Matthew Booth, anorexic teen, recovers after ‘dying’ for 20 minutes

Nadine Kalinauskas
Shine On

When Matthew Booth was 18, his heart stopped.

The anorexic teen from Manchester, England, weighed just 60 pounds at the time. The self-starvation had caused liver, kidney and heart failure.

It took doctors 20 minutes to revive him.

Booth, now 20, credits "dying" with inspiring his remarkable recovery. Now healthy, Booth is hoping to become a personal trainer.

"My near-death experience made me realize how much I really wanted to live. It changed my outlook on life and I was determined to recover," he tells the Daily Mail.

"Knowing I might not have lived still upsets me today. I feel guilty for putting my mum through the worry of losing a child," he says. "Coming back from the dead made me want to live. I was given a second chance at life and wasn't going to waste it."

Booth began starving himself — and excessively lifting weights — at the age of 14 after bullies started targeting him for "being different."

Also see: School obesity-prevention programs may actually trigger eating disorders

"I thought I was picked on for the way I looked so I wanted to change that. I had long hair, was into heavy metal music and a drummer in the school band so I wasn't in with the popular kids," Booth tells the Daily Mail.

"I started lifting weights to try and get bigger to defend myself against the bullies, but I also began skipping meals, thinking this would help me bulk up," he explains. "But the weight started falling off me, and it felt good to have something in my life I could actually control. Fed up of with the abuse I dropped out of school."

Booth worked out up to eight hours a day. He skipped breakfast and lunch. After his first hospitalization, he started to eat again to appease his worried mother, but abused laxatives to keep the weight off.

'Whenever I saw my mum in the evenings I would tell her what I'd eaten for breakfast and lunch. She worked full time, so it was easy to lie to her," he says. "I didn't even feel bad, I wasn't thinking straight. It was like someone else was living in my head."

He hit rock bottom in January 2011. He stopped eating. He stopped drinking. He even stopped brushing his teeth for fear the water would make him gain weight.

"I was going mad with paranoia," he recalls.

Also see: Model scouts searching for models at eating disorder clinics

In February 2011, he was dragged to the hospital under doctor's orders. Two days later, he suffered heart failure.
"I remember waking up and the doctor looking at me saying 'you just died,' I couldn't believe it. I burst into tears. They said if they hadn't had taken me in when they did I'd be dead. It was the wake up call I needed to start recovering," he says.

Booth spent five weeks in intensive care before being transferred to the Cheadle adult eating disorder clinic for further treatment.

"Gradually my body started to recover and I was determined never to go back to hospital again," Booth says, adding that his positive attitude helped him increase his daily calorie intake.

To regain the muscle he lost through starvation, he hit the gym — and discovered he loved weight training.

Booth now weighs a healthy 170 pounds.

Also see: Woman dies, gives birth and then comes back to life

Booth credits Canadian competitive eater and anorexia survivor Furious Pete as inspiration for his recovery. Booth posted on the following on Furious Pete's Facebook wall.

"Hey Pete, we have briefly spoke before via email, you are a huge inspiration to me in overcoming my anorexia, before I found you on Youtube i was struggling to carry on, i had got well enough to come out of hospital but i was on the verge of a relapse...until your workout videos gave me inspiration, to be stronger, to be dedicated for and to my life, and to realize that recovery from anorexia is possible! It has been almost 2 and a half years since my lowest and worst weight which was 60lbs. Now i weight 170 and am getting stronger and stronger, thank you for all your help...continue being FURIOUS!"

"Anything is possible when you put your mind to it," Booth wrote in a YouTube video. "I got to the point of dying with this horrible mental illness, but I fought back with everything I had, and now I am stronger than ever!"

Booth isn't alone in his eating-disorder battle.

Dr. Blake Woodside, medical director of the eating disorder program at Toronto General Hospital, says that three studies show that males now comprise one in three cases of anorexia and one in four cases of bulimia.

“Men get these conditions, they die from these conditions, they suffer from these conditions. This is not just an illness of women,” Woodside tells CBC News.