8 inspirational LGBTQ+ role models who spoke their truth about living with an eating disorder
Mental health struggles are increasingly common among the LGBTQ+ community – and eating disorders are no exception.
Studies have shown that young LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder.
Beat, a UK charity supporting those affected by eating orders, says there are many reasons for this.
“Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses and it’s difficult to identify their exact causes, Tom Quinn, the charity’s director of external affairs, tells PinkNews. “However, we know that members of the LGBTQ+ community may be at risk of experiencing low self-esteem, anxiety about their identity or body dissatisfaction.
“This could worsen an existing eating disorder or lead to one developing.”
Quinn also highlights how pervasive misconceptions surrounding eating disorders are, which distorts wider society’s views on the reality of living with an eating disorder and deters those suffering from reaching out.
“There is still a misconception that eating disorders only impact young girls, which can discourage people who do not fit this category from seeking help,” he explained. “Eating disorders impact 1.25 million people of all genders, sexualities and ages every year, and it’s important that staff in schools and healthcare organisations can identify signs of eating disorders quickly,” Tom adds.
So frequently we hear about LGBTQ+ struggles, and while drawing attention to those struggles is important, where’s the hope for the community that things can get better and the reminders that everything you feel is valid?
While you should never compare your experiences to other people’s, using other people’s stories for hope and inspiration can be so beneficial for your own recovery. A multitude of LGBTQ+ celebrities and role models have spoken out about their own experiences with eating disorders, which can provide reassurance that you aren’t alone and your illness shouldn’t hold you back.
With eating disorders continuing to have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, and services seeing more referrals than ever, talking about them couldn’t be more important.
“My body image issues came from within my sport. It was hammered into me that I needed to lose weight in order to perform,” Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley told The Guardian in 2021.
“Especially as a diver, you’re up on the diving board so naked, so visible, so it’s hard to be content with your body because you always want to be better. I now have a much better relationship with food.
“It’s difficult some days like it is for everyone, but I want to set a good example to my son. And when I ate healthily, I was able to handle more training because I wasn’t hungry all the time.
“I was always unsure about carbs but realising that they are there to help you, not hinder you, is something I’ve figured out. I’m no longer scared of food.”
“I am bulimic. I still struggle with that,” the Strictly Come Dancing and Great British Bake Off star told Attitude magazine in December 2021. “Even though I go through moments where it doesn’t affect me, every day is a battle because it takes over how you see yourself, how many times you go to the gym and what you can or can’t eat.
“I’ve battled with an eating disorder for 15 years and I’m finally in a position where I’m happy being bigger. I used to shrink away from the world, but now I want to take up space because I deserve to take up that space.
“Men are conditioned not to talk about how they feel, but it doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, whatever you are, you have to get help.
“When you share a problem, the poison is diluted. Even if you’re the burliest bloke, you need to talk to somebody.”
“Bulimia was something I could control,” explained the It’s a Sin and Years & Years star, as reported by Attitude magazine. I was struggling with my sexuality, my parents were divorcing, and I wanted to punish myself. I’ve looked at some of the causes that have been at the root of why I had problems with food, depression and anxiety, and I’ve started to really unpack some of those things.
“Recovery is really a lifelong process that I think anyone who has experienced any mental illness knows. It’s something you manage, it’s not something that just goes away. It’s an ongoing thing.”
Explaining on their Instagram story, Demi Lovato said of their experiences with an eating disorder: “I don’t want to give it the power that it controls my every thought, but I’m constantly thinking about body image, what I wish I could be eating, what I could be eating next, what I wish I didn’t eat.
“It’s constant. I get envious of people who don’t struggle with an eating disorder because I think my life would be so much easier. I still struggle. Daily.
“There are periods of time when I forget about my food struggles and other times it’s all I think about.
“But that is what ED recovery looks like for some people and I still have hope that someday I won’t think about it anymore.”
“Not eating is not good for your body, metabolism or brain,” said Kesha in Vogue back in 2015. “I talked to my mum one night and I told her I needed help.
“Then, I went to an eating disorder-specific rehab site where a nutritionist taught me that food is a positive thing for your body. I realised being healthy is the most important thing I can do for myself.
“Now, I’m trying to embrace the skin I’m in. It’s difficult sometimes. Every day I have to look in the mirror and make that choice to be kind to myself. This is who I am. I have to love that.”
“You can’t look at someone and tell whether or not they’re healthy,” the body-positive model told Good Morning America in May 2021. “I understand that people look at me and I don’t fit with what we have seen presented as the diagnosis for anorexia, but that tells me there’s a larger problem.
“We have a lack of diversity and representation in the world. The sky’s the limit.
“I actually feel like I can take on the things that life is throwing my way and I have been happier in my months spent in recovery than I’ve been in my entire life.
“I feel whole. I feel at peace. I really feel in my power.”
Speaking with CR Fashion Book in 2021, model and actress Fox explained: “I came into the world really bright and sunny and happy. However, I went through some trauma in childhood and I developed a pretty severe eating disorder and manic depression, which runs in my family.
“But as I got into my early 20s, that hell-hath-no-fury a woman scorned demon did rise up in me. I’m now in this moment that has been very proactive and rewarding, both emotionally and spiritually.
“I’m really happy with this moment.”
“It wasn’t until I woke up in a hospital bed one morning that I knew I had to turn things around,” wrote Greyson Chance on Instagram in August 2020. “There is a certain taboo around eating disorders in society.
“Eating disorders do not discriminate. They affect a large population of people, non-dependent on gender, identity, age, or background.
“I now feel stronger than ever, but I would be lying if I said I still am not battling against anorexia, and I know that it will be a continued battle for the rest of my life. To anyone struggling with an eating disorder, know that I am here for you, I understand you, and I encourage you to stay strong in your fight.”
So, where do we go from here? Beat has some suggestions.
“We’d encourage NHS leaders and the government to fund quality eating disorder training, to ensure that professionals can detect eating disorders in people of all sexualities and identities. It’s also important that eating disorder professionals can understand the issues that the LGBTQ+ community is facing so that treatment reflects the needs of every person.”
“Recovery from an eating disorder is always possible, and accessing help as soon as possible leads to the best chances of this,” Beat added.
“If you are worried about your health, please reach out to your GP at the earliest opportunity.”
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