"LIVING with an eating disorder is a cruel way to live."

That is the belief of 21-year-old Sophie Clayton who is now offering support to others after living with anorexia for the past 10 years.

Although it started in small ways, such as occasionally skipping meals, Sophie said her battle really began when she moved away to the University of Gloucestershire in 2011.

"It spiralled down from there," Sophie, from Kington, said.

"I was bullied in school and thought there was something wrong with my looks. Then I went to university and the pressure is so high, and you eat what you like and skip meals.

"My weight loss was intense and fast. I would exercise for most of the day and was starving myself.

"I felt tired, lonely and depressed, because eating disorders isolate you - you can't just go out for meals with friends, you make excuses.

"It is such a sad life. You're very tired and all that keeps you going is the fact that you can weigh yourself in the morning.

"If you're losing weight you're happy; if the scales show you've stayed the same or gained weight you get angry and think about what else you can restrict."

After being diagnosed with anorexia two years ago, Sophie visited a day unit where she met others with the disorder, as well as people suffering from bulimia or 'ednos' - an eating disorder not otherwise specified.

But after withdrawing from university and returning home, she realised there was little support in the county.

She has since become a young ambassador for Beat - a nationwide eating disorder support organisation.

Sophie hopes to become a councillor in the future but for now wants to raise awareness and let people know help is available.

She said: "Beat allows you to talk to others in whatever way you feel comfortable and they offer support groups. I also want to bust myths about disorders, such as only women suffer with them or that you have to be really skinny to have an eating disorder - you don't.

"I'm in recovery now. I eat three meals and three snacks a day and I feel healthier and better for it. I have goals now instead of feeling numb and seeing no point to life. But there is no recovery point, you just choose to recover every day and it takes time, but it's worth it."

If you believe you may have an eating disorder, have been diagnosed or want to help someone who has, visit www.b-eat.co.uk, call Beat's adult helpline on 0845 634 1414 or Youthline on 0845 634 7650 or email fyp@b-eat.co.uk.

Herefordshire Mind also run a six-week self-help course for people with eating disorders. For more information call 01432 271643.