For people suffering eating disorders, Haylei Conte has this advice: “You can be thick. You can be thin. Just be who you are and happy.”
The teen shares her wisdom on her Facebook page as an advocate for people with anorexia, something she knows well because she once was plagued with the disorder. The Boston-area Taunton High School student says she developed anorexia after a woman gave her stinging feedback about her size while performing in a ballet costume.
“She said if I was going to wear such a revealing costume I should work on my stomach,” she tells WCVB. “I automatically assumed she meant I was fat. I felt horrible.”
Conte began skipping meals. At age 15, she lost 45 pounds. “I had fallen victim to my mirror, my scale and my measuring tape,” she recalls of her agony.
The dramatic weight loss also meant she could no longer pursue her passion. She was advised to stop dancing because of the subsequent health risks associated with her heart.
Fortunately, Conte found support from specialists and her family. In fact, her mother joined her for lunch at school and her sister tossed their scale in the trash.
Now she’s delighted to be able to help others. “One of my close friends said, ‘I’m going through that right now,” she adds.