At first glance they might be sisters, but look again at this startling picture. They are, in fact, a 26-year-old mother and her daughter.
After suffering from anorexia for half her life, Rebecca Jones weighs five stone – less than her seven-year-old daughter, Maisy. And her terrifyingly thin frame is exacerbated by the contrast when they wear identical clothes.
The medical secretary survives on soup, toast and energy drinks – even though doctors have warned her the lack of nutrients could kill her. At the same time she encourages 5st 9lb Maisy to enjoy chocolate and cupcakes.
Miss Jones, who at 5ft 1in is eight inches taller than her daughter, said: ‘Wearing the same clothes as Maisy gives me a sense of pride. It’s wrong, but it makes me feel good. I don’t think I’m thin – I always see myself as bigger.’
Her eating disorder began following her parents’ divorce when she was 11.
Comfort eating caused her to balloon to 15st, and she was teased at school and lost confidence in herself.
At 13, she says, ‘I pretty much stopped eating’. After a drastic weight loss, friends began complimenting her size ten figure and her family did not spot the dangers.
Miss Jones said: ‘Mum just thought I’d lost my puppy fat. I was happier.’
But within two years her weight was down to eight stone and her periods stopped.
'I was often so frail, I couldn’t get out of bed,’ she said.
She met Maisy’s father when she was 19 and studying at Manchester University. She had assumed her anorexia had left her infertile and had no idea she was expecting until she felt a kick. A scan revealed she was 26 weeks pregnant.
'I had no idea,’ she told Closer magazine. ‘I was still in a size six, hadn’t put on weight and my stomach was flat.’
Doctors urged her to eat chicken for protein and take vitamin pills to help her baby, but her stomach wasn’t used to them. ‘My boyfriend tried to tempt me to eat, but my stomach was so used to eating tiny amounts, proper food made me feel sick,’ Miss Jones said.
As a result she survived on a diet of bread and beetroot during pregnancy and put on only 7lb during that time.
Nevertheless, Maisy was born healthy, but small at 5lb 7oz, and her mother couldn’t produce milk to feed her.
After splitting with her partner, Miss Jones went on to a virtually liquid diet which took her weight down to five stone.
'I picked up one of Maisy’s skirts and it fitted perfectly,’ she said. ‘Maisy is 4ft 5in and wears 9-11 clothes. We share tops and jeans.’
Now her daughter’s weight has overtaken her as she enjoys cakes, chips and pizza. ‘It’s wonderful to see her enjoying cakes,’ said Miss Jones, who lives in Manchester. ‘I’ve told her I have an eating disorder and she knows it’s a bad thing.
'And if she wants chocolate, I say yes – I don’t want to deny her food.’
She admitted that Maisy worried about her mother’s weight and would try unsuccessfully to get her to share portions of cake.
Earlier this year, blood tests revealed Miss Jones had dangerously low potassium levels – a condition known as hypokalemia, which causes extreme muscle weakness. She now has her potassium levels and heart rate monitored at regular check-ups.
Doctors have warned her she is at risk of a fatal heart attack if she does not put on weight.
'I’m terrified I won’t see Maisy grow up,’ she said. ‘I’d love to eat – I can think of nothing nicer than going out for lunch with Maisy, but I can’t.’
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