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“It was an incredible thing to do”: the random act of kindness that helped this woman overcome anorexia

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Inspiration can turn up in the most unexpected of places. And for one young woman, it appeared in the form of a note from a complete stranger in her local Waitrose when she needed it the most.

Twenty year old student Anna Wyatt was shopping one day when she was handed a note that ended up changing her life. 

At that time, Wyatt was suffering from anorexia and weighed a mere six stone. Her eating disorder was so bad that she had to postpone her studies at the University of Exeter and move to her hometown (Norwich) to seek treatment from her local NHS service.  

Above: Anna Wyatt on the road to recovery

Wyatt told the Eastern Daily Press that she was undergoing both cognitive behavioural therapy and cognitive analytic therapy there, which focused on changing her mindset.

But she wasn’t able to respond to treatment and her weight continued to plummet.

“Having anorexia is like having the conscious part of your brain put in a very small box, which is surrounded by a much larger fog swirling all around inside your head,” she says.

“You know what is sensible but there is something that stops you from doing it.”

It was not until she was handed a note by a stranger - fellow anorexia sufferer Ella Crouch - that she finally saw some hope. Crouch handed Wyatt the paper directing her to her own blog which outlined her struggles and road to recovery.

Crouch had received the help she needed from a personal trainer, Leon Bustin. 

Wyatt explained that this physically approach to overcoming her illness caught her attention, and she decided to contact him, slowly building up muscles and gaining weight through exercise, which gradually lead to an improvement in her eating habits. 

Above: Anna's Good Samaritan and fellow anorexia sufferer, Ella Crouch 

“I had a look on Ella’s blog and for the first time thought ‘this is the way the to go’,” Wyatt says. “If she hadn’t given me that note I think I’d have been hospitalised pretty soon as I would have kept losing weight.

“I found I needed to put on weight first, and then the mindset could change.”
“It was an incredible thing for the person to do, to be brave enough to walk up to a stranger and offer that help.”

Naturally the road to recovery is always a difficult one, but Wyatt explained that 18 months after the act of kindness had “changed my life.” She is now planning to trek Machu Picchu in Peru next August in order to provide equipment to a hospital in northern Ski Lanka. On her Just Giving page, she wrote:

"It's an important goal physically and mentally for me too. 

"Over the last few years I've been recovering from severe anorexia (with the help of an awesome personal trainer), and now that the worst is behind me I find that challenging myself to complete physical and mental challenges is something that motivates me every day to keep going and to hopefully prove to others out there suffering that the world is a much more fun place when your body is strong enough to enjoy it."

Anorexia falls under the umbrella of eating disorders, which is estimated to affect 1.6 million people in the UK. It's a serious mental health condition and is statistically more likely to affect women, with the onset of the condition most likely to occur at the age of 16-17.

For more information and support on overcoming eating disorders, check out NHS advice here.

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