'Feeding up a bony stray cat saved me from anorexia': Woman who weighed the same as a 12-year-old reveals how she beat her eating disorder
14:20 GMT, 10 April 2012
Aged 20, Ashley Ransley was severely anorexic, and despite her 6ft frame she weighed the same as a 12-year-old.
Doctors warned her she could have a heart attack at any moment as her body gradually shut down, and following years of failed treatments she resigned herself to a slow suicide.
But now the student from Fenton, Michigan, tips the scales at a healthy 11st 6lbs and claims the experience of feeding up a malnourished cat helped her to overcome her long-term eating disorder.
Lifesaver: Ashley Ransley claims Riley the cat helped her overcome a long-term battle with anorexia
Ashley, now 25, weighed just 7st 10lbs when she rescued the stray feline that had wandered onto her family’s property.
At first she thought it was a kitten because of it was so small, but vets later confirmed it was a fully grown female and extremely malnourished, weighing just three pounds.
While she helped the little animal, which she
named Riley, regain weight, Ashley found she was also able to heal
herself of the mental illness that had blighted her since school.
She said: 'As I worked on rehabilitating her to a healthy weight, I
was focusing less and less on my eating disorder.
It was only at university that Ashley realised her weight was dangerously low
Source of strength: Ashley with Riley during their recovery
'I began to eat when
she ate, share some of my food with her, and if I got anxious and wanted
to purge or over-exercise, I would use her as a distraction.
'Both malnourished and slowly regaining our health, our connection grew to more than just pet-owner attachment.
'I didn’t really want to die, and I was getting better. I called
her my recovery kitty.'
Now, Riley the cat weighs 11lbs while Ashley weighs 11st 6lbs – a healthy weight for her height.
Alarming: Despite her 6ft frame Ashley weighed the same as a 12-year-old
Her problems with food started as teenager but it was only when she began a course in psychology at the
University of Michigan in 2006 that she realised her
weight was dangerously low.
After attending a routine health check-up she was immediately referred to a dietician as her physician discovered an irregular heart rate of 38.
Not wanting to worry her parents Nancy and Ed, she tried to keep her problems a secret but as her condition spiralled out of control they were alerted to the situation and she was sent for treatment.
Ashley, who was then admitted as an inpatient weighing 8st 12lbs, said: 'While I
was not willing to recover yet for myself, I hated seeing everyone so
hurt, so I consented to going to treatment.'
After four months at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin Ashley was discharged weighing a healthier 164lbs (11st 10lbs) but her recovery was short lived and after graduating from university she reached an all-time low.
Describing the situation she said: 'As I was an adult, there wasn’t much that could be done to save me from
myself, aside from taking me to court and committing me to the state,
which was discussed by my therapist.
'I gave up and decided anorexia would be my slow suicide.'
Now Ashley thanks Riley the stray cat for helping her get back on track and overcome her crippling illness.
Using her experience in a positive way she now works as a consultant
for the eating disorder charity EDEN. She added: 'While I’m very happy to find recovery through Riley most people do need
medical help and it’s important to achieve recovery in any way possible
but eventually you have to find it for yourself.
'I love Riley and always want to be around for her but I know I will lose her eventually.
'That’s one of my many reasons that every day I fight for recovery. I know I helped save her life, and I truly believe she helped save mine.'
'I know I helped save her life, and I truly believe she helped save mine,' says Ashley of Riley the cat
For more information about EDEN visit www.edenprocess.org