A mum who developed anorexia as she attempted to lose her baby weight in time for her wedding was told by concerned doctors she was “digging her own grave”.
Ailsa Gardner opted for a dress that was a fraction too small as she was only six months postpartum at the time. But by the time the big day had come around, the 29-year old had started to develop the eating disorder, resulting in her dress needing to be taken in. The stay-at-home mum from Inverness continued to battle the illness for two more years, however, eating just one meal a day and walking as much as possible in order to shed the pounds.
During that time she donned baggy clothes to conceal her dramatic weight loss and weighed herself three times a day. But after collapsing as she queued to buy a coffee with her mum and kids, she sought help from her 36-year old husband, Richard, to turn her life around.
Now in recovery, Ailsa is happy and healthy, eating the recommended amount of meals without keep an eye on her calorie intake. Discussing her ordeal, she told the Daily Record: “I was so unwell, but at the time I didn’t see the severity of it.
Until the day I collapsed – that was when I first realised things had got out of control. The night I told Richard about what was happening, I hit rock-bottom. Calling the ambulance was a wake-up call – I wasn’t prepared not to see my children to grow up.”
Ailsa continued: “The doctors told me if I didn’t accept help, I’d have weeks to live. My recovery wasn’t all plain sailing and there were bumps in the road – it was exceptionally hard work. I don’t really think about calories now – but if I ever feel guilty about what I’ve eaten, I just remember how good it feels to finally be free and happy. I’ve got my personality and my life back and that means more to me than anything.”
Ailsa revealed that being furloughed from her job as a wedding and events coordinator during the coronavirus pandemic only heightened her attention to losing weight. She said: “I started going out walking religiously because I wanted to fit into the dress. But it started to spiral out of control – by the time the wedding came around, I’d lost so much weight I had to actually get the dress taken in.”
Still considered a healthy weight under NHS guidelines though, Ailsa continued to exercise excessively and ate very little until her collapse in February 2022. “I remember being on the floor and my daughter screaming ‘mum, mum’, she said.
Two weeks later her husband Richard was forced to call an ambulance as she began to feel unwell. “One night I was standing in the bathroom and I turned to Richard and said ‘I don’t feel right here’. I thought I was dying – I was lying on my bed saying goodbye to people,” she admitted.
A three-week hospital admission proved to be the “wake-up call” Ailsa needed, and on being discharged she was given a meal plan and took part in weekly therapy sessions. “The more I was eating throughout the day, the healthier my brain got,” she said. “The voices in my head quietened down a bit, and the medication helped further.”
As her recovery goes from strength to strength, Ailsa now uses her TikTok account to showcase the meals she makes for herself and her family every day – as well as vlogging their meals out. “I never thought I’d get to this food freedom I was striving for,” she said. “I could never see a way out of my anorexia – now I look back and think ‘wow’. It just feels amazing because I feel free – nothing is off limits. I can eat what I want without thinking about the calories first – I’m just living my best life.”