After dreaming of having a thigh gap as a teen, this fitness coach’s life began to spiral dangerously out of control.
Weighing just over 5 stone at the age of 19, Casey Lees-Smith was skin and bone and doctors started to fear for her life.
In 2015, working as a cafe supervisor whilst studying at Newcastle University, she was on her feet all day, burning more calories than she was consuming.
Casey had struggled with body confidence as a teen and as she lost weight she received compliments from regular customers.
Soon she became obsessed with counting calories.
The 24-year-old, from Newcastle, said:“I finally thought that maybe if I lost more weight people would think I was beautiful and worthy. My life was at an all-time low and I was utterly miserable.
“I would wake up and think about ways to hide how little I would eat and I would over-exercise in order for a quick fix at losing more body fat.
“I felt cold to the core of my bones. I would ache because I had such little body fat and any alone time was spent crying over battling with the voices in my head telling me I wasn’t worthy of food.
“I would lie in the bath for hours to try and keep as warm as I could but staring at my naked body physically repulsed me.
“Most people would say “But just eat something” and it’s not as easy as that, it’s a mental disorder that consumes your life.”
As a way to cope Casey would search for ‘pro anorexia’ forums online to help her normalise her behaviour, which spiralled into her becoming bulimic.
Her weight was her only focus, if she ate more than 300 calories she would force herself to vomit.
And during her difficult days, she would binge eat as much food she could in a short period of time and then relieve herself of the guilt by purging it back up.
Casey pushed her friends and family away as she wanted to hide what she was doing.
Feeling alone and isolated, soon her erratic behaviour led her health to seriously deteriorate.
She added: “I started to hear voices in my head with bouts of paranoia thinking that I was being talked about behind my back, I wouldn’t leave the house in the end without one of my parents by my side.
“Every day was a living nightmare. When I was at the point of not being able to leave the house without having a panic attack I finally agreed to seek help with the support of my parents.
“When my mum told the doctor everything that was going on at home because I physically couldn’t speak for myself, I looked her in the eyes and could see how much pain she was in.
“My parents have already lost one child in their lifetime, my older sister, and I was doing this to them all over again.
“I knew I had a serious condition when the doctors told me that if this continues my heart will not be able to continue and I will end up dead.”
Casey admits she found it hard to accept that she had an actual problem after being in denial about her eating disorder for so long.
After receiving medical help, she decided to move back home where her dad, who is a personal trainer, would be able to support and educate her on healthy calorie consumption.
Fascinated by what she was learning, Casey was inspired to become a fitness coach to help take focus away from her impulsive tendencies to under eat and to help others.
Two years after her diagnosis and a difficult road to recovery, Casey finally turned her life around and was taken off her medication.
Soon she built up her strength in training and after a year she competed in the UKBFF North Bikini Fitness Competition where she placed 2nd with an invite to the British Championships.
Casey added: “Recovery was a long hard process but I was determined to turn my life around and become a better version of myself.
“Fitness not only changed my life but it saved it, once I had opened the door into properly educating myself there was no looking back.
“I really wanted to take my experience into educating others on properly learning how to love themselves as well as bettering their health.
“I want people to love their body no matter how it looks and not to buy into unprofessional opinions they see on the internet. I’d never want anyone to go through what I went through.
“I’ve been so lucky with my recovery and the support network I have around me otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Casey has reached out to anyone who needs advice or chat and to follow her fitness classes visit her Instagram page.