A LEICESTERSHIRE mental health warrior has opened up about her struggles with food and life-threatening weight loss, during Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Gaynor Watts (pictured) has struggled with an eating disorder for over 30 years, something which she attributes to difficult experiences in the past, which left her feeling “worthless and ashamed”.
Last October she asked to be hospitalised at Leicester’s Bradgate Mental Health Unit, after dropping to just 6 stone.
Now, the keen athlete and ‘ultra runner’ is in the midst of recovery, and wants to use her experience to become an ambassador for BEAT, the UK’s eating disorder charity.
BEAT is at the centre of this week’s ‘Eating Disorder Awareness Week’ (February 28-March 6), which aims to educate people on the realities of eating disorders, which currently affect 1 in 50 people across the UK.
“Whilst I was in hospital, it really opened my eyes, and I saw some very, very poorly people. I just thought, oh my God, I cannot allow this to go on, I have to get better,” Gaynor told the Leicester Times.
“It just broke my heart, and I thought I need to help people. It would be dreadful for me to see anybody else, especially anybody that I know go through this. It’s just the worst,” she added.
Gaynor, who lives in Coalville, has suffered with Anorexia since she was 14. As a dedicated athlete, one of her greatest achievements is being named sixth in the world at the World Championships in the long distance duathlon in Switzerland, back in 2018.
However, now at the age of 46, she is embarking on a new chapter in her life by doing a Level 3 course in ‘Eating Disorders Awareness’, which will enable her to become an ambassador for BEAT.
“If I can help one person and save one person’s life, then that will make me so happy,” she said.
“Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental health illness, and it’s so misunderstood.
“People think it’s an illness that can be easily rectified. They’ll turn around and say, ‘oh she’s really skinny just get her to eat more’, but it’s not that simple,” she continued.
“For me it was about gaining control over something, and my weight and food intake was the only thing that I could control, and growing up, I felt a huge amount of shame.
“There’s a terrible stigma around eating disorders which I’d like to help address.”
Once she is qualified, Gaynor hopes to go into local schools in order to share her experience of having an eating disorder, and help younger people who may be suffering.
Her advice to those people is to ask for help, and to speak to someone they can trust.
“You don’t have to go into great detail about why it’s happening, but it’s important to get that help,” she said.
“Asking for help was the best and the bravest thing that I’ve ever done in my whole life. I’d put that above being sixth in the World Championships in the long distance duathlon in Switzerland.
“It takes guts to go out there and be against the best in the world, but going out there and asking to go into hospital and asking for that help last year, was the biggest and bravest thing that I’ve ever done in my life,” she added.
To find out more about Eating Disorder Awareness Week, visit: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/