'School weigh-in when I was 11 triggered eating disorder that nearly killed me'

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A woman almost killed by anorexia has told how a classroom weight check aged 11 triggered her ordeal.

Becky Pates, 21, went into hospital after her weight plummeted to 4st 8lb by 16 and her bones were “breaking through her skin”.

She said: “As a slightly chubby 11-year-old, stepping on the scales was the first time I thought about my weight and it terrified me.

“What started off as ‘healthy eating’ began to spiral out of control. I went from being bubbly and popular to a nervous, fragile girl.”

The marketer from St Neots, Cambs, has had a healthy weight for four years now.

She spoke out after figures revealed a record 2,196 hospital admissions for eating disorders in 10 to 24-year-olds in 2017.

Some 91% were girls – and 1,326 were 13 to 17.

Becky, now 21, has been a healthy weight for four years, but says her eating disorder nearly killed her

Her weight plummeted to 4st 8Ibs and she was so weak that she had to use a wheelchair

 

Becky said: “I was lucky with an emergency admission but for lots of people this isn’t the case. There needs to be more awareness.”

Children are weighed in Reception and Year 6 as part of the National Child Measurement Programme. The NHS uses the data to plan better services and assess obesity levels.

But Becky recalled how the prospect filled her with dread and she was excused after her mum Terry wrote a letter to the school, saying: “Kids compared weights afterwards and asked why I hadn’t done it. I became obsessed with what I called ‘healthy eating’.”

After fainting at home in 2014, aged 16, she opened up to parents Terry, 53, and Bruce, 59.

Becky, pictured aged six, says weigh-ins for children at school should now be banned

Becky was diagnosed with anorexia and referred for monthly weigh-ins at St Neots Hospital – but the weight still dropped off.

Four months later, she went to the specialist eating disorder ward at Addenbrookes Hospital after hitting 4st 8lb.

She said: “I had to use a wheelchair. My bones were breaking through my skin.”

Along with treatment, a letter from dad Bruce begging her to get well sparked her recovery. She said: “I couldn’t bear how upset those close to me were.

 

A loving note from her dad helped her seek help and return to a healthy weight

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“My parents were amazing, especially my dad who became my rock.”

Over six months, her weight crept up and she was discharged in 2016.

But her illness stunted her growth and she has ongoing health issues and a risk of osteoporosis.

She said. “This illness stole years but it won’t take any more.”

Becky hopes speaking out will encourage the NHS to move the checks away from a school setting.

Dr Alison Tedstone, of Public Health England, said: “We’ve great sympathy for anyone coping with an eating disorder.”

Beat offers support for eating disorders. Visit beateatingdisorders.org.uk



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