Thetford woman tells of her battle against anorexia

A mother-of-two who battled anorexia for 35 years has spoken out to break what she calls a “silence” around the issue.

Jacqui Richardson, 53, was 18 when she first developed the eating disorder and over the past three decades has struggled to put on weight.

The mother of two however has now reached a target weight of just under eight stone through a combination of professional help and talking to her family.

Over the past 35 years Mrs Richardson, who lives with her husband Andy, from Teasel Drive, Thetford, was hospitalised six times, while she fought the eating disorder.

“I found it hard to break the silence,” she said. “I wore baggy clothes and was very secretive. “I’ve had enjoyable times but this is in your head the whole time. The first thing I thought about in the morning was getting on the scales and seeing how much I weighed. “If my stomach was sticking out I couldn’t go out of the house because I thought people were looking at me.”

The couple met while at an RAF hospital in Wegberg, Germany, when Mrs Richardson was a trainee nurse and Mr Richardson was recovering from a parachute fall in which broke his ankle.S

A former soldier with the RAF Regiment and now an MOD driver, Mr Richardson said: “She shouldn’t have been on the ward but she woke me up to give me some sleeping tablets and I was stunned by her beauty - I was never romantic or a womaniser but I thought ‘wow’.

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“I knew nothing about eating disorders but I knew she was very thin but I didn’t want to break the silence. I don’t know if she will ever recover but we’re living with it and we’ve just about got there.

“It’s all about the spoken word and we sit here and talk and talk and it’s worked. I know we’re not totally out of the woods but I think I know enough about it that we wouldn’t go there again. It’s a combination of the right health professionals and waffling with me and then talking some more - that’s the way we’ve done it.”

The couple continued a long-term relationship for a year before marrying, first living in Scotland before moving to Thetford 18-years-ago. They have two grown-up daughters.

Mrs Richardson, who is 5ft 7in tall, has now reached her target weight of 7st 11lb and believes she is on the road to recovery. “I’ve put on some weight and your mind changes then because the less you weigh the more mad you get. It’s easier to put on a pound at a higher weight,” she said.

“If I’ve learnt anything in the past 35 years it’s that anorexia is a self-esteem issue.”

The couple spoke out during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, hoping to help others with the condition.