Gravely ill, she gets fan mail from girls who would follow her path
39-year-old Valeria Levitin's story is both shocking and sad. She is originally from Russia but currently lives in Monaco and due to an anorexic condition, her life there is anything but normal. At five foot seven inches tall, Valeria weighs only 50 pounds — the normal weight for someone her size would be between 125 and 165 pounds!
Valeria's eating disorder began when she was very young. When she was just a child, her mother strictly controlled her food intake to keep her from becoming overweight like her relatives. At the tender age of 16, Valeria started dieting.
Her family had just moved to Chicago and Valeria was worried about making new friends at school. She wanted to lose weight thinking that people would like her more if she were slender.
The first thing Valeria did was to stop eating carbohydrates and sugar — but apparently that wasn't enough. Then one day while Valeria was watching a soccer game with friends, someone said something that hurt her deeply and had lasting repercussions: "I know how we can win. We need to put Valeria's big a** in the goal." It was a cruel joke and one that ended up shattering Valeria's world. She would never be able to look at herself the same way again.
The irony was that Valeria had a perfectly normal body for someone her age and height. She wore a size 10 and was perhaps slightly "sturdier" than other girls in her school, but also perfectly healthy and by no means overweight.
By the time Valeria was 23, she was down to a size 4 and wanted to start a career as a model. Yet even though she was incredibly slim, she was still told that she was too "fat" for the modelling world.
By this time Valeria knew that she had developed a serious eating disorder, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop her self-destructive behavior. She knew she needed help and went to 30 anorexia specialists to try to overcome her condition — all to no avail. Anorexia had completely taken hold of the young woman and prevented her from gaining any weight back .
Her body became so weakened that she soon had to take medication to stop the bruising that her body was suffering at even the slightest impact. Valeria was constantly frightened that she would collapse at any moment — in her state, a simple fall could have resulted in several broken bones.
And Valeria was not only suffering physically — anorexia nervosa had also made her life extremely lonely. She wasn't able to have normal relationships or do the things that women her age normally do. The horrible irony was that she had started dieting to have a more appealing appearance and now felt more unattractive than ever.
To make matters even worse, Valeria actually started receiving "fan mail" when news of her severe condition began appearing on social networks. She was shocked when she read the letters requesting that she reveal her secret formula for staying so thin and refused to help other young women kill themselves. It was at this point that Valeria knew she had to speak out, so she started a campaign to raise awareness about anorexia and warn people of the danger.
And Valeria hadn't given up on herself either. She was determined to get her life back under control and had her own special goal in life: to have child. She believed that this goal would provide enough motivation to overcome her condition and return to a healthy way of living.
Yet the ultimate tragedy is that over the years Valeria's severe eating disorder had actually changed her body, which meant that even if she wanted to eat normally, she wouldn't be physically able to. Years of malnutrition had caused her body to develop intolerances to a wide variety of foods and she was no longer able to digest nourishment properly.
Valeria's story is a perfect example of how dangerous the quest for the "perfect body" can be. In a world where we're bombarded with images of unhealthily thin models and photoshopped celebrities, it's understandable that some impressionable young people lose touch with their own self image and it's important to remember how life-threatening this is in some cases. Eating a proper diet and maintaining a healthy weight are good habits to get into. But if you or someone you know feels compelled to take this to the extreme, it's always best to consult a doctor to make sure it doesn't get out of control. In Valeria's case, we can only hope that it wasn't too late.