Anorexic teen who weighed just 5st reveals how her DOG saved her life

Anorexic teenager, 16, who was told she could ‘die from a heart attack’ when she weighed just 5st reveals how her DOG saved her life because she stopped obsessing over food while learning to take care of him

  • WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGES 
  • Connie Hatcher, from Essex, spent her teenage years suffering from anorexia 
  • At one point it was so severe she would do 200 sit-ups a day and limit her meals
  • It took the love of a dog named Simba to help the teenager turn her life around 

A 16-year-old who at her lightest weighed in at just five stone has opened up about how her beloved dog stopped her dying from an eating disorder.

Connie Hatcher, from Hornchurch, Essex, suffers from anorexia, which at one point was so severe she would do 200 sit-ups a day, limit herself to just one meal every 24 hours, or even skip eating entirely.

It took the patience of her family and the love of a huge dog named Simba to help the teenager turn her life around.

She revealed how her distraught parents, after discovering her eating disorder, gifted her a puppy to help with her therapy – and the eight-week-old pooch turned out to be a lifesaver. 

Connie, who now wants to be a personal trainer after finding a new passion for fitness, said she finally stopped obsessing over food and instead learned how to take care of Simba.


Connie Hatcher (pictured right, recently), from Hornchurch, Essex, suffers from anorexia, which at one point was so severe she would do 200 sit-ups a day, limit herself to just one meal every 24 hours, or even skip eating entirely. Pictured left, Connie at her lowest weight

It took the patience of her family and the love of a huge dog named Simba (pictured) to help the teenager turn her life around

‘I first started noticing that I was bigger than other girls when I was about 10 years old,’ Connie said. ‘I started my period and my chest got bigger and I started comparing myself to the other girls in my class.

‘All the hormones of puberty, as well as getting a phone and having constant access to social media just got on top of me. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to lose weight, I just began cutting back on what I was eating.’

As her eating disorder escalated, the teenager became withdrawn from her family and friends, and also started obsessing over her food more.

She said: ‘I couldn’t talk about how I was feeling. I bottled everything up. I would make up excuses not to eat, saying I would later and then I would go to bed without saying goodnight, before starting the day over again.


Connie (pictured at her lightest weight) revealed how her distraught parents, after discovering her eating disorder, gifted her a puppy to help with her therapy – and the eight-week-old pooch turned out to be a lifesaver

Connie (pictured), who now wants to be a personal trainer after finding a new passion for fitness, said she finally stopped obsessing over food and instead learned how to take care of Simba


Connie (pictured now) began weighing out all her food and knew the exact amount of calories in every ingredient, and also started an unhealthy, obsessive fitness routine – which included 200 sit-ups a day

‘All that was on my mind was numbers, food, mirrors and what I looked like. I was constantly thinking about what I was going to do the next day, how little I would eat and how long I would exercise for.

‘I had memorised everything to the point I knew the calories in anything off by heart. It would stress me out if I couldn’t calculate how much I was eating.’

Connie began weighing out all her food and knew the exact amount of calories in every ingredient, and also started an unhealthy, obsessive fitness routine – which included 200 sit-ups a day. 

She became very secretive from her family and would head straight upstairs to her bedroom after getting home from school.

Connie (pictured recently) became very secretive from her family and would head straight upstairs to her bedroom after getting home from school

Connie (before her anorexia diagnosis, right, and now, left) also withdrew from friends and stopped going out so the pressure to eat or drink anything with calories in wouldn’t be there

The turning point came when Connie (pictured recently) went to netball practice and bumped into someone she hadn’t seen for a while

Connie also withdrew from friends and stopped going out so the pressure to eat or drink anything with calories in wouldn’t be there.

She said: ‘I went from being really happy and always telling jokes to really quiet. I didn’t want anyone to notice me or look at me. I thought if they noticed me they might realise I wasn’t eating and that could change everything.

‘Everything I wore was baggy at home to hide my frame but at school I had to wear tights so the teachers noticed how thin my calves were.

‘During a lesson one of the teachers pulled me outside and said she was worried about me and was going to speak to my mum. I didn’t worry about it too much as I’d been controlling it for so long that I thought I could shrug it off.

‘It wasn’t that I felt like I was lying to my family, because I believed the anorexia so much. It told me I was fat and didn’t deserve to be happy – and I listened to it.

Connie (before her anorexia diagnosis, right, and now, left) said: ‘They didn’t recognise me because I was so thin. My mum was with me at the practice and when she heard them say that, it was the final straw for her’

Connie (before her anorexia diagnosis, right, and now, left) says she never thought of herself as having an eating disorder. She added: ‘When the doctor said I had anorexia nervosa my mum and I both burst into tears’

‘If anyone said anything different, I was convinced they were lying to me. I remember a boy at school turned round to me one day and told me that I wasn’t fun anymore.

‘I always used to be joking about as the clown of the class but anorexia stopped me and told me I couldn’t be like that anymore.’

Connie recalled: ‘During a sports lesson, a friend looked at me getting changed and told me I was really thin. At the time I was really pleased because I thought she was saying it as a good thing, but she wasn’t. She was saying it because I looked ill.’

The turning point came when Connie went to netball practice and bumped into someone she hadn’t seen for a while.

