Two sisters talk about how they used to compete to be the skinnier sister – a competition which nearly proved fatal as anorexia took its deadly grip.
Courtney Grimshaw was just 12 when she began restricting her eating in an attempt to be thinner than her ‘popular’ older sister Becky, then 14. She would go on to starve herself to just 5st.
‘I planned on losing 5lb but it got to the point where Becky and I were living on next to nothing. We were both competing to be the skinnier sister. Becky realised that what we were doing was dangerous, but I was too far gone – all I could think about was losing more weight,’ says Courtney.
Courtney’s body issues had been exacerbated by her sister teasing her about her weight, calling her ‘fat ass’ and ‘fat pig’.
‘Becky would tease me for being chubby and call me a fat pig. She made me feel really horrible about myself. I always wanted to be like her. She was really pretty, she always had boys all over her.’
Having initially bonded over their plans to shed weight – eating just 350 calories each a day and exercising compulsively for hours – it soon became a devastating rivalry.
Becky says, ‘I would work harder the more weight she would lose. She was my thinspiration.’
The Californian sisters would eat just dry cereal and bread, and in less than a year Courtney had lost three-and-a-half stone, while Becky had shrunk from 8st to six-and-a-half stone.
It was at this point that Becky knew things had got out of hand, but Courtney couldn’t stop. ‘When I looked in the mirror all I could see was fat,’ she recalls. ‘I was disgusted with my body.
‘I was exercising six hours a day and eating next to nothing. We rarely ate together as a family so my parents had no idea what was going on.’
The anorexia caused Courtney’s skin to become sallow and her hair to fall out – like ‘a holocaust survivor’ according to Becky who is still tortured by the knowledge that she had called Courtney fat.
‘The damage was done and I hadn’t realised what I was doing at the time. For a long time I did blame myself, and I still do.’
So bad did Courtney’s illness become that Becky would lie in her sister’s bed at night to make sure she was still breathing.
Concerned school officials contacted Courtney’s parents and eventually with the support of a doctor and a dietician, as well as her sister, Courtney gradually gained weight. But her self-esteem was still low, and she turned to alcohol which became a new threat to her life. Eventually sent to rehab, and getting the professional help she so desperately required, she slowly got her life back on track.
Now a healthy weight – around 8st – Courtney hopes to go back to school and aims to help teenagers struggling with body image by sharing her harrowing story. And the sisters are closer than ever before. Becky, who is now a healthy UK size 10, says, ‘Our relationship is probably better now than it’s ever been. I still feel guilty to this day, but it feels great to see her healthy and I’m so proud of how far she’s come.’