by Von Wager
This might be a bit triggering for some, so please be warned prior to reading, that if you have ever suffered or are suffering with an eating disorder then maybe give this a miss, unless you feel comfortable reading about this topic.
I decided to write this because I received a message last week on my Instagram that said “HOW ARE YOU NOT A GIANT FAT C***” after posting a picture on my story of a chocolate bread and butter pudding I’d just made. It’s not the first message I’ve received like that, and it won’t be the last because I post a LOT of food pictures and a lot of pictures of me confidently roaming around in my pants, so I understand why!
This one however flooded me with mixed emotions. The Von I am today first read it and laughed, but that laughter quickly turned to a dark black guilt that is oh so familiar to me, that I don’t think will ever really go away. Such a simple message; so seemingly harmless, sent me into the strangest of head spaces that reminded me of how far I’ve come with my issues around food.
Growing up I was a chubby kid, I wasn’t huge but I wasn’t small, my sister was really slim and my best friend the same, with gigantic double D boobs at the age of about 12, I was always the funny weird one and it kinda worked for me. I had a LOT of anxieties growing up, I suffered with OCD and insomnia and looking back now I was an emotional eater; food was my comfort blanket.
I was constantly teased for what I ate, all the family stories still to this day revolve around me and my over eating. There was the time I was found hiding in my auntie’s shed, gorging on a family sized lasagne that she’d cooked for everyone, after having just eaten a HUGE roast dinner, or the time I hid an entire salad in my rolls of fat and danced around naked. I LOVED FOOD and I still do but I overate, in fact it was my first real addiction.
Then along came teenage me, the Marilyn Manson loving self-loathing goth that I was. I started to develop some ‘issues’ and looking back now the most notable one would have had to have been my relationship with food. As I started growing up I got a bit taller, a bit cooler, a bit thinner and I found my ‘crew’, I was one of the weirdos!
I got right into Myspace and had a bit of attention for being kinda sexy, which is how I got scouted to do my first test shoot and that’s when the obsession with food really began. It seemed that any attention that I got for my looks was like KRYPTONITE, I’d never had that before and it was a dangerous aphrodisiac.
I don’t really remember an exact starting point of where my eating issues began, but I do remember being in the garden of my mum’s house one day debating over how long I was going to make one apple last. I abused laxatives as well as under-eating, and got really good at it, hunger became an obsession; a feeling I strived for.
All I could think about was my weight, it was the epicentre of everything that I did, I just wanted to be as small as I could be, which was only exacerbated by the modelling. Back in my day the industry was a very different place, I remember turning up to shoot with someone I’d shot with before who then pinched my stomach and gave me a lecture about my ‘increased body weight’ and how I needed to really pay attention to it. I think I was 18?
At the time I would have never admitted to myself that I was disordered because I was very young working in an industry where it was important to look a certain way, especially when I started working for more of the mainstream lads mags - it was part of the job. But I was, and it lasted for years and it took over almost every waking thought.
I got a bit older and then welcomed a new addiction to my life, one that I’ve alluded to a lot in the past, (I have a great way of never REALLY talking about things) so to be brazenly honest it was with cocaine. This marvellous new addiction not only fed my need for escapism and destruction, but calmed my ADHD AND kept me nice and thin.
My problems with cocaine were bad, and went on for years from when I first discovered it at 19. I loved it, and I knew that if I was on it I could skip dinner because it makes you not want to eat. Sometimes you could skip lunch too, I worked in the media and at least 3 times a week we’d have massive boozy lunches and everyone would be doing it so it was normal.
It was only when I realised that I actually had it on me pretty much whenever anyone would ask for a bump or a line at ANY point on any day, that I might have another even bigger problem brewing. I would do it alone on a Monday night, I would do it at shoots, and of course every single weekend.
I lied to myself for years that it was OK to be doing loads of drugs because everyone did in London, that I wasn’t being disordered anymore because I was just partying, but as always it was my addict brain making another excuse. I was predominantly taking it to stay skinny, and I was in no way shape or form healthy, in fact it was what triggered my horrific anxiety attacks and fed into my already existing issues with insomnia.
Eventually I got to a point where I wanted to get healthy so I started to make big lifestyle changes. For me this meant entirely stopping drugs, and trying to eat better and exercising rather than having massive binge days after starving myself. However, I started all wrong, I tried diets & quick fixes like KETO and Bootea, I was inconsistent and taking short cuts.
What I was actually doing was replacing one obsession with another, my complicated addict brain got addicted to chasing health and fitness instead of taking drugs. The only thing that has ever worked for me in terms of good mental and physical health, is very hard training on most days, and really consistent healthy eating, 90% good but 10% of what I want, not cutting out any food groups like carbs.
Whilst I am now probably in the best shape mentally and physically that I have ever been in, not a day escapes me where I don’t look at my stomach in a mirror. Not a day goes by where I don’t indulge in negative self talk. Not a day goes by where I don’t question the food that I’m eating. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel guilt for certain things that I eat. Whilst that chatter is relatively quiet now, and doesn’t rule me, it is still 100% there - despite being in shape and being able to eat almost what I want (after a hell of a lot of gruelling work!).
I wanted to talk about this because issues with food and body image issues are SO prevalent in the sexy content creating industry, I don't actually think I’ve ever come across someone who hasn’t suffered with a problem at some point, both male and female. I also don’t believe these thought processes ever properly leave you and that’s exactly why the more extreme cases of anorexia or bulimia are so so hard to treat and to recover from.
I think the industry now is such a beautiful accepting space, all body shapes and sizes are celebrated, loved and worshipped! Being part of this new space feels so much more comfortable, but the simple act of putting ourselves out there in this way, means we are open to judgement, to comments from strangers and sometimes negative criticism that can deeply affect us. We also have to remember that part of our job will inevitably lead to judgment, we look at pictures of ourselves 24/7 and that alone can be incredibly draining.
This blog doesn’t come with a ‘top ten ways to fix eating disorders’ because that doesn’t exist, but know that if this also affects you you are certainly not alone. Learning to accept myself was the number one biggest change for improving my self confidence, which came for me with age. The older I got the less I gave a s*** about the things I deemed imperfect. There was once a time where I wouldn’t let anyone touch my stomach and now I spend most days posing in my pants!
As well as becoming as healthy as I can be, I also work on training my negative self talk, by addressing anything that pops up like ‘you’re so disgusting’ or ‘that makes you look fat’ telling it to essentially “F*** off” and replacing it instead with a positive. This isn’t an overnight fix, but it helps. I also work on practicing gratitude and trying to help others, because we sometimes forget how lucky we really are just to be alive and healthy with a functioning body.
Things can get better and feelings are possible to shift, I also wholeheartedly believe it’s possible to learn to love yourself inside and out but, still have nagging thoughts in the back of your mind - which we can harness and train. Am I still disordered? Probably. Does it ever go away? I don’t think so. Can you cope with it and still lead a happy life? Absolutely.
I think we have to keep talking and supporting each other, understand the potential dangers of this industry and know when it's time to take a break. It’s also incredibly important if you’re thinking about getting into it to know it might be a very triggering environment for you if you have existing issues. Getting your own personal balance right with eating and body image might feel like a constant battle, so don’t be ashamed if you’re not ok, don’t be ashamed to ask for help and don’t ever feel ashamed of owning the SH*** out of how f**king fabulous that body is of yours!