She said: ‘They didn’t recognise me because I was so thin. My mum was with me at the practice and when she heard them say that, it was the final straw for her.

At this point, the teenager weighed just five stone and constantly felt faint and tired (pictured)


Connie was told the starvation had caused such a strain on her heart that if her health didn’t improve quickly, she was at risk of having a heart attack and dying. Pictured: Connie with Simba

Connie (pictured with her pet dog) was referred to an eating disorder clinic but her recovery wasn’t straightforward

‘She took me to the doctor the next day. I didn’t really notice that what they were saying was a bad thing because I couldn’t see the weight loss. I still felt fat and thought I looked fat.’

Connie says she never thought of herself as having an eating disorder. She added: ‘When the doctor said I had anorexia nervosa my mum and I both burst into tears.

‘It felt like being told I had cancer. We got told that my blood pressure was really low so they sent me to have a heart monitor test. It was the first time my mum had seen me without a top on and she started crying all over again.

‘My mind was so clouded by the restrictions that I still couldn’t see what I was doing to myself.’

At this point, the teenager weighed just five stone and constantly felt faint and tired.


But thankfully help would come in the unusual but adorable shape of a furry French mastiff named Simba, pictured

 A few weeks after her doctor’s appointment, Connie’s dad, Kevin, 44, surprised her with the eight-week-old pooch. Pictured: Connie after her recovery

She was told the starvation had caused such a strain on her heart that if her health didn’t improve quickly, she was at risk of having a heart attack and dying.

Connie was referred to an eating disorder clinic but her recovery wasn’t straightforward. But thankfully help would come in the unusual but adorable shape of a furry French mastiff named Simba.

A few weeks after her doctor’s appointment, Connie’s dad, Kevin, 44, surprised her with the eight-week-old pooch.

He had asked therapists if they thought getting a dog would help with his daughter’s recovery and was told ‘it couldn’t hurt’. In reality, it turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to Connie.

She said: ‘I remember when my dad brought Simba home. He was just this tiny little puppy and it was the first time in forever that I felt happy.


He had asked therapists if they thought getting a dog would help with his daughter’s recovery and was told ‘it couldn’t hurt’. In reality, it turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to Connie (pictured left, before her anorexia diagnosis, and right, after)

After getting the dog, the teenager’s (pictured) mind began to shift to other things – such as how to take care of him – and she stopped obsessing over food and numbers as much

‘I always felt like I was fake smiling trying to make other people happy but the moment I saw him my heart just blossomed. Simba brings me pure happiness.’

WHAT IS ANOREXIA?

Anorexia is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.

People diagnosed with it try to keep their weight as low as possible by eating little or excessive exercise.

Men and women can develop the illness, however it typically starts in the mid-teens.

Those with anorexia can have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they’re fat when in fact they are severely underweight.

Causes of the condition are unknown, but those with it have either low self-esteem, have a family history of eating disorders or feel pressured from society or place of work.

Long term health complications can include muscle and bone problems, loss of sex drive, kidney or bowel problems or having a weakened immune system.

Treatment for anorexia can include cognitive behavioural therapy.

After getting the dog, the teenager’s mind began to shift to other things – such as how to take care of him – and she stopped obsessing over food and numbers as much.

Connie tried harder to stick to her meal plan so she could have the energy to play with him, and slowly her health improved.

By the time Simba was three months old, the teenager had gained enough weight to take him out for short walks with her dad.

She said: ‘When I got Simba he was like the stimulus to get better because I knew that if I didn’t they’d take him away, as I wouldn’t be able to look after him properly.

‘I woke up one day and just thought “what am I doing to myself?” I was sick of living my life around food. I was wasting my life.’

In May 2019, Connie started going to the gym with her dad and lifting weights to get stronger – focusing on fitness instead of calories.

She said: ‘I knew I wanted to be strong and not skinny anymore and I really felt like I found a passion and something that I was good at.’

It was this love of fitness that inspired her future career goals as a personal trainer. Currently in her last year of secondary school, Connie is hoping to go to college next year to study health and fitness.

Now, more than six years after first struggling with anorexia, Connie is determined to be the healthiest, happiest version of herself.

The brave young woman regularly shares open and honest posts on her Instagram account (@connieann.fitx) hoping to inspire others struggling with an eating disorder.

Many of her photos on the account show just how far she has come and aim to teach others about the complexity of the disease.

Connie (pictured) tried harder to stick to her meal plan so she could have the energy to play with him, and slowly her health improved

By the time Simba was three months old, the teenager (pictured) had gained enough weight to take him out for short walks with her dad


In May 2019, Connie started going to the gym with her dad and lifting weights to get stronger – focusing on fitness instead of calories. Pictured: Simba, as a puppy, left, and recently, right

As Connie’s health  began to improve, she also found she was able to talk about things openly with her family for the first time in years.

She said: ‘I still go to the gym with my dad and it’s made us so much closer as a family. I’ve built up a whole new friendship group after discovering who I am through Simba and fitness.

‘Simba is the best thing that ever happened to me. He’s incredible. Every morning he comes into my bedroom and wakes me up and I just feel so loved by him. We have such a special bond.

‘Just talking about him makes me happy and I start smiling because I know how much he helped me through everything.’ 

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