Reading’s Molly Bartrip speaks about overcoming Anorexia

Molly Bartrip

Reading defender Molly Bartrip has spoken to BBC Sport about her teenage battle with Anorexia.

Bartrip has always enjoyed playing football, shortly after joining Arsenal Ladies her talent was spotted and she was selected to play for England.

It was then, at age 14 that an injury became the catalyst for her battle with anorexia. The day before her first England game in the Netherlands she was injured and unable to play.

"I remember seeing my mum, dad, brother and grandparents in the stand. I was sat a bit higher up, and my mum turned around to me and was crying, because she wanted me on the pitch," Bartrip says.

When she wasn't chosen for the next England camp, Bartrip says, she "lost her head".

"I don't know how to explain what happened at that moment, I just knew I wasn't OK and then gradually started to eat less and less," she says.

"When I didn't get selected, I thought that was the end of the world for me - that was my chance of ever playing for England gone."

Bartrip ‘lost control’, she began eating less food, started to lose weight and became obsessed with finding ways to avoid eating.

"My mum took me straight to the doctors. I'd lost so much weight in about three weeks, and the doctor said it was obvious I had anorexia nervosa," Bartrip says.

'Ana' was the name Bartrip gave to the voice inside her head during her battle with anorexia.

"It was like this evil person on my shoulder who wanted me to fail.

"Sometimes when I got weighed, I would put extra clothes on so it looked as though I was heavier than I was, or I would put something in my pocket like my phone," she says.

"That was Ana playing me, that was Ana telling me it was fine to do."

Bartrip became so ill that her parents took her to hospital. Her BMI so dangerously low, her liver had started to fail. Had her BMI been just 1% lower, doctors would have been forced to tube-feed her.

"That was really scary," she says. "I was basically killing myself at the time, which was quite drastic.

"From that moment, I knew I needed to change."

Although football was a trigger for Bartrip's anorexia, it also became her motivation to recover. It was looking at an Arsenal squad photo that provided the "kick up the bum" to start fighting ‘Ana’.

"Everyone on it looked huge. I looked at myself at that point and thought 'maybe I'm never going to play football again because I can't play football with those girls'," she says.

"That was the moment I realised I did actually want to be playing, I wanted to reach my dream. It was definitely not a light switch moment, but each day I got better; each day I began to try and eat more."

"The one question I always feared was 'what is for dinner?' My dad would ask it but I would never answer," Bartrip says.

"But this one day, I suddenly turned around and said 'Dad, I really fancy a curry'. I don't think I've ever seen him run so quickly in his entire life - he was straight down to the nearest curry shop."

It was then she knew she could fight back.

"That was me basically punching this person on my shoulder," she adds.

"I was definitely eating more and Ana got quieter and quieter. That was when I knew I was beating her. I didn't hear her as much and it was the best feeling in the world knowing I could knock that person out."

Bartrip began to regain control, she started to eat normally and although it took years to gain back the weight, she eventually realised her dreams and joined Reading FC Women.

She screamed with joy when she received another England call up.

"I had to be with my family at that point," she says. "I was starting at right-back, I sang the national anthem and I was thinking 'I've done it, I've actually done it'."

"Right now I feel that I can do whatever I want," she says.

Getting support via the PFA…

The PFA provides members with a 24/7 counselling telephone helpline. This 'round-the-clock' support is available to all members past and present.

All services are private and confidential, PFA members (or concerned friends and family) can contact the PFA: