Dangerously thin: Maria, left, and Katy both are 5ft 5in and weight less than six stone
They're trained doctors whose parents are distinguished writers - yet for 20 years these identical twins have competed with each other in the most disturbing way imaginable
Twins Maria and Katy Campbell were only 11 when they overheard a snippet of conversation between their parents which, they claim, was to change their lives for ever.
Maria recalls: ‘We were standing at the top of the stairs and heard our Dad remark: “Gosh, those girls are becoming young women, aren’t they? They’re getting hips.” ’
To most people, it’s the kind of harmless remark that an observant father might make about his pre-teen daughters. But for Maria and Katy, who are the identical daughters of distinguished writers, it triggered a sinister pact that would haunt the family for more than two decades.
Fertility fears: The twins are now 33 and dream of being mothers - but neither of them has ever had a period because they are so gaunt
‘We were incensed by Dad’s remark,’ says Katy, now 33 and, like her twin, a qualified doctor. ‘I remember screaming at him: “I’m never going to start my periods!”
‘We decided that day that if we stopped eating, we would lose our “hips”. I wanted to punish him and Mum — and I suppose that’s what we’ve both been doing ever since.’
Who can really tell what goes on in the muddled and duplicitous minds of anorexics? But the awful reality is that, thanks to their desire to ‘punish’ their parents, Maria and Katy have destroyed the past 20 years of their lives — and may never recover.
Happy children: Katy and Maria said they changed when they reached puberty and became obsessed with staying thin
‘It’s like having a ball and chain around my ankle that I can’t throw off,’ says Maria. ‘I’m so consumed by what I’m eating, how many calories I’m burning, what I’ll weigh tomorrow and what I weigh today. It’s an obsession.’
An obsession that could kill them both.
Even now, with preternaturally childish bodies and voices, the young women admit they struggle to make sense of what has happened to their lives.
Six months into the courses, tutors realised something was wrong and the twins were sent to different hospitals for treatment but it wasn't long before they were back together and losing weight again
To the utter despair of their parents — 58-year-old Christy and his wife Clare, 56 — the twins have spent most of their teenage and adult life in and out of various recovery clinics.
Today, the twins will be hospitalised again for several months — only this time, they say, they are determined to beat the disease.
‘It’s got to the point where Katy and I are absolutely sick of the situation,’ says Maria, who is 5ft 5in and weighs just under 6st.
‘I’ve lost everything due to this illness. I’ve lost my life, my house, my hair, my job, everything … and I’m absolutely sick of it.’