When a fitness obsession turns into an eating disorder: Asha's story

NEW FOCUS: Asha says she is in such a good place now.
NEW FOCUS: Asha says she is in such a good place now. "For me it's no longer about what my body looks like." Asha and her husband Josh welcomed baby Ellie 10 months ago. Photo: Supplied.

It's a scene Asha Holland sees all too often.

Hundreds of young, impressionable teenagers striving to be prettier, to be skinnier, to be fitter.

Many of these girls have been raised by mothers who never learned to love themselves.

Girls who hear their mothers look in the mirror and say 'I'm too fat'.

Girls who are bombarded with advertisements, with role models, with porn that says you need to look 'perfect'.

SPIRAL: Asha says she was 'sucked in' to a spiral that she had to achieve 'the perfect body.' Photo: Supplied.

SPIRAL: Asha says she was 'sucked in' to a spiral that she had to achieve 'the perfect body.' Photo: Supplied.

Asha is among a growing community in the Peel region advocating for more early intervention services - and for the establishment of a residential eating disorder centre.

The money for the centre has been promised by the federal government but there are no concrete plans yet as to where, when and how it will be constructed.

The state government doesn't appear to be in a hurry to make things happen but has loose plans to potentially incorporate it into the Peel Health Campus redevelopment.

Asha is a speaker who visits schools as part of her business, Alternatively Healthy, and she says every time she is reminded of the urgency for better support for eating disorder sufferers.

INSPIRATION: Asha travels to schools as a speaker, encouraging girls to move away from perfectionism. Photo: Supplied.

INSPIRATION: Asha travels to schools as a speaker, encouraging girls to move away from perfectionism. Photo: Supplied.

"There are so many girls who will confide in me after I have given a speech," she says. "There is so much need."

In her speeches, she encourages girls to move away from perfectionism and shares her message that a "perfect" body does not equal happiness and that healthy is a far cry from what you see on the outside.

"I got sucked into that spiral that I had to achieve that perfect body. I became a body builder and achieved the body I thought was perfect. I reached my goal and I still wasn't happy.

"I try to show these girls that happiness has nothing to do with the way you look.

"I hope they take it from me, from someone that reached their ideal of beauty and still wasn't happy or healthy."

She says her obsession led to her having no energy, constant mood swings and being sick often.

"I ended up going to a lot of doctors because I was convinced I had some kind of virus or stomach problem that was making me feel yuck."

She reached out to medical professionals including multiple GPs and specialists until one eventually said, 'I think we might be dealing with anorexia'.

Even that didn't spark change. In fact, it just made her sign up with a body building coach the next day which then took her even deeper down her dark path to anxiety.

The turning point for her was when a doctor told her she might not be able to have children if she didn't change her lifestyle.

"That was the wakeup call I needed," she said. "I knew I always wanted to be a mum."

The beauty in her journey is that Asha has given up on her dream of looking a certain way and replaced it with a far more wholesome dream - being a terrific mum and friend and contributor to society.

The now 25-year-old and her husband Josh welcomed baby Ellie 10 months ago.

"I am in such a good place now," Asha says.

"For me it's no longer about what my body looks like.

HAPPINESS: Asha says she is in such a good place now. She continues to speak out against stigma surrounding eating disorders and therapy. Photo: Supplied.

HAPPINESS: Asha says she is in such a good place now. She continues to speak out against stigma surrounding eating disorders and therapy. Photo: Supplied.

"I see a psychologist and I have done the work, there is still a stigma around seeing a psychologist, that you have to wait until something is seriously wrong.

"I would recommend it for everyone - if we don't work through some of these issues that we all have, it leads us to these unhealthy patterns."

She says the beauty of a residential eating disorder clinic is that eating disorder sufferers can access a psychologist and multiple other specialists under the same roof in a holistic environment where they are being cared for, nurtured and treated.

"It is so needed," says Asha.

"There is so much taboo around this topic of eating disorders and we just need to get our young people talking about it so they realise other people are suffering from the same issues."

Being only a few years older than many of them, she is relatable, she is warm and she is inspirational.

The Mail has two copies of Asha's self-love journal up for grabs.

Email editor@mandurahmail.com.au for your chance to win a copy.