Call The Midwife star Jennifer Kirby has opened up about her personal battle with eating disorders. The actress hoped that sharing her story would help people suffering, especially during Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Kirby explained that she has always had a complicated relationship with food. “How I feel about food has always been irrevocably linked to how I feel about myself- and that’s what makes it so confusing.
“I think it’s a mark of how messed up our messages to girls and women are, that as a child I remember feeling simultaneously that I would be judged for not eating enough, and also somehow that I was fat.”
She continued: “All those evenings spent at friend’s houses trying desperately to eat just another mouthful so that I wouldn’t seem rude, were exactly balanced by all those evenings spent desperately pulling at the skin on my stomach. The crippling fear as a big plate of food was put in front of me at a restaurant, that I knew I simply couldn’t conquer. The conflicting comments of ‘how lovely and slim you are’, with ‘you need to eat more’.
“My thinness was what made me who I was, and simultaneously was so shameful,” she continued.
Kirby shared that things came to a head when she was 19-years-old. She had suffered a great loss, which triggered her. She started to eat less, exercise more and hide food under her bed. She was eating so little that she was often on the brink of collapse. “I would look in the mirror and believe that if I could not be as thin as possible then I was not worth anything.”
Thankfully, her family helped her find the help she so desperately needed, but the actress admitted that this obsession is something she will carry with her forever. “I believe it will never leave me. The moment I get sad I lose the will to eat and drop weight at a frightening rate. And when my anxiety rises it’s like I can’t swallow.”
The Call The Midwife star stressed that it is liveable, but said the media is continuing to spread deeply damaging perceptions of what women should look like.
“I say all this mostly to let you know that if you have had a similar story, you are so not alone. With help I have learned to survive and then eventually thrive, with both professional help and the help of my loved ones. Please consider reaching out to someone and stopping the cycle of shame,” she urged.