It began as a teenage rebellion but it has taken over Anna Richmond's life

Anna Richmond was taller than most girls in her class at school and, though not overweight, she felt big. When she was 16 she started cutting back on meals; she wanted to fit in and, at 5ft 11, she thought she should lose weight to feel a more normal size.

"Like most teenage girls I was impressionable. I was looking at magazines, seeing the models, thinking they look good and thinking I am too big to ever look like that," she says.

Now 36, married and a successful psychiatrist, Anna can see that there was more to it than that. Like many anorexics she did well at school, won prizes and was always pushing herself.

"I think there was an element of rebellion, perhaps I wanted to stand out and be known for something different from being good at exams," she says.

Anna was first admitted to hospital when she was 17. She had lost three stone in a year and was dangerously thin. She put weight on in hospital butwithin a year was down to six stone. Only after a stay in an adult psychiatric unit in Oxford did she start to recover.

It was then that the long-term damage she was doing to her body began to show. She was 19 and, with the help of her parents, was putting on weight when she collapsed at home. Osteoporosis was diagnosed: she had fractured her spine and had lost five centimetres in height.

Ever since, Anna has been struggling to improve her bone density; she would like to have children one day and has to be careful about her diet and exercise to make sure her bones are strong.

As a survivor of anorexia, Anna is keen to get the message out to young women that they could be courting devastating consequences: "When I look back on that time I think how sad it was, how hungry I was and how I was trying to make myself work. You can always put weight on, but if you lose height it is gone for ever," she says.

Anna Giokas

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