By the time I was about 12 years old I could see that people treated me differently because of the way I looked. It's a sad fact that many young girls learn to value themselves based on what others say about them. If people see 'beauty' as your thing it becomes who you are and you feel you must remain attractive to others to keep that value.
I grew up in a creative family, my mother a model, genetically predisposed to having a body and face that was easily admired and my Italian photographer father brought passion and a love of good food and wine into our home. There was never any pressure on body image growing up, we all loved and celebrated food, especially great Italian pasta and good bread and cheeses from my Mother's Dutch heritage. My parents both warned me away from modelling but part of me wanted to share in the exciting life they had
When I was 18, I met my soulmate and we fell in love. We had a magical couple of years together and then that subconscious itch began to raise its head as all the delicious rich meals we shared meant that I no longer had the 'perfect' magazine ideal figure that would turn heads the way it had before.
Something shifted in my internal wiring and I took that passionate joy towards food, love and life's pleasures and replaced it with control. I began over-exercising and dropped 10 kilos very quickly. I started out with the idea that I was going to try and eat in a more healthy way, but unfortunately, this sudden drop in weight also co-incided with being scouted as a model. So I found myself in a crazy world where I was honored and paid huge money for being skeletal and I knew I had to eat as little as possible to stay there. I would turn up to the agency at my sickest, in my skinny jeans and be asked what I was doing to keep myself looking 'so good.' This work gave me a reason to continue restricting my food intake and cycled me into a long walk with an eating disorder for nearly 5 years. I survived on coffee and cigarettes.
Modelling meant that I was often able to travel on my own and left alone with my disease it ballooned out of control. Everyone around me became an obstacle to me, as an anorexic you hurt so many people and kick out at anyone who tries to get in the way. I put my disease above my health, the love I had with an incredible man and even my own life. All my energy was directed at what I did not put in my mouth and how my body looked and that was all I could focus on.
I have huge energy, it's just who I am. I know that energy is a great creative gift most of the time, but the flipside is that it can be obsessive. Choosing to stop full-time modelling and bring a new focus into journalism brought me back to who I was in a more positive way. I saw that I had great words, had a lot to say and was so much more than a coathanger.
Today, I still do the odd job in the industry, but I do it now with a different attitude instead of body obsessing I focus on connecting with people and being in the moment. I'm a passionate person and I need to keep taking that passion and being creative with it.
Looking 'like a model' means to be absurdly thin. The women you see in the magazines don't even look like the hungry women who were there modelling, as you become part of an artistic construct where black circles under eyes, pimples and bruises are airbrushed out and angles highlighted and bronzed in order to make the image as appealing as possible to the buying audience. It's not an ideal career to be a mannequin and starve yourself to sell a handbag.
My partner has been a loving force of support. He was incredible through those difficult years when he lost the girl he fell in love with to a disease and I know it took a toll on him. I recognise the sacrifices he made and the pain I caused him and others who loved me and I can only hope that when they find themselves having a rough time I can be as supportive and nurturing of them and help them as they did for me. The path to healing I have found has been to be as open and honest as possible about my eating disorder and the world in which I was living. I am all about pushing a body confident authenticity these days and my platform on Instagram shows this sassy playful joy of life I have now. I like to push boundaries and believe that being cheeky is the remedy to the seriousness and rage of an ED.
This kind of disease is not something you can say that you are ever totally free from. Recovery is a long process and I own it if I find myself having irrational thoughts or if I am struggling. I know how powerful it is to say what is happening as this is a disease that thrives on being hidden and secretive. I hope I am the opposite of that these days. I am fiercely loving with others and if I can share my experience rawly and it helps other women see the truth behind the smiling images they flick through at the hairdressers that's a good thing. We need to celebrate young girls and all women for Who they are, what makes them unique and warm hearted, interesting and quirky, not put the micrograms of skin that layer over bones as their currency of value. How we look comes as a genetic lottery, it does not value the warmth of a heart. We are so much more valuable and interesting as beings beneath our skin.
I used to cringe when young girls would come up and talk to me after a runway show, when they saw me as someone to look up to, someone they would want to be. I hope I see that same shine in the eyes of a kid one day talking to be about becoming a journalist! That I would like to see! The key thing I have learned is that you don't need anyone's approval to live a fully expressed powerful life. Trust yourself and be couragous at going after what calls you and you''ll do just fine. . It is so much more interesting to be your raw powerful self just as you are.
For specific information or support relating to eating disorders call Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.