Norwich woman speaks out on 15-year battle with eating disorders to help others

Shona Daly who once battled with anorexia and bullimia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Shona Daly who once battled with anorexia and bullimia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A woman who battled eating disorders for more than seven years has encouraged others to speak out.

Shona Daly who once battled with anorexia and bullimia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Shona Daly who once battled with anorexia and bullimia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Shona Daly from Norwich (pictured), said anorexia and bulimia 'dominated' her life for 15 years from when she was a teenager.

Now 38, she feels she is finally free of the illnesses, runs a vintage fashion business in the city and a fashion blog, and enjoys a full social life. But at the height of the disorders, Miss Daly said she became lonely and 'crippled with self doubt'.

'It stole a large part of my youth and to look back on myself then absolutely breaks my heart,' she said. 'I was either starving myself or throwing up the small amounts of food I consumed, and that became my entire world.'

It was a battle Miss Daly fought on her own – to the outside world she appeared happy, studying a degree in English Literature in London and moving abroad to America for a year. 'I remember at the time asking myself 'how can a girl with an eating disorder leave home and study abroad?' I was petrified of leaving the safety of my tiny room at university. But, I did it and I made friends for life and managed, just about, to get good grades,' she said.

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It was only in 2000 when the blogger met her long-term boyfriend, James Nisbet, that things finally began to change.

She said: 'He saw worth in me and I adored him from the offset; I felt safe with him. He helped me see my value and nothing I did scared him off.'

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The pair, who have now been together for more than 15 years, grew close, and over the following six years he helped her take steps to recovery, reintroducing her to eating and even poaching vegetables in water to make eating them less of a challenge.

Today Miss Daly, who lives in the Golden Triangle, said she has 'finally found stability and wellness' and enjoys a healthy, vegetarian diet.

'I also eat everyday foods like crisps, chips and chocolate without any fear - a miracle, enjoying food is something I genuinely thought would never happen,' she said. 'Recovery from an eating disorder is especially hard as you have to learn to live with food, rather than, say, a drug addict who recovers by abstaining from and eliminating their vice.'

She hopes to inspire others with her story, and appeared on Channel 4 documentary Skinny Women, which looked at the issues around body image and eating disorders.

Reflecting on her journey, she said: 'I have many theories as to why I succumbed to an eating disorder, and I find the whole subject itself truly fascinating. I would love to be able to gain some positivity out of my long illness by helping other sufferers and by sharing my experiences and thoughts.'

And she urged people who are suffering with disorders to 'confide in someone'.

'I'd say speak to someone like Beat, that's where I went wrong, I didn't ask anyone for help and tried to do it on my own,' she said.

If you are struggling to cope with an eating disorder, contact your GP or Beat, the Norwich-based eating disorder charity, on 0345 634 1414 or email

Do you have a story about how you overcame a serious illness? Call reporter Lauren Cope on 01603 772313.

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