Actress Gemma Oaten his hit out at Boris Johnson and his obesity drive.
Speaking exclusively to Entertainment Daily, Gemma has hit out at the PM and accused him of “ostracising” people with his comments about obesity.
And, she said, it should be recognised by the government as an eating disorder, just as conditions like anorexia and bulimia are.
What did Gemma Oaten say about Boris Johnson and obesity?
Gemma – who is a manager at eating disorder charity SEED, which was founded by her parents – said the feedback from her Loose Women chat has been “so unbelievable”.
She revealed: “People are coming to us saying I’m now seeking help, you’ve helped me realise I can’t live like this any more, or parents saying thank you, my daughter is finally accepting she’s struggling.
“The press off the back of it raises awareness and it keeps the conversation going,” she said.
“One of the biggest things I wanted to get across is an eating disorder shouldn’t be defined by a number – and not enough people speak about binge eating and bulimia.
“Boris Johnson didn’t help that with his obesity strategy,” she said.
For so many people, obesity is linked to a mental health illness which is an eating disorder as well. So if you’re going to address the physical you need to address the mental health side of it as well.
“So many people were ostracised because of their weight being a high BMI and he’s saying they’re adding to the problems with diabetes and the economy…
“And you just go: ‘Hang about, you can’t prescribe a bicycle, surely that’s not it?’ But it is.
“For so many people, obesity is linked to a mental health illness which is an eating disorder as well. So if you’re going to address the physical you need to address the mental health side of it as well.
“Food is the symptom, it’s not the cause,” she stated.
Gemma’s heart attack caused by bulimia at the age of 18
Gemma also looked back to a heart attack she had at the age of just 18.
“When I had my heart attack, that was a result of the bulimia, not the anorexia, because bulimia, when somebody is sick that amount of times, they lose potassium and electrolytes and those are essential for keeping the heart and the body safe and when you abuse that it can lead to a heart attack,” she said.
“I was 18. My mum saved my life through knowing what the warning signs were but there are so many people who don’t know the medical risks.
“They [the government] just see anorexia as the only eating disorder worthy of treatment, but even then you have to be at death’s door to be worthy of treatment.
“And then it costs more in terms of their lives and the NHS – and the government harping on about money… Newsflash!
“The longer you leave somebody, the more expensive it’s going to be to bring that person back,” she said.
How is Gemma doing now?
Gemma would know all about coming back from an eating disorder.
She said: “I’m good. I’ve been in recovery for 13 years and I was poorly for 13 years. But I feel like I’m in the recovery after the recovery stage.
“There is so much trauma that I went through, I lived my life in hospital and institutions and I saw things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and I feel like I’m now in the next stage of recovery, unpicking all of that.
“It doesn’t mean I’ve got an eating disorder, I’m just on the next stage of my journey and finding out who I am as a person.”
Gemma added: “I feel like I’m on the next stage of my journey now where my eating disorder is under control but I have to work really hard at making sure that I am accepting of that part of my life, make sure that if I lose weight I know why I’ve lost weight.
“Being honest and truthful and authentic with myself is the next part of my recovery and it’s great.
“I don’t think we ever stop recovering and learning as human beings. So I don’t see it as anything detrimental that stops me from living – it’s the next stage of me learning who I am as a young adult when I lost 13 years of learning what it should’ve been like back then.”
Have her eating disorders had an effect on her love life?
Gemma said that her eating disorders “definitely” affected her love life.
“And it made me very vulnerable to bullies,” she said.
“Because I was so small people would want to take care of me.
“It’s interesting because I’m working with a domestic abuse charity at the moment and I can understand why there’s a massive link between eating disorders and domestic abuse.
“I feel like that was something I came up against time and time again. I would get in emotionally abusive relationships as I was seen as somebody to manipulate. Oh she’s small, she won’t bite back,” she said.
‘I’ve got it wrong’ when it comes to men
“It’s been notorious in the press about my love life and relationships. But I hold my hands up, I have got it wrong before.
“But the reason I’ve been in sticky situations with men and it’s not turned out nice and I’ve been with narcissists and in abusive relationships is because I’ve spent my life believing that something’s going to be taken away from me so I people please.
“When I was in these institutions, if I put weight on I’d get something, and if I lost it, it would be taken away. And it’s the bigger picture that people don’t look at.
“So I definitely feel like that affected me and physically I didn’t feel attractive for a long time.
“It wasn’t until I was about 22 that I met a lovely guy called Kev coming out of my therapy that I actually got into a relationship.
“It was a relationship that I value because he really reminded me what it was to be a 22 year old and that it’s okay to get out there and have sex and go on dates.
“That was definitely a turning point.”
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So how’s Gemma’s love life now?
“Non-existent,” she laughed. “And do you know what, it’s been absolute bliss.
“I really enjoyed finding out who I am as a person as opposed to this pressure of the world where people are like oh my god, you’re 36, time’s ticking, shouldn’t you get settled down.
“No, I’d rather wait actually and have a really loving and fulfilled relationship with somebody.”
So is she ready to meet someone now?
“I think so,” she admitted.
“I feel like I’m at a place where it would be lovely to meet somebody but I’m not in any rush whatsoever.
“I’m learning to love myself and learning that I’m enough and I really don’t need to worry about whatever society thinks I need to be worrying about, because I’m not,” she concluded.
To make a donation or for more information on the support offered by SEED – Eating Disorder Support Services – visit the website here or call the advice line on 01482 718130.
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