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An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, according to Beat, the UK’s eating disorders charity.
Globally, at least 9% of the population is affected by an eating disorder and in the US some 28.8m will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
Celebrities aren't immune to them. In fact, a number of famous faces have openly discussed their battles with food and body image in an effect to educate others and raise awareness.
“Whenever people in the public eye share their experiences with an eating disorder, it helps to reduce the misconception that they only affect people from certain demographics, and can encourage more people to seek support,” says Tom Quinn, Beat's Director of External Affairs.
The 21-year-old daughter of Emma Thompson and Greg Wise, Gaia, recently spoke out about her experience of anorexia in The Sun on Sunday, revealing how family support was vital to her recovery.
“When you’re suffering from anorexia you don’t have emotions,” the aspiring actress said. “You feel nothing, no pain, no anger, no discomfort. That’s why it’s such a powerful coping mechanism.”
“It was a real kick in the teeth when my dad said, ‘I don’t know where my child is any more,” she continued. “That’s when I said I’d go to rehab.
“I went on December 29, 2017, and stayed for three months. Since then I’ve had a lot of therapy – and I’ll always be grateful for that, because it saved my life.”
Lady Gaga opened up about her struggles with an eating disorder at a conference called ‘It’s Our Turn’ in Los Angeles back in 2012. “I used to throw up all the time in high school. So I’m not that confident.”
“I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night.” At one point, her bulimia started to affect her singing. “It made my voice bad, so I had to stop.”
Ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell spoke freely about her issues with bulimia in her autobiographies and is open about the journey she’s been on. "Having had bulimia is part of my history,” she said in an interview with The Mirror.
“I don't shut the door on it but I don't focus on it. It is something I have experienced. I'm definitely less controlling about the way I look and I've learned to relax and let go a bit."
Brand’s struggles with drug and sex addiction are well-documented but he has also admitted to coping with bulimia as a teenager.
"It was really unusual in boys, quite embarrassing,” he told The Guardian back in 2006, with typical frankness. “But I found it euphoric... It was clearly about getting out of myself and isolation. Feeling inadequate and unpleasant."
Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall suffered from anorexia for five years, before she was able to seek professional help.
“Anorexia is a self-destructive thing and you become stubborn, so when people are trying to tell you something you get it into your head that they’re against you and you’re not going to listen," she said.
Revealing the extent of her illness, she added: “It took going to hospital to make me realise that it wasn’t a game, it was something really serious. They sat me down in the clinic and were quite tough at first, spelling it out: ‘You’re destroying your body and if you keep doing this you will die.’"
After this, Thirlwall recovered with the help of therapy and regular hospital visits.
“I used to make myself throw up, in 2012,” Tom Daley told The Guardian. “I weigh myself every day. I’ve had a very strange relationship with food and my body image.
“I guess it is a mild form of that [an eating disorder]. Men always seem to not have eating disorders and it’s hard to talk about it. But I would consider myself to be someone that has very much struggled with body image, and eating, and feeling guilty and shameful of the things that I eat.”
Daley added that his body image issues “came from within my sport,” claiming, “It was hammered into me that I was overweight and needed to lose weight in order to perform.”
The singer admitted in Cosmopolitan magazine that her severe bulimia dominated her twenties. "It is such a horrible paralysing disease and it was such a dark time for me.
“That's why I can empathise so much with people who have demons and voices in their heads, who aren't nice to themselves. It robs you of living your life. But you can recover and you can get rid of it forever.
“I did it and that's why it's so important for me to share my story. I felt so alone... but I made myself so alone. You hide it from the world, you isolate yourself. But you can beat it – do not give up…"
Everyone’s favourite 80s fitness guru revealed her recovery from bulimia took several decades.
"I wasn't very happy from, I would say, puberty to 50?” she admitted in an interview with Harpers Bazaar. “It took me a long time. It was in my 40s, and if you suffer from bulimia, the older you get, the worse it gets. It takes longer to recover from a bout.
She appeared to have it all but beneath the surface, life was one big struggle. “I had a career, I was winning awards, I was supporting nonprofits, I had a family. I had to make a choice: I live or I die."
Since the Covid crisis, the number of people seeking help for eating disorders has soared according to the charity BEAT.
“During the pandemic, we experienced a huge increase in the number of people reaching out for support with an eating disorder,” says Quinn from BEAT. “Even now we are still helping twice the amount of people compared to pre-pandemic levels.”
Seeking the right help early on is vital. “We'd like anyone struggling to know that support is available and making a full recovery is possible,” adds Quinn. “If you are worried about yourself or someone you know, please reach out to your GP as soon as possible.”
For support, contact eating disorder charity Beat's helplines, which are open 365 days a year from 9am–midnight during the week, and 4pm–midnight on weekends and bank holidays, or via its one-to-one web chat.