Trainer who lost her period to ‘anorexia athletica’ is now ‘happiest and healthiest’ she has ever been
A fitness coach who lost her period due to an eating disorder known as ‘anorexia athletica’ has rebuilt her relationship with food and exercise after learning that there is more to life than having washboard abs.
31-year-old Camilla Bazley played ‘every sport’ at school and swam to her home state of New South Wales before qualifying as a personal trainer in 2007. But only nine years later, she developed a life-threatening addiction to work.
The then 27-year-old trainer who lives in central Sydney’s Paddington, woke up at 4:30 a.m. to run 10 miles before seeing her first client, every morning for 18 months between 2016 and 2017 in an effort to get slimmer.
She followed every run with afternoon strength training and ate little except chicken and green vegetables. She survived protein shakes and green salads, which she weighed to the gram to calculate her calorie intake.
Ms. Bazley also practiced intermittent fasting, a diet where you only eat within a certain time frame each day, which she now thinks she used to “scientifically validate herself”.
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Fitness trainer Sydney Camilla Bazley three years in a row, on June 24, 2017 (right) and June 24, 2020 (left)
Over time, the effects of starvation left her with a range of serious health problems, including liver dysfunction, stress fractures, and ammenorrhea, the loss of the menstrual cycle.
“I lost so much muscle that I just felt weak. I was going to be able to squat from 100kg to not even squat 40kg, ‘she told Daily Mail Australia.
By the time she dropped to her lowest weight of 56 pounds in June 2017, Ms. Bazley had lost more than half her strength and was endangering her health.
“Initially I was just right in my training and really looked as fit as I had ever looked. My business was thriving, ”she said.
But in reality, her obsession with exercise got out of hand.
As months passed and pounds after pounds dropped, Ms. Bazley developed debilitating social anxiety that left her unable to do anything other than work out at the gym and be alone in her apartment.
“I couldn’t even have breakfast with friends. The more control I had [with diet and exercise]the less I really had [over daily life],’ she said.
“I naturally held muscles, so people just thought I was super fit. I told them I was training for an event so they wouldn’t have any doubt about it even though I knew I was in trouble. ‘
Ms. Bazley (pictured in 2019) now trains in moderation and focuses her fitness on group activities
Ms. Bazley was eventually diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and anorexia athletica – a form of anorexia characterized by an obsession with exercise to lose weight – when she sought help from doctors in January 2018.
“I was lucky to have very good friends who came forward and called me out about my destructive behavior,” she said.
While not shocked by the diagnosis, she said it felt strange to be anorexic and a success in the fitness industry at the same time.
“I would never allow my customers to act like I did, so it was a really big reality check that the disease didn’t discriminate,” she said.
Anorexia athletica explained
Anorexia athletica – also known as hypergymnasia or sport anorexia – is a subtype of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa characterized by excessive and compulsive weight loss exercises.
Unlike anorexia nervosa (the most common form of the eating disorder where food intake is consistently limited due to distorted body image and fear of gaining weight), anorexia athletica has less to do with physical appearance and more with athletic performance.
Athletes suffering from anorexia athletica report excessive exercise as a means of gaining control of their bodies, due to a perceived lack of control or freedom of choice in general in their lives.
The disorder usually starts with eating ‘healthy’ foods that are low in calories and following a strict exercise routine that they have a hard time breaking through. When the restrictive diet and regulated exercise regimen create a plateau in weight loss, athletes begin to exercise excessively and reduce calories to the point of a psychological disorder.
Compulsive exercise is an addictive behavior and therefore extremely difficult to stop. If it lasts long enough, it can lead to malnutrition and chronic problems with organs such as the brain, liver, heart and kidneys.
Ms. Bazley attended weekly sessions with a doctor, dietician and psychologist to resolve her compulsive condition and took blood tests every two to three months to detect her liver and kidney function decimated by the condition.
After breaking her leg in May 2019 due to low bone density, she forced herself to train for months and was fully committed to managing her physical and mental health without relying on exercise.
“I started enjoying the little things in life more, like being social with my friends again,” she said.
Now 31, Bazley weighs 81 pounds and says she is the ‘happiest and healthiest’ she has ever been after learning to develop a positive relationship fitness.
Two and a half years after her diagnosis, Ms. Bazley (pictured in 2020) goes out to eat or drink with friends at least once a week to strengthen her positive mindset for socializing
Two and a half years after her diagnosis, Ms. Bazley now trains to feel good instead of looking good and says she is the “happiest and healthiest” she has ever weighed 81 pounds.
“I love that I can safely say I never want a chiseled pair of abs again,” she said.
She runs twice a week, gives spin classes in her gym and lifts weights to build strength whenever she feels like it, and she should never exercise more than 30 minutes a day.
She no longer counts calories and goes out to eat or drink with friends at least once a week to strengthen her positive mindset toward socializing and indulgence in moderation.