Samantha was thrilled with her good news, so much so she thought it would make a great story. She contacted photo-features through our sell your story website and we helped her publish her triumphant real life story in the Daily Mirror. You can read Samantha’s story below: Sniffing food made me anorexic Shutting her bedroom door behind her, Samantha Allen took the chocolate bar from her pocket. Hungrily tearing at the wrapper, she raised the bar to her lips and inhaled deeply. She kept sniffing at the bar, smelling the chocolate fumes and fighting the urge to eat it until finally, craving satisfied, she put the bar back into her pocket to throw away later. The ritual she started at 14 soon became one she would repeat so often over the next few years that she became anorexic and was left weighing only four-and-a-half stone – because she would only sniff food, never eat it. She thought she had found the perfect weight-loss solution. She still got to ‘enjoy’ her favourite treats – like cakes, crisps, chips and sweets but with none of the calories. Just a few years later, Samantha, from Sheffield, was at death’s door and doctors said her dangerous obsession with food had left her infertile. But now, at 22, she’s a healthy weight, is in love and is expecting the baby she never thought was possible. “When I look back now I can’t imagine myself being so stupid” she says. “At the time I really thought I’d found the perfect answer. Yes, I was still hungry but it was like I got to enjoy the food with no calories. “I was so obsessed I was always in the kitchen helping. Of course it also helped conceal my illness as I seemed to love cooking so much my parents never considered I was anorexic.” It’s been a long road to recovery for Samantha though. She had come up with the strategy just months after starting a diet aged 13. It had started when she’d carried a slice of chocolate cake to the dining table for her sister. Refusing a slice for herself, she joked that she would just enjoy the smell of it. So next time she felt hungry, she did just that and inhaled the aroma of the meal. She says: “I got a high as I had the self control. Other girls would say they wished they could slim like me. “It made me feel so good that I could make them envious when I’d typically always been bullied and laughed at. Sniffing had done that and I was hooked.” Over the next 12 months she continued to smell rather than eat anything but salad and apples and her periods stopped – a warning that her body was breaking down. But Samantha kept sniffing. She says: “Sniffing was my way of stopping a craving. Of course I never told anyone because I didn’t want them to realize. The weight was falling off me and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it earlier. “I would look at women eating things like cakes and chocolate and think how stupid they were. If they just sniffed it then they could enjoy it and not get fat.” But as her illness took a bigger and bigger grip on her, Samantha even worried that sniffing might add calories. She says: “It shows how calorie obsessed I was that I even worried that food sniffing might make me fatter. “I was literally terrified of calories.” Samantha denied she had a problem and threw herself into cooking meals for the family – smelling the dishes to satisfy her cravings – and pretending she’d eaten while cooking. If she couldn’t avoid eating a small portion she’d exercise for hours in her room while the family slept. She says: “I’d wake up and do 300 sit ups before leaving my room and then even more at night until I was sure I’d burnt off every calorie I’d eaten that day.” Soon she was so consumed by her eating and exercise that she started missing school. “I just wanted to be at home where I could exercise in my room in secret all day so I invented illnesses so mum would keep me off school.” But her weight loss and time off school was worrying Samantha’s parents, Marilyn and Roy, who booked an urgent appointment with the GP fearing she had a virus. Samantha says: “The GP said I was underweight and had to go for checks.” By then, sniffing food instead of eating it had become a way of life. Each time she went back to the GP, Samantha had lost more weight. “As sick as it sounds I was thrilled. Despite everyone being worried, I was delighted I was managing to lose weight and felt better and better all the time.” Finally, in June 2002 she was diagnosed with anorexia. The GP referred her to a counsellor but by then nothing could make Samantha eat. She was warned any further weight loss would result in a hospital admission. She says: “I didn’t want that but the thought of eating terrified me. I tried to force tiny mouthfuls but couldn’t stop the exercise.” By January 2003 her weight had plummeted to four-and-a-half stone and her family admitted her to Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital. “They were crying and I was screaming. They had to drag me in. It must have been awful for them but all I could think about was not putting on weight.” Sitting on the ward, Samantha convinced herself she wasn’t ill because many of the other patients were even thinner. “It made me want to lose more weight but it was hard because they monitored you all the time. I used to pretend I wanted a wee and the nurse would wait outside the toilet while I jogged on the spot with the taps on so they didn’t hear.” In her first week she actually lost weight and that’s when she was given the stark warning – eat or die. And there was worse news when she was told her anorexic had left her infertile. “It still didn’t sink in and I cared even less when they told me I couldn’t have kids. I’d never thought about them before so I just thought ‘so what?’.” She continued to lose weight and her distraught parents agreed they would take her home to care for her if she promised to eat. But she was warned she’d be straight back on the ward if she lost even an ounce. Her dad Roy took time off work to become her full-time carer, overseeing meal times, and slowly over the next year her weight increased. She says: “I saw what I had done to my family and I felt so ashamed. I wanted to get better for them.” By the age of 17 she had been battling anorexia for four years. As a treat for doing so well her parents agreed that older sister Corina could take her on a night out. Seeing other young women her age dressed up and having fun, Samantha finally realized how much she’d been missing out on while her illness consumed every thought. And not long afterwards, on another night out with her sister, Samantha met Danny now 23. She says: “It got serious straight away and of course I had to tell him that I was a recovering anorexic but that the damage to my body meant I couldn’t have kids.” Danny stood by Samantha and as her weight continued to rise to a healthy 8st 7lb, she began to get an unfamiliar sensation – maternal yearnings. “I’d see couples with prams looking happy and complete and finally I realized why they had made such a big deal of it in hospital. “Just as I was finding happiness I came down to earth with a massive bump at the realisation of what I’d done.” The couple decided they would one day adopt. “It meant we still had hope but it didn’t take away the anger and shame I felt at myself for ruining both our lives over a diet.” But then, after four years together something amazing happened – out of the blue she was pregnant. She says: “I was blown away. I had accepted I would never be a mum and had spent years punishing myself because I only had myself to blame. “When you’re younger things like that don’t bother you because you don’t imagine being a mum. That all changed after meeting Danny.” Now, she is 18 weeks and scans have shown their baby is perfect. She adds: “I’m in pain with my back and joints because anorexia has affected my bones. It’s a really small price to pay. “For the first time I’m looking at my body in the right way, it’s doing a job and I have new respect for it. “As a former anorexic people think it’s weird that I’m not concerned about growing a large bump but it’s totally different and I’m not worried about getting big at all. I feel so lucky to have survived anorexia and be blessed with a baby.” Samantha wants her story to be a warning to other anorexic young women. “They will be told they are ruining their chances of motherhood but they are too young to care. “But I beg them to listen because one day they will and ‘like me’ they will hate themselves for doing it. I have been lucky to get pregnant but not everyone will.”
*Disclaimer: Results May Vary From Person To Person.