When Stacey Solomon and Lizzie Cundy exchanged verbal blows on Good Morning Britain about the subject of enhancing photos with filters and the link to eating disorders, the debate left both women reeling.
Now, Lizzie, 47, has revealed the real reason the fiery conversation left her feeling so hurt – she shares for the first time she has spent more than three decades managing her own eating disorder.
Former X Factor star Stacey, 28, had argued during last week’s segment that Photoshopping images creates unrealistic ideals for youngsters, something Lizzie strongly contests.
Speaking exclusively to Mail Online in an unerringly honest interview, TV and Radio presenter Lizzie, who is a mother-of-two reveals her anorexia nightmare for the first time and how it very nearly claimed her life as a young teenager.
She said: ‘I adore Stacey Solomon but when she said filters on our mobiles are creating more and more eating disorders,I could feel my stomach churn.
Scroll down for video
Fiery: Lizzie, 47, spoke frankly with Stacey Solomon on Good Morning Britain last week. She told the 28-year-old former X Factor star pressure on girls to be slim isn’t a new thing
Lizzie as a slender 14-year-old, just weeks before her anorexia took hold and she began hiding food and wearing baggy jumpers to conceal her skeletal frame
Struggle: Lizzie as a teenager; she would get taunted by boys, who’d say she was so skinny she looked like a ‘hockey stick with hair’. Right: Lizzie pictured in great shape recently. She said she almost fell foul of her teen eating disorder again when her marriage to former football star Jason Cundy ended in 2012
‘Eating disorders have been around a lot longer than filters and apps and the problem runs deeper – it is psychological and it is about control. I should know only too well, I suffered from one from the age of 14 and my weight plummeted to below 5 stone. When you’re 5ft 6ins that was not a good look. I looked and felt horrific.
‘It’s painful, but I have to speak out’: How my row with Stacey helped me lift the lid on a secret I’ve kept to myself for 30 years
‘I feel before anyone comments on why people are suffering from eating disorders you truly need to do your homework first behind the real reasons why.
‘It’s too easy to judge, blame and point fingers at why people suffer from this horrible, destructive disease.
Stacey Solomon passionately defended her argument that filters can lead young girls into eating disorders…without knowing that Lizzie herself has struggled for three decades to keep her own anorexia at bay
Slender: Lizzie has kept in shape her whole life and works hard to stop negative thoughts about calorie counting from entering her head
‘Eating disorders are complex; they are not based on people just wanting to look slim and perfect.
‘My story will show you how it actually has nothing to do with how you look and because you want to get into the perfect pair of jeans.
‘It was painful writing this; emotional and it hurt – but I feel it can hopefully give people a greater understanding.
‘If it can help one person who is going through this then that is a good thing. I’m the lucky one. I survived it but sadly I know of many cases of girls and of men who haven’t.
‘The issues of why people get eating disorders are much deeper than because of using a phone app and my eating disorder happened long before Instagram, mobile apps and filters were around.’
Even today I have to take each day as it comes. I eat healthily now and my best times are having Sunday lunch with my boys but I am always aware that it could return and it is a constant battle – it won’t ever really go away. I’ve never spoken about it before because I was always worried about what people would think of me.
‘Only a few weeks ago I was at The Ivy at a TV meeting. The waiter poured a rich creamy sauce over my chicken. I felt mortified as I knew that added loads more calories. So when no one was looking I got my napkin to soak up the sauce. I thought to myself..’Oh no, i’m doing it again!’…’
Here, below, Lizzie speaks candidly about her own turmoil in the hope that it will help others realise that social media is simply the latest antagonist for those who are vulnerable.
While her early childhood was privileged; Lizzie lived in an affluent area of South West London with her father working as an art director at Saatchi & Saatchi and her mother running fashion brand Jaeger, her teenage years saw her plunged into insecurity – and soon deep in the grip of anorexia.
‘Illness is nothing to do with filters or apps on your mobile or trying to look good. This is about control ‘, says the mother-of-two who says she keeps positive with healthy eating and exercise
Her 30-year obsession with calories was sparked by a strict convent school life, where she would regularly be chastised for wearing her skirts too short.
She explains: ‘My dream was to go to a performing arts school and escape this place where I was so unhappy. But my mother was a strong Catholic and my father a real disciplinarian – there was no chance.’
Food became about control and Lizzie ‘slowly, slowly’ descended into a life that revolved around knowing exactly how many calories she was consuming.
Says Lizzie: ‘I actually loved totting up in my head what I’d eaten. It wasn’t about wanting to look slim and look like the models in the magazines, or to look good so I could fit in certain clothes, this was all about control.
‘With my unhappy home and school life that I couldn’t do anything about. The one thing I could control was my food.’
The mother-of-two, who’s a petite 5ft 6, says she quickly became adept at hiding food, stashing toast her mother would bring her for breakfast under the bed and scraping mashed potato onto the plates of her friends at lunchtime.
Lizzie said she became ‘the great pretender of eating food. at family meal times i would drop food onto a napkin on my lap. i was so good at it nobody noticed. If i did eat i would then take a laxative.’
While she remained her usual energetic self – and protested when people suggested she wasn’t eating – eventually Lizzie’s dramatic weight loss saw her hauled in front of her chief tormentor, a nun named Sister Damien who suggested she was ‘starving herself to death’.
‘One lunchtime she made me sit and eat my school dinner with her watching me. I had tears rolling down my cheeks. That was such a horrible day. I felt forced to eat.’
Lizzie recalls how the eating disorder quickly ‘took over’ and her weight plunged to below five stone, but she continued to adopt tricks that would hide her weight including wearing layers of baggy clothing and applying make-up to hide her deathly paleness.
‘I looked and felt horrific, I would hide my body by wearing three pairs of tights under trousers and three jumpers instead of one. I was constantly cold. I would wear lots of blusher so my grey shallow skin would look like it had a bit of life in it. Everyone close to me was becoming very very worried.’
It wasn’t the actions of Lizzie’s worried parents, or the concerned sisters at her convent school, that eventually helped her to get well – but a throwaway jibe from a boy that she liked.
She explains: ‘I remember the day that changed my life. This boy I liked called Martin shouted that I looked like “a hockey stick with hair”, adding that my legs looked like “sticks in buckets.””
Eventually, Lizzie threw away her calorie counting book – after a boy made a throwaway remark about her having legs that ‘look like sticks in buckets’
The taunt propelled her to throwaway her calorie-counting book and start enjoying the treats she’d once loved, including milkshakes with her friends.
Anorexia has been a constant dark shadow threatening Lizzie’s door – a bitter break-up with her former husband, former Chelsea star Jason Cundy, in 2012 saw her once again begin to control calories.
And she admits that even on a recent trip to one of London’s fanciest restaurants, The Ivy, she ‘mopped’ away a calorie-laden sauce rather than eat it.
She’s aware it’s a life-long illness and expects it to rear its head again: ‘It won’t ever really go away fully but thankfully, I now eat healthily and keep fit and I have a much better relationship with food.
‘For me this illness is nothing to do with filters or apps on your mobile or trying to look good. This is about control. And I thank the lord I got the control back.’