A former star ballerina, who lived to dance, revealed how the pressure to be thin plunged her into an eating disorder so all-consuming, she would weigh herself at least 30 times a day.
Demi Rawling, 19, from Perth, Australia, was just 15 when she decided to shed a few pounds, hoping to improve her performance.
But, soon hooked on dieting, within a few months she said her 5ft 10 frame was so skeletal she could no longer dance and, some days, struggled to walk, adding:
“I still went to ballet when I could, but I'd feel like I was about to have a heart attack."
Demi as a ballerina (Collect/PA Real Life)
“It was really scary—I would have to stop and sit down because I was so underweight. Doing even the smallest amount of exercise would put my body under too much pressure. There were times I couldn't even walk."
When friends remarked on her desperately thin frame, Demi pretended she had glandular fever.
But, after three years, realizing how much the disorder was holding her back, Demi quit dancing and turned her life around.
Demi as a ballerina (Collect/PA Real Life)
“I have done ballet since I was a little girl and a huge part of my eating disorder came from that."
“At about 15, I started to realize that a lot of dancers are very very thin. I felt they got a lot further and got a lot more attention."
“I was so passionate about ballet, I'd have done anything to get where I wanted to be."
“So, I decided to just restrict my diet a little bit and do a bit more exercise."
Weighing 132 pounds when she started dieting, naturally slim, she wore a size 6-8 in trousers. But, at her lowest, when she was 16, her old clothes were hanging off her and she weighed just 98 pounds—about 56 pounds underweight for her height.
“When I first lost weight, I received compliments and was getting noticed a little bit more. I think I started to get addicted to the compliments, the weight loss and looking at the numbers on the scale."
Demi with anorexia (Collect/PA Real Life)
“I was getting more and more pulled into it. I have never been like that. I always loved my food and wasn't worried about my weight."
“But I started taking photos and checking my body all the time."
While Demi's dancing initially improved, within a few months, she was caught in the downward spiral of the slimming condition anorexia and very seldom made it to her dance class.
When concerned friends and family remarked on her emaciated frame, she became defensive—struggling to admit to herself she had a problem.
“After about six months, I started to get lots of concerned messages saying I was too thin. I told people I had glandular fever, because I was totally in denial about this being a problem."
“My mum, Colette, and my teacher tried to bring it up and tried to get me help."
Demi, now (Collect/PA Real Life)
“But I would flip out and get really angry. I didn't want anyone to speak to me about it. It was like there was another person in my head, who was always telling me what to do."
“It's like a lion versus a mouse – you can't stop the lion taking over."
Not wanting to upset her mother, Demi agreed to see a dietician, but would trick her to try to make it look like she was getting better.
Demi is now a healthy weight (Collect/PA Real Life)
“The dietician made me a meal plan and told me to try to gain at least 2.20 pounds a week, or I might have to go into hospital."
“I attempted to eat a little bit more, but I would do anything to fake putting on weight, to avoid hospital."
“An hour before the appointment, I would drink gallons and gallons of water, so it seemed like I had put on weight. I know now how crazy that is, but at the time, it was what I thought I had to do."
Demi Rawling after her recovery (Collect/PA Real Life)
Eventually, in 2015, Demi hit her lowest weight of 98 pounds.
“It got to the point where I would look in the mirror and I was unrecognizable. I was stepping on the scales and realizing just how low the numbers were."
After that, Demi started to eat a little more and put on about half a stone, but she was still desperately thin.
Demi Rawling, now (Collect/PA Real Life)
“I convinced myself that I'd recovered," she said.
“But that still isn't enough with my height."
“The real turning point came just before I turned 18. I started to get a bit more of a social life and I went out with my friends. "
Always fiercely ambitious, anorexia had turned Demi into a hermit, who only interacted with people through YouTube make-up tutorials.
“I felt like they were like friends, because I was so isolated. It was the only time I wasn't consumed by my eating disorder. I wanted to make videos and work as a make-up artist."
“But, at 18, something just snapped and I realized that if I wanted the life I was envisioning, I couldn't do it if I was sick, or if I had to spend all day in bed – too thin or depressed to do anything. I felt like I was wasting my life. "
After that, Demi quit ballet, feeling it was an unhealthy environment for her and completely changed her diet.
“I went vegan. I don't think that is necessarily the way to do it—it is different for everyone, but for me it worked. I now have a healthy, full diet and I understand a lot more about my food."
“I don't know what weight I am now, as I don't weigh myself any more. My eating disorder was based on a number on a scale. I would weigh myself 30 times a day and I never want to get back to that again."
Now recovered, single Demi, who lives with her mother, works as a make-up artist as well as producing Youtube videos about her life and sharing her make-up skills, which she promotes on her Instagram account @demi.rawling.
Demi has completely turned her life around (Collect/PA Real Life)
“Anorexia is such an all-consuming disorder, it doesn't matter how concerned the people you love are, you can't get better until you want to yourself."
“When it clicked for me that I was wasting my life, I finally wanted to change."
“Now I am in such a happy and healthy place and I hope that my story can show other people going through this that there is hope."
To follow Demi's story on youtube, visit: www.youtube.com/user/demirawling
A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.