Anorexia nervosa affects millions of people worldwide, many of whom are young women like Eugenia Cooney, who nearly died from the eating disorder before she found the recovery and treatment that saved her life. Luckily, Eugenia’s story has a happy ending—she’s now recovered and works as an advocate for other girls who suffer from anorexia so they can receive the help they need and rescue as well. These are Eugenia’s inspirational before and after pictures from her recovery from anorexia—a severe eating disorder that can have deadly consequences if left untreated.
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Eugenia Cooney was always a skinny kid
in pictures and on-home videos, she looked like a normal skinny kid. But by age 14, her weight had dropped into a danger zone — her 5’1 frame was down to 80 pounds, and Eugenia was suffering physical problems that only became worse when she tried to get better on her own. The years of starvation took a toll on Eugenia Cooney physically: she was experiencing dry skin, brittle hair, and nails, kidney stones…she had constant diarrhea as well as difficulty digesting even small amounts of food. At best, every meal left her nauseous or constipated; at worst, she would be sent to an emergency room with acute abdominal pain that doctors thought she might have appendicitis or a heart attack.
When she was 15, her weight loss began
her parents were not aware of her eating disorder because she was very good at hiding it. Her peers, who were used to seeing her gain weight, began to notice changes. However, they did not know that Eugenia Cooney had an eating disorder and was in fact losing more weight than she should have been. After reaching a dangerously low body mass index (BMI), Eugenia finally decided to tell her parents about her illness. At first, they did not believe that their daughter had an eating disorder since she was living a seemingly normal life: going to school and enjoying time with friends. She then went through months of therapy and slowly started putting on weight again while exercising more frequently in order to maintain a healthy BMI.
Her family tried everything to get her help
A nonprofit organization offered to pay for treatment in an exclusive clinic, but because Eugenia Cooney had insurance, she didn’t think she would need it. But when they called her insurance company to try to enroll her in an inpatient program, they were told that her policy excluded coverage for psychiatric treatment—even if it was a life-threatening eating disorder. (This rule was later changed under pressure from advocacy groups.) I was surprised and confused, says Eugenia Cooney. I thought my family had just paid for health insurance—why wouldn’t we be covered? She believes she might have gotten help sooner if coverage had been included.
Her mental health state got worse with time
When she was younger, Eugenia Cooney says she didn’t eat for four days at a time, because she felt that food was terrible for her. By the end of high school, I was averaging about 500 calories a day. She dropped out of college and tried to commit suicide; doctors said if she didn’t start getting help immediately, it could kill her. When you get to that point, Eugenia says, you think there is no other option—you can never live in society again.
She became so weak, that she couldn’t walk anymore
As she got sicker, her disease progressed to anorexia nervosa. It was a scary time for her and her family as well. I was so weak, I couldn’t walk anymore, she says. At one point, my mom had to carry me to my bed. Her parents watched helplessly as their daughter slipped away. It felt like we were losing our child, says Eugenia Cooney’s mother.
She finally gets help and starts recovering
Eugenia Cooney was 19 years old and a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis when she realized she needed help. I started dropping weight, going classless, skipping meals, Eugenia Cooney says. Her friends noticed but they didn’t know what was going on with her until one day after class, she threw up on campus. That was it—her friend took her to see a counselor and then things began moving quickly: The next day I went to my doctor who had me admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. After three days there, Eugenia Cooney says that doctors told her parents what their daughter had been battling for months if not years: an eating disorder—and it wasn’t an easy diagnosis for them to accept.
She even gives back with her blog now.
On her website, Eugenia Cooney offers advice to anyone who is suffering and struggling with an eating disorder. I feel it’s important to help others who are going through what I went through. I know how hopeless and lonely it can feel, she explains on her website. Eugenia Cooney continues to spread awareness and let others know that recovery is possible. She has done a lot of media interviews in order to share her story with everyone so they can learn from her past experiences and hear about her journey towards health and happiness. Her life serves as an example that recovering from an eating disorder is possible because she is living proof of how far you can come when you don’t give up!