A girl who made herself sick six times a day and told family she was vegetarian to avoid food has finally beaten her demons – thanks to a dating app.
Laura Bardsley dropped to just six stone and survived on Cup-a-Soup as she battled anorexia and bulimia.
For Laura, now 24, it all started after a close relative died in a car accident in 2007, even though she had no history of eating disorders.
It soon spiralled out of control – and being away at boarding school, and then at university, it was easy for Laura to hide her illness.
But after meeting Darren Morley, 26, on dating app Tinder, his healthy lifestyle helped the sick girl conquer anorexia, and Laura is now studying to be a personal trainer.
Laura, who recently graduated from the University of Nottingham, said: “Before my relative died, I had a normal relationship with food.
“But then it became a gradual process of eating less and losing weight.
“At first people complimented me, so I thought the more weight I’d lost the happier I’d feel, and the more compliments I would get.
“But it got out of hand.”
Laura, then 15, was at boarding school and told her parents she’d become a vegetarian to avoid food.
But her dramatic weight loss worried them, and she began to see a counsellor at college.
She said: “Because I was at boarding school I didn’t see my parents every day, so when I did see them after about a month they saw my weight had dropped significantly.
“They began to pick up on my funny eating habits as I’d try to restrict my eating as much as possible.”
Through counselling, Laura reached her goal weight of 50kg – 7st 8lb – but the mentality of her illness remained.
In 2011, Laura was still making herself sick up to six times a day, to the point where The Priory in Altrincham recommended she come in as an inpatient.
She said: “That was the point where things started to change as I just didn’t want to be an inpatient.
“I got myself back up to 50kg and then went off to university in the September.”
But as before, even though she had reached a ‘healthy’ weight, the attitude behind her eating disorder remained – and being left to her own devices at university saw Laura’s weight fluctuate again.
She said: “I would feel OK for a few months, then I would feel bad about myself so would start restricting food again.
“I was in catered halls but I must have wasted so much money.
“Looking back, I only made it to one breakfast and one dinner in my first year.
“We were given a meal card and I’d use it to buy coffees.”
She continued: “I don’t know what I survived off, but the thought of having to sit down in front of people and eat – I just couldn’t do it.
“I hated the feeling of having food in my body.
“I would put a bit of cereal and milk in a bowl and leave it by the sink so it looked like I’d eaten.
“But I didn’t socialise at uni and no-one knew who I was – I was happy with that.”
Laura, who studied Russian and Serbian at Nottingham University, then met Darren on Tinder – and that’s when things changed for the better.
She had joked about wanting a six pack and decided to meet him in the gym one day, where his attitude to fitness and food rubbed off on her.
Laura said: “He was really passionate about weight lifting, so as a joke I just said I’d meet him at the gym.
“We started to train together and even though I didn’t say anything, he knew I had an eating disorder after about a month.
“One night everything just got on top of me and I opened up to him, I was really upset.
“He gave me a basic nutrition plan, we started to train together and he taught me how to understand food.
“His outlook was so different to mine and he was so relaxed about it all.
“We’re now training to do a half marathon together in a couple of weeks’ time.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for him.”
Laura is now a very happy and healthy 10 stone and training to be a personal trainer.
Laura said: “I feel great.
“Before I was so depressive, I didn’t want to engage with anything.
“But now I have goals and visions for my life.”
Good for you Laura!