By ANNA HODGEKISS
This is the desperately sad story of the thinnest woman in the world who weighs just four stone after years of extreme dieting.
But rather than feel sorry for herself, Valeria Levitin says her emaciated figure should be a severe wake-up call for girls wanting matchstick-thin figures.
At 5ft 8in, she should weigh between 9st and 12st, according to NHS advice. Instead, she is a tiny 4st 3lbs, less than half of what her lightest healthy weight should be.
What is most worrying is that Valeria, originally from Russia but who now lives in Monaco, says she gets fan mail from girls desperate to copy her skeletal look.
The 39-year-old told The Sun: ‘I have received emails from young girls who want me to teach them how to be like me.
‘All the letters I’ve had are from women, mainly in their twenties, who see me as some kind of inspiration.’
As a result, she has taken the brave step to speak out about her condition and campaign against anorexia – and says she refuses to teach young girls how to die.
Valeria, who developed her eating disorder as a teenager, has chosen to speak out about how the illness has ruined her life.
She says she wants to share her story to prevent other people falling victim to the same fate, saying anorexia has made her ‘lonely, unattractive and repulsive for the people around me’.
She believes the roots of her condition lie with her mother, who was terrified Valeria would grow up obese like her relatives. Even as a young child, her diet was curtailed.
Valeria was weighed often to ensure she hadn’t gained any weight, such was her mother’s drive for perfection.
At 16, and weighing 10st, Valeria moved to Chicago with her parents. Desperate to fit in at a new school, she thought that if she lost weight, she would be accepted and liked.
As a result, she restricted her diet even further, cutting out sugar or carbohydrates.
The irony today is that, having cut out certain foods for so long, her body is intolerant to them and could not process them even if she wanted to.
When a classmate made a cruel comment about Valeria’s figure, she became even more determined to lose weight.
She said: 'We were playing football and during the game a man said, "I know how we can win. We need to put Valeria’s big ar*e in the goal”. It shattered my whole world.'
By the time she was 23, Valeria’s dress size had plummeted from a healthy size 12 to a tiny size six.
Deciding to become a model made the situation even worse, as she was told she was still too fat to succeed. As her weight continued to plummet, by the age of 24 and weighing just six stone, she was banned from dancing over concerns she would injure herself.
For the next ten years she saw more than 30 health specialists, though once dipped to a dangerously low 3st 10lbs. Today, even if she wanted to eat certain foods, she would be unable to.