An anorexia sufferer described as the “world’s thinnest woman” has spoken of her shock at becoming a role model for young girls desperate to copy her skeletal figure.
Valeria Levitin, 39, who suffers from an extreme form of the eating disorder, weighs a miniscule amount and now wants to campaign against the condition.
Speaking to news agency Barcroft, she said: “I am not going to teach them how to die. It is not a game, it is not a joke, it is your life.
“I want to share my story to help sufferers and their families from repeating my fate.
“Anorexia has made me lonely, unattractive and repulsive for the people around me.”
Levitin hopes the publication of graphic images of her condition will put people off turning to anorexia and highlight the dangers of the illness.
But some have warned that Levitin’s case could work to could exacerbate the problem instead of helping to stem it.
Eating disorder charity, Beat, receives a high number of calls and e-mails from anorexia sufferers every time graphic images appear in the media, and told The Huffington Post UK of one anorexia sufferers’ response to Levitin’s pictures.
The individual wrote: “The images and tone of the article won’t repulse or disgust people with anorexia, and for me, it doesn’t trigger the desire to look like Valeria.
“Shock is not a cure, but what it does do is make me feel as if I am “not really anorexic”.
“It makes sufferers look like a freak show and it is purely for shock tactics to make people who don’t have the illness think we are all ‘trying to lose weight’ to look skeletal.”
Graphic images can act as a “trigger” for anorexia, bringing out the “competitive” side of sufferers, urging them to eat even less.
Mentioning specific weights and diet regimens can also have a similar effect.
A spokesperson for Beat said: “The certain knowledge that you could die tomorrow is not more terrifying than the thought of eating today’s meagre lunch.
“You can’t be shocked out of it, you can only be further drawn into it by trying to compete with anyone you think is thinner than you, better at it than you.
“It’s a horrible, painful, dreadful illness, no picture, no matter how ‘shocking’ can capture the agony of having anorexia.”
Whatever the difficulties of reporting the condition, the devastating effects of anorexia are far more clear cut.
Levitin, who has battled the illness for almost 20 years said: “My eating disorder has robbed me of so much.
“People don’t want to be around someone who is not in a good mood or not upbeat.”
Speaking of her new found role model status she adds: “I want young people to live happy, healthy and meaningful lives.”
The Huffington Post UK has chosen not to publish the graphic images of Levitin.
Anyone concerned about eating disorders can contact Beat’s adult helpline on 0845 634 1414, or their youthline on 0845 634 7650.
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