A mother whose anorexic daughter became further discouraged from eating after receiving a weight gain leaflet during her treatment has slammed healthcare providers.
Aliya Riaz, 13, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, spent a year in hospitals and treatment centres for anorexia, and was admitted to The Priory, a specialist centre in Altrincham, in September 2018.
Although the treatment there was targeted towards children with eating disorders, her mother Rebecca expressed concerns around some of the advice given – including a handout with the words ‘feeling hungry put on weight’ along with a series of images showing a boy’s stomach increasing in size.
Rebecca said that Aliya saw the leaflet and, because of her illness, immediately thought she would end up getting fat if she started eating again.
Aliya Riaz (pictured), 13, from Huddersfield, West Yorks, who was diagnosed with anorexia last year revealed that she was discouraged from eating by a leaflet during her treatment
The teen’s mother Rebecca Armstrong, 35, recalls Aliyah thinking she would become fat after been giving a leaflet while staying at The Priory showing a boy gaining weight
Aliya (pictured before anorexia) was bullied throughout junior school due to her eight-and-a-half stone frame. She began losing weight in secondary school in a bid to become popular
Aliya (pictured suffering from anorexia) restricted her diet to 250 calories per day and would do up to 500 sit-ups after becoming obsessed with becoming smaller
The teen survived on just 250 calories a day after feeling pressure ‘to be the prettiest and thinnest’ girl at secondary school.
She began losing weight at a dramatic rate after suffering years of bullying in junior school when she was at her heaviest, weighing eight and a half stone.
Aliya was diagnosed with anorexia a year ago after becoming dangerously thin, weighing just five and a half stone at her lowest.
Her mother, Rebecca Armstrong, 35, has said in that time that she felt like she was watching her daughter ‘disappear’, as the teen lost more than a quarter of her body weight.
Rebecca took Aliya to hospital after she lost an entire stone in the space of three weeks. In May 2018, she was admitted to Little Woodhouse Hall in Leeds to receive specialist treatment where she stayed for two months.
Rebecca argues the care given to her daughter wasn’t tailored to her needs at the time. In a matter of weeks following her release, Aliya was readmitted once again after refusing to eat which saw her weight plummet below six stone.
She was then admitted to The Priory for treatment.
Rebecca (pictured left with Aliya) expressed concerns over the advice The Priory offered despite, its treatments being targeted towards children with eating disorders
Rebecca said: ‘They gave this children’s leaflet that showed a boy who’s thin at the beginning and then has a big round belly at the end.
‘The message that sent to Aliya was ‘if you’re hungry and you eat you’re going to end up with a belly like this’.
‘It impacted her straight away, she looked at it and said ‘no, no I’m not eating’.
‘This was given to her by someone dealing with anorexic people every day who should have a complete understanding of the condition.
Aliya (pictured before) lost an entire stone in just three weeks before being admitted to Little Woodhouse Hall in Leeds, and then months later to The Priory
‘I would have thought common sense alone would prevent anyone handing this leaflet to a child with anorexia.
‘That’s why I want to spread the message about the disorder so that people have a better understanding of how to approach it.’
Rebecca explained the leaflet related to a medication called olanzapine, which Aliya was on to help improve her psychological state surrounding eating, that can cause weight gain.
A hospital spokesman for The Priory said: ‘The leaflet is produced externally to accompany a specific medicine type, used to treat a specific range of conditions, and one of its side-effects can include weight-gain.
The teen (pictured in hospital) says her idea of beauty was influenced by models on Instagram and attributes of popular people at school
‘We are happy to raise any issues with its publishers.
‘It is important that patients with eating disorders are not gaining weight simply by taking medication, because we’re monitoring their diet and calorific intake, but we are always responsive to comments about any literature received via our hospital.’
Aliya who would do up to 500 sit-ups in a bid to lose weight revealed that she was convinced her peers would like her if she was skinny.
She said: ‘I would buy my lunch at school so my mum would see that I’d bought something, but then I’d throw it away.
‘I would completely cut down on my calorie intake and keep count of how many I was having. I could skip breakfast and lunch then just eat a little bit at 6pm, like just a few pieces of salad.
Rebecca says the leaflet Aliya (pictured) was given gave the impression that eating would result in a big round belly
The leaflet related to a medication called olanzapine that Aliya (pictured before) was taking to help improve her psychological state surrounding eating
‘I would spend hours and hours a day doing sit-ups to try and lose weight, sometimes I’d do 500 in one day.
‘I used to play video games on my phone about food because I was completely obsessed.
‘I thought people would only like me if I was skinny. Even when I was really skinny, I still thought I was fat. I became obsessive about becoming smaller and smaller.
‘Nowadays in school, it’s like you’ve got to be the prettiest and thinnest to fit in and be popular.
‘I would see models on Instagram and think ‘that’s what pretty looks like’. It made me think you have to look a certain way.’
Aliya (pictured) is continuing her battle with anorexia and is determined to make an impact on the care given to treat mental health issues associated with eating disorders
Aliya (pictured in hospital) says she’s become stronger mentally and her views on being skinny have changed
Aliya continues to battle anorexia but is determined to lead the fight for more care to focus on how to treat the mental health issues associated with eating disorders.
Although she is on the path to recovery, Aliya remains at her lowest weight of five and a half stone as a result of an illness she contracted last month.
‘I’m a lot stronger mentally now and I know that you don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful,’ she added.
Following Aliya’s (pictured) experience a spokesman for The Priory said they are always responsive to comments and explained the leaflet was published externally
- A previous version of this article stated that The Priory is a mental health clinic operated by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust. We have been contacted by Leeds Community Healthcare Trust to advise that The Priory is not part of the Trust, and they had no involvement in the dissemination of the literature discussed in the article. We are happy to make this clear, and the article has been amended to reflect this.