British Teen Overcomes Eating Disorders to Become Beauty Queen

By McCarton Ackerman 03/24/15

Beth Cowan is hoping her participation in the Miss British Empire 2015 competition will inspire others.

eating disorder clenched.jpg

A British teenager, who nearly died from anorexia and bulimia, will now be showing off her healthy figure in one of her country’s biggest beauty pageants.

Beth Cowan, 19, is hoping her participation in Miss British Empire 2015 will inspire others to win their battles with eating disorders. Her struggles began at age 16 and rapidly grew worse to the point where she was eating just one apple per day. The 6’3” Cowan tipped the scales at just 87 pounds and her condition became so dangerous that she could no longer attend school.

“People used to say I looked like I was dying,” she told the Daily Mail. “I knew I needed to do something or I would not be able to have kids. It was my way of gaining some control [because] everything else was out of my control. The disease took everything away from me."

Faced with the prospect of being forced into a hospital by her parents, she began to see an eating disorder specialist and slowly began to win her battle with anorexia and bulimia. Cowan now weighs 114 pounds, but acknowledged that her journey is far from over and still wants to put on more weight.

The British beauty can take comfort in knowing that other young women have overcome eating disorders before ruling the pageant circuit. Kirsten Haglund, who won Miss American in 2008, has been open about her battle with anorexia from ages 12 to 15 and subsisting on a diet of less than 900 calories per day. She used her platform to educate people on eating disorders and body image issues, eventually starting her own foundation. Haglund now does community relations for Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment center in Illinois.

“I’ve recovered in the sense that I’m physically healthy and fully aware of the truth about what constitutes living a healthy lifestyle,” she told The Fix in September 2012. “But do I have a past? Absolutely. So I’m mindful of that on a daily basis. I don’t think you’re ever fully out of the woods.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.