Mel Wells, actress and author, was at the height of her Hollyoaks career while secretly fighting a battle with bulimia which affects over 360,000 people in the UK. Now recovered, she’s launching a new book to help others
In the months leading up to her prom night, Mel Wells’ mother watched her daughter’s weight plummet from a wholesome size ten to a size six, as a once happy, athletic, independent kid who ate when she was hungry started to find any excuse not to eat.
According to eating disorder charity, BEAT, almost 725,000 people have been diagnosed with an eating disorder in the UK, with the majority being affected between ages 18-25.
I knew logically that I wasn’t fat, but I still hated my body and felt awfully insecure and paranoid
For Wells, her issue with food began at age 14, when she started at a performing arts college and found it hard to keep up with the pressures of show business. The concept of body perfection and competition was foremost in the college atmosphere and over time it came to overrule her mind.
‘I knew logically that I wasn’t fat, but I still hated my body and felt awfully insecure and paranoid,’ Wells told the Telegraph.
After years of being obsessed with dieting, when Mel moved out of home, her food restriction turned to full-blown bulimia.
‘I started bingeing like a woman possessed. I didn’t even taste what I was eating – I inhaled it like it was oxygen, then the guilt would hit and I’d throw the food away and make myself sick until there were tears streaming down my face. Sometimes I’d even go back to the bin like a feral cat to retrieve leftover foods and carry on my pattern.
‘I had no social life, there was no balance or joy in my life,’ said Wells.
In the UK, according to BEAT’s latest figures from 2015, there are some 361,000 women with bulimia while another 358,000 suffer with binge eating disorder. That compares with under 7,000 with anorexia nervosa.
The guilt would hit and I’d throw the food away and make myself sick until there were tears streaming down my face.
Her eating habits became even more erratic once her dad, a psychologist, fell ill with pancreatic cancer.
In a bid to spend as much time with her father as possible, Wells would seek out books on cancer and nutrition.
She soon discovered a vegan study on health, which sent her ‘clean eating’ into overdrive as she started to obsessively check labels and avoid meat, fish, dairy and anything processed.
‘But then started bingeing on medial dates and nuts, my diet still wasn’t balanced,’ she remembers.
It took conversations about starting a family with her then partner Ryan Wells, a British marine, and the idea of having a baby to help Wells change.
‘I kept thinking about a little girl going through what I went through, and it made me so angry and upset. I knew I had to change.’
So Wells decided to make one tough commitment. To stop weighing herself.
‘I was convinced I would get so fat, so addicted was I to weighing myself,’ she said.
She started to listen to her body and focused on doing exercise she enjoyed, eating her mother’s nourishing meals and even enjoying the odd glass of wine on a night out.
Six years later, Wells has climbed her way back up to a healthier weight and now works as a nutrition coach, determined to help modern day women with their dieting habits and relationships with food.
Her new book, The Goddess Revolution, brings women the tools and psychological advice that they need to overcome disordered eating of all kinds, with no rules and no diet plans included.
‘There are too many so-called experts giving out too many rules. We need to learn to become experts on our own bodies,’ said Wells.
The Goddess Revolution is for anyone who has struggled with diets, body image, weight or just food in general while tackling modern issues like ‘fitspiration’ and the obsession with perfection.
There are too many so-called experts giving out too many rules. We need to learn to become experts on our own bodies
In the run up to the release of her new book, Healthista spoke to Mel about her new take on living a healthier life.
What two things make you feel good and why?
‘Two things that make me feel good are curling up on the sofa at the end of a long day and yoga. I love doing yoga, it makes me feel really good because my body just feels appreciated and loved,’ she explains
What does being healthy mean to you?
‘Being healthy to me means being the expert of my own body and not following anyone else’s rules, just listening to my own body and connecting on a daily basis.’
Stop trying to be perfect, it doesn’t exist. You’ll be much happier if you drop the perfection.
What is your favourite health tip ever?
‘My favourite health tip ever is stop searching for the perfect diet or trying to be perfect all the time, even everyone in the health and wellness industry, all the professionals, all the experts, none of them are perfect. So stop trying to be perfect, it doesn’t exist. You’ll be much happier if you drop the perfection.’
Get your copy of Mel Wells, Goddess Revolution, The: Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life, Hay House Publishers, £7.69