Years of severe anorexia nearly killed Hannah Gane, until she discovered bodybuilding and learned she could make her body, and her mind, stronger than ever before.
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Hannah Gane’s story is unusual, but unfortunately, parts of it are all too common; after years of suffering from extreme anorexia, her illness would have claimed her life if she hadn’t made a drastic change.
Inspired by images of bodybuilders and physique competitors, Gane took up weightlifting and her whole world changed. Now, instead of pushing her body to unhealthy extremes, Gane is focused on building strength and feeding her body to help it grow.
Images of anorexia are hard for some people to view, which is why Gane’s transformation photos are often blocked on social media sites. In response, we sat down with her to learn more about her story and how she was able to overcome such a difficult and damaging disease, and how she’s working to inspire others who might be struggling the same way she was.
BBCOM: You have such a unique story. How do people react to learning about it?
Hannah Gane: If you wrote my story down on paper, it’s very abnormal. Severely anorexic, going into weightlifting. It just doesn’t match up.
People sometimes criticize my story by saying that I’m going against the normal recovery model. The truth is there’s no right or wrong way to recover. It’s what works for you and what makes you recover.
Look at me now: I’m not anorexic anymore. Yes, I still have those negative thoughts, but I have completely got myself away from dying. Bodybuilding did that.
What led you to develop such severe anorexia?
My dad committed suicide when I was 13 years old, and that event threw my life upside down. We had to move out of our home. Obviously, it meant all our mental health was affected. Basically, I couldn’t control my life, so the only thing I could control was my food.
I lost a lot of weight very, very quickly. It just became so easy for me because I’ve got very strong willpower. My willpower is so strong it could kill me, and it nearly did.
What was the turning point?
I came home [from university] to visit my mom one weekend, and I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” So, I put myself in hospital. I wasn’t allowed to go to an eating disorder unit, because I was too ill—too thin—to go to the eating disorder unit. So, I had to gain enough weight to be able to go to the eating disorder unit, which sounds very stupid.
When you’re that ill, you literally lose everything. I couldn’t climb stairs, I couldn’t even lift my head off the floor. Your whole body just literally shuts down.
What inspired you to finally make a change?
You have so much time on your hands in those facilities, and there’s only so many word searches you can do. I ended up scrolling through Instagram, and I saw some girls’ transformation photos. They hadn’t had anorexia, but they had been very, very skinny. They got into weightlifting, and now they just look amazing.
The day I did finally choose to recover was when I hit my lowest weight. That day, I stepped on the scale and literally thought, “If I carry on, I am going to die.”
I am very close to my mom, and I know that she’s already lost a husband—I can’t let her lose a daughter as well. She’s been by my side since day one. I can’t do this to her. That’s when I decided that bodybuilding was going to be the way that I recovered.
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