EXCLUSIVE ‘I never wanted anyone to know about my eating disorder’: Presenter Rachael Downie reveals her secret 14-year battle with anorexia
- For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk
Rachael Downie has detailed her secret 14-year battle with anorexia for the first time.
In an exclusive chat with MailOnline, the Motorsport presenter recalled how she developed the disorder when she was eleven after bullies forced her to retreat to the school toilets, where she would eat her lunch.
Rachael, 37, admitted she struggled with anorexia until she was 25, due to a lack of support and hid her eating disorder for years because she ‘never wanted anyone to know’.
Difficult: Rachael Downie said she ‘never wanted anyone to know’ about her eating disorder as she detailed her secret 14-year battle with anorexia for the first time
With Eating Disorder Awareness Week beginning on February 28, Rachael feels now is the right time to open up about the ‘isolating illness’.
She told MailOnline: ‘I was bullied a lot as a child, so I used to eat my lunch in the toilet. One day I just took control of the situation and never ate lunch. That moment has stayed in my head as that’s when it all started.
‘Once I missed that one it became easier to skip meals and that’s how it developed. I used it as a form of escapism.
Mental health: The Motorsport presenter battled anorexia for 14-years without any medical or emotional support (pictured in 2015)
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.
People diagnosed with it try to keep their weight as low as possible by eating little or excessive exercise.
Men and women can develop the illness, however it typically starts in the mid-teens.
Those with anorexia can have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they’re fat when in fact they are severely underweight.
Causes of the condition are unknown, but those with it have either low self-esteem, have a family history of eating disorders or feel pressured from society or place of work.
Long term health complications can include muscle and bone problems, loss of sex drive, kidney or bowel problems or having a weakened immune system.
Treatment for anorexia can include cognitive behavioural therapy.
‘Through out my childhood I attended a lot of ballet schools and I found that the dancing environment didn’t help those prone to an issue with an ED.
‘Some places I was weighed constantly and even had my body fat clamped to see how much weight I needed to lose or would perhaps go on to gain.’
Rachael is now an ambassador for an eating disorder support service called SEED (Support and Empathy for people with Eating Disorders) and wants to use her own journey to aid others.
The TV star feels empowered to speak out after feeling like she never received any help during the 14-years she suffered with anorexia.
She said: ‘There was no help for me when I was going through it, I felt so alone. The people closest to me would beg me to eat but they didn’t understand it wasn’t that simple.
‘It was so bad I would have dreams of being able to eat a meal like a normal person.
Rachael added: ‘I started seeing a therapist about five months ago for the first time in my life as I want to stay on top of my mental health now.
‘I’ve never wanted anyone to know about my eating disorder, it felt so personal and taboo to talk about’.
The presenter has now shared her story in hope others suffering can find comfort from hearing it: ‘If there’s a younger version of me that can benefit from hearing my story then it’s worth sharing’
‘The main thing I’ve discovered since is that if you don’t treat the cause of the eating disorder, how are you ever free of it.
‘I missed out on friends and my teenage years and didn’t really start even going out for dinners until I started to recover. I missed out on living.’
Dancer: Rachael said: ‘Through out my childhood I attended a lot of ballet schools and I found that the dancing environment didn’t help those prone to an issue with an ED’
Charity work: Rachael (left) is now an ambassador for eating disorder support service SEED and works beside former Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten (right) who is the Charity Manager
Rachael works beside former Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten who is the Charity Manager and patron of SEED.
Both women have shared their own personal experience with eating disorders to help eradicate the stigma attached to mental health.
‘I’m glad I reached out to Gemma, we both have such similar stories so it helps to have each other and honestly if a charity like SEED had been around for me I would’ve recovered physically and mentally much earlier.’
The voluntary organisation – run by a group of ordinary people with firsthand experience of eating disorders – was formed in September 2000 and became a registered charity in 2004.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk
Recovering: Rachael started seeing a therapist five months ago to keep on top of her mental health
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