As a nutrition student, I have developed an immense appreciation for food and have become infinitely grateful for the role that nutrients play in keeping us alive and healthy. So I was very surprised when my younger sister fell ill with anorexia nervosa. She had watched a set of emotive health documentaries and had read numerous articles that slam key dietary components such as sugar, while promoting healthy eating and weight loss. This prompted her to follow a so-called “healthy diet” with the aim of losing weight. This shocked me because my sister already had a slim figure and had never been one to care about her health.
Weeks passed with her meal sizes decreasing, her exercise increasing, and her care for healthy food progressing from an interest to an obsession. She became consumed by health gurus on social media and took every false health claim to heart. Her healthy eating stint progressed to the point where she would refuse to eat any foods containing preservatives or oil, was suddenly a self-proclaimed “coeliac” and “vegan”, and was “lactose intolerant”. Eventually she was admitted to hospital with a weight of only 41 kilograms and an alarmingly slow heart rate of 29 beats per minute. She was at risk of heart failure, and we did not know if she would survive.