Anorexic ballet dancer whose weight dropped to just 5 stone 9 lbs sought treatment after seeing her dad in tears
Megan Brewer, 22, from Lincoln, aspired to tour the world with a dance company, but her hobby soon turned into a dangerous obsession
A ballet dancer suffering from anorexia claimed her illness made her exercise for 10 hours a day, which resulted in her face turning "grey and gaunt". Teaching assistant Megan Brewer refers to her illness as a "demon".
The 22-year-old woman from Lincoln was studying in a dance school when she aspired to tour the world with a professional dance company. However, she did not know a long battle lay ahead of her once her health deteriorated due to the disorder. At one point, Brewer was relying on nine cups of coffee supplemented with caffeine pulls in order to just get through the day.
Megan's weight plummetted to 5 stone and 9 lbs after she exercised obsessively for up to 10 hours a day. She could not look at herself in the mirror. She finally began treatment for her anorexia in September 2017 and is now leading a healthy life with balanced amounts of food and exercise.
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Megan started obsessing over her measurements for dance costumes since the age of eight. Always wanting to be the smallest size, Megan was always conscious of calories as she grew up and would frequently cry when she saw her own reflection.
Megan's schedule during her third year in dance school included 10 hours of workout — dancing, a HIIT class, two yoga classes, going to the gym at least once a day, running once a week and training for a marathon.
Eventually, she realized that she had developed a phobia of food and saw her dad cry at her condition. But Megan fought back against the anorexia and sought treatment. She now wants to inspire others and let them know that being ill isn't their fault.
Speaking to Daily Mail, Megan talks about her journey going from 5st 9lbs to 8st 6lbs and playing for Lambeth Allstars FC, which helped her find the social side of sports.
"We as a family were always very busy with our own commitments, such as dance and music classes," said Megan. "Both my parents are very into exercise and healthy living, which I learned and took to the extreme. I remember being fussy over unhealthy food from a young age, such as not eating chips or pizza. I'd say I didn't like them, so I wouldn't have to eat them. I would obsess over measurements when I was with my dance friends, like getting measured for costumes and character skirts. It felt like a competition to be the smallest. I was very conscious of my body since the age of eight. Growing up I did it all — ballet, tap, modern and jazz."
She added: "I was always conscious of my body and I'd cry at my own reflection. I also joined a gym at 15, which I would use if I was upset. When I entered dance college at 18, the dance world stereotypes became my reality and I slowly began to slip into unhealthy eating disorder related behaviors. In my second year, I developed anxiety and depression due to the high pressures of dance school and living in London."
Megan said: "As well as my dance training I was also training for half marathons. In my third year, my behaviors became extreme because I was doing up to 10 hours of exercise a day and rapidly losing more weight. In the dance world, I looked good, you could see my lines and muscle tone — I looked strong. When I stopped dancing though, I lost all the muscle tone and began to look skeletal by which point everyone became worried."
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Megan's exercise regime changed drastically after she left dance school in 2017. In a bid to maintain her weight considering she was no longer exercising for an entire day, she started depriving herself of food.
"I wasn't doing anywhere near as much exercise when I left, so I felt like I didn't deserve food. I only ate lean protein and low carb vegetables," said Megan. "I didn't have the luxury of a free gym and hours of dance class to attend so I ate less to compensate for the lack of exercise. When I began working as a teaching assistant, I would walk three miles to school and drink up to nine cups of coffee."
She added: "My intense fear of food became a phobia and I stopped socializing and drinking because I was afraid of food and calories, and that also took time away from exercising."
Megan continued: "When I began working in the school, I would have heart palpitations, felt faint and fell over a lot. When I went home for the weekend, at my lowest weight, my dad cried at how small I was. He picked me up from the station and was shocked by my skinny legs, gaunt face and grey skin."
Now, Megan says that more people should recognize those who are suffering. She wants to demonstrate that it's the mind which is the detrimental factor when it comes to anorexia and not one's weight.
"At first, I was an outpatient but that didn't work so I was offered day-care which was five days a week, and we had meals and a variety of therapy groups," said Megan. "There was a great team of staff consisting of a consultant, nurses, dietician, occupational therapists, and counselors. I'd created all these rules around eating and couldn't break that cycle but now I see everything is okay in moderation. With regard to exercise, football really helped me, and it changed my perspective. I realized that looking ripped isn't maintainable and doesn't make you a better person. Eating disorders aren't about weight. It is a mindset and food and weight are just a symptom of how much you're controlled by your inner voices. I always saw it as something was that controlling me, and I called it my demon."
You can follow Megan's inspirational journey at @perfectlyimperfectyou or visit perfectly-imperfect-you.com to find out more.