Turning the Tables: Memphis teen uses struggle with eating disorder to help others battling the same issue

Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 10:35 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Doctors say teenage eating disorders are more prevalent than ever.

For 14-year-old Sophie Boyatt, her time as a ballerina and the pressure of social media sparked dangerously unhealthy habits.

“I used to look up all the time, what’s a weight for a 5′5″ ballerina, and it used to tell me like 80 to 100 pounds, so my goal was 100 pounds, always,” Sophie said.

Soon Sophie’s mom, Natalie noticed changes in her daughter.

“It was the attitude, it was the arguing, it was the fighting, it was refusing to eat -- it was devastating,” Natalie said.

Natalie said some days she noticed her daughter would only eat a handful of almonds for breakfast.

“I didn’t want to eat, and I would skip meals and the most I probably ate calorie-wise was probably 400 calories every day,” Sophie said.

Natalie knew she needed to get her daughter help, and fast.

“To watch your child, go down a bad path where you can’t instantly fix it, it was as if I couldn’t get her help fast enough,” Natalie said.

Natalie took Sophie to a pediatrician and a specialist who diagnosed her with an eating disorder.

“It’s a potentially deadly disease,” said Dr. Michelle Bowden, a Pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital where she also has an eating disorder clinic.

Since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Bowden said doctors have seen nearly double the amount of eating disorder patients across the country.

“When kids couldn’t be around their friends, when kids couldn’t go to school, what else was there to do except scroll through your phone all day, so I think we saw a lot more of that social media influence that we hadn’t seen before,” she said.

Bowden says social media and peer influence are often major factors that spark eating disorders in adolescence.

“What we know about that younger age group is their brains are still developing, and so peer influence has this really remarkable impact on their behaviors,” Bowden added.

Sophie also recognized the impact social media has on others which is why after treatment, getting on a strict eating plan and continuously seeking doctors for support, she wanted to share her experience -- hoping to inspire others who may suffer from the same thing.

“I started writing and I knew that I had a passion for writing because I had a passion for English, I loved writing essays. Just writing in general so I just started writing speeches and poems and it just accumulated to 30 pages long of just stuff,” Sophie said.

She now turns to social media to post her poems about self-love and body positivity, turning the tables on the vary platform that caused her pain once before.

“I don’t really care about the numbers on my social media page, I care about the people who reach out to me and DM me and say like hey, I’m really struggling right now, can you help me?”

Sophie’s mom says the journey has been tough but she’s incredibly proud of her daughter.

“We know this is a lifelong disease, she will always have it, she will always struggle with it, but if we can help change the norm of what people’s perception is and girls’ perception is of being able to be accepted -- we’ve got to try,” Natalie said.

Meanwhile Sophie says she hopes this is the beginning of changing and saving lives.

“I think the main thing for me... the next step is just helping people,” Sophie said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder help is available, click here for information on local resources.

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