive and love helping others.”
Natalie hopes that sharing her story can provide hope and strength for others who struggle with eating disorders.
“Recovery is absolutely possible and shouldn’t be given up on. Don’t feel patronised into thinking I am saying anyone can make progress if I did it myself; however, don’t give up – recovery is definitely achievable and should not be put off until later on in life.”
Hooked on Laxatives: The Extreme Diet That Nearly Killed Anna Fields
“As a 16-year-old girl, I remember climbing into the shower one morning and feeling my skin start to tingle. At first, I assumed the temperature of the water was too hot, so I turned down. Unfortunately, within seconds my ears started ringing, my head began throbbing, and I took several deep breaths while leaning against the wall slowly sinking to my knees – no matter what shaking my head back and forth did for me; soon enough though I found myself lying facedown on the shower floor with water falling down onto me from above – all before everything went black.” Shared Anna Fields on Marieclaire magazine.
“My experience began in sixth grade. Hormones began causing havoc with my face, prompting my mother to take me to an eye doctor who then fitted me with coke-bottle glasses. Additionally, as an unattractive moon pie wearing size 14 jeans with elastic waistband jeans known as “porkers,” Saturday nights would often consist of reading romance novels or snacking on potato chips–all while questioning when or if I would find a partner in life.
As soon as I would wake in the middle of the night, I’d find my mom waiting in the kitchen, ready to comfort me by spreading peanut butter on two Ritz crackers for me to snack on – she would always ask “Want a sandwich?” as a comfort measure; my weight had always been steady due to both healthy eating habits and mom’s generosity with Southern cooking.
Public school in Burlington, North Carolina only added to my insecurities. Going every day felt like wading into a shark tank filled with cute cheerleaders; since kindergarten they had been doing all of the swimming while I simply floated along like an unwieldy buoy. That changed one Friday in gym class in ninth grade when someone shouted out “Everyone duck–there comes thunder!” And from that moment forward I became determined to become popular and successful; which meant becoming thinner–something my fatness needed to go.” She added.
“Initial attempts were futile: fat-free lunch meat and chicken noodle soup were my main staples; even my Granny Ruth’s “buttermilk and cornbread diet,” however delicious it may have been, proved ineffective in terms of weight loss. Nothing worked; something drastic had to happen. Something inspired and gave me motivation enough for transformation into a slim Southern beauty was needed.
My answer lay within a premier, all-girls boarding school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Here I encountered some of the South’s prized debutantes–upper class Scarlett O’Hara look-alikes who officially introduced themselves into society via lavish coming-out balls. When I joined this school at age 15, however, my perspective began to shift drastically: Tenth grade brought with it late night conversations with my roommate and best friend as well as newfound companionship that helped me feel less alone.” Said Anna Fields.
“After listening to me vent about my weight for yet another time, my roommate offered up an unconventional solution: taking a small pink laxative pill would change my life, she claimed. And it did: the following night my muscles burned, stomach cramped, and what seemed like half my weight in water flushed away through my toilet bowl – and when I looked in the bathroom mirror later that day my stomach looked flatter – for once even fat girls like myself seemed almost…pretty.
After that, I started taking laxatives daily; these pills felt like Excalibur in my hands as they enabled me to take on fat head on. With their help, I began fighting off excess weight – even if that meant running to the bathroom frequently and making up stories to get out of class without anyone calling my parents or reporting it to the dean. Instead, as each week passed and weight began falling off slowly but surely, everyone complimented my efforts; my grades improved, my self-confidence increased, and boys on the street began paying attention!” She told Marieclaire magazine.
“My secrets were many and continued to expand. A girl in my biology class showed me an effective exercise: Suck in as deep as you can while contracting your stomach muscles to narrow your waistline as much as possible, then push all the air out of your lungs, counting to 10–or until dizzy–before repeating this series until dizziness sets in and repeat. According to her, this would tone and define my rapidly shrinking abdominal muscles.
Every day I would perform these exercises four times: in the morning before classes, twice after lunch and once before bed. Afterward, I would measure my stomach by cupping both hands around each side of my waist; if my gut stretched beyond its limits as measured by thumb and forefinger I’d punish myself: half cup of bran cereal today with no milk added!
Born to be the perfect people-pleaser, I vowed to achieve weight loss as quickly as possible. Once free from my mother, who had nurtured me on delicious but unhealthy food like lemon meringue pie, cheese toast, buttered grits, bacon, country-style steak covered in gravy and cream chipped beef spread on slices of bread; no longer felt obliged to appreciate what she had so carefully prepared for my enjoyment.” She added.
“I learned to regulate myself by passing tests and joining clubs; my goal was to become the ideal Southern lady; by the 11th grade I had already reached size 2. Boys smiled at me while grown men gawked from their cars; through my aunt I met an attractive 21-year-old boyfriend whom I invited to my junior prom.
Not that my life was always smooth sailing. In that spring, I spent prom night sitting on the toilet. Soon thereafter, my body stopped responding to two pills per day; now my system required four instead. Lunches with friends in the cafeteria turned into private affairs in my room instead – yes, they too were using laxatives; but mine went further; installing a mini refrigerator just so milk remained fresh; yet really I just didn’t want anyone judging my meals–even those who’d taught me my tricks.
My attention was consumed with eating–or not eating. I felt light-headed, dizzy, and daydreamy during history class; visions of Dawson’s Creek would come into my head while thinking of things to write for history class. Yet no matter how often I looked in the mirror, the person reflected back seemed too thick; no matter how many times they called me “Anna-rexic,” their nickname for me wasn’t true –they were jealous but no one spoke up to discourage or warn her against continuing this diet plan. No one spoke up against this; no one dared disapprove or warn her against going too far.” Said Anna Fields.
“At last, my mission had come to an end after two and a half years of rigorous discipline. That morning in the shower, I fell unconscious. No one knows exactly how long went by before my roommate intervened to rescue me by smacking me awake and pulling me upright again. Had it not been for my rescuer, I may have drowned, gone into cardiac arrest or collapsed altogether due to starving my body of all essential nutrients and electrolytes needed for functioning – “Anna, it’ll all be alright” said my roommate as she whispered in comfort to make her sure I would die skinny!
My roommate and I kept that incident to ourselves; I was too embarrassed to confess my eating disorder to either my parents or teachers for fear of going into treatment or losing school privileges. That day changed everything for me. It served as my wake-up call. From then on I promised myself: Never again will I put my life at risk just to stay thin.” She told Marieclaire magazine.
“And although my habits were difficult to shift overnight, they began to gradually alter over time. Although I managed to rid myself of laxatives and Equal packets, during college years I continued struggling primarily due to excessive exercise and never sought professional or parental help; perhaps because I was ashamed or stubborn enough not to seek it. Gradually my focus shifted away from weight issues: eating once-forbidden foods such as fruit or buttered bagels instead of tight jeans which required lying on my bed in order to zip them up; investing in comfortable clothes instead; then taking up writing as a hobby which both preoccupied my thoughts while filling any void left by size-obsession; eventually this new hobby took its place and filled any void left by size-obsession.
Today I’m a happy, healthy 28-year-old who finally feels beautiful both inside and out. But a piece of my former self still lingers with every glance in the mirror: that girl who demanded I lose an inch here or there–telling me what my real body looked like was something different than what my appearance showed; only now, I no longer listen.” She added.
Please note: The preceding content is for informational purposes only. Results will vary from one individual to another. You may try Laxatives at your own risk. Please, always consult your doctor before starting any kind of treatment.
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