Great British Baking Show runner-up Steph Blackwell is opening up about her recovery from an eating disorder.
The cooking show contestant, 28, revealed that she suffered from disordered eating that started when she was 17.
Visiting the U.K. talk show Lorraine, Blackwell said that she started micromanaging her food intake as way of taking control when her future felt otherwise out of her hands.
“I didn’t really know where my life was going,” she said. “… And I guess the kind of overwhelming sort of worry over that, I started to get really depressed and drastically lost weight.”
She added: “As a result of that, I sort of domesticated myself, so I would clean the house and I’d take on chores, but in the same breath I kind of used food as a scaffold — I just really controlled my life with food and things that I could do easily.”
Blackwell developed a form of disordered eating classified as OSFED, which stands for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, and includes sufferers whose tendencies don’t fully align with the other common types, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
In Blackwell’s case, she would strictly portion all her food and weigh her meals, sometimes resulting in binge-eating bouts, and was an excessive exerciser. By 21, she was diagnosed with early-stage osteoporosis due to the lack of nutrition.
She described her habits as a “safety net” for her at the time.
Today, Blackwell has stabilized her nutrition, finding ways to curb her negative habits and thinking patterns through therapy. It was her grandfather who noticed that Blackwell wasn’t herself, and the baker said that her family realized her depression needed to be “addressed first” so she could eventually tackle her eating disorder.
On the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show (titled Great British Bake Off overseas), she came in second place to winner David Atherton. Blackwell became a fan-favorite, winning the Star Baker title four times over the course of the season.
Blackwell said she was initially told not to share her experience with disordered eating publicly, but she thinks people were just trying to shield her from the stigma surrounding the topic.
“They were protecting me,” she said. “They thought that maybe it would make me more vulnerable with the problem, and I do always say I’m a work in progress. I think there was a level of protection coming from them.”
But Blackwell decided it was important for her to speak out.
“I just think it’s so important to be authentic, and in the same breath, I didn’t go onto Bake Off with any ambition to become the next celebrity, but given the platform I was given, I just was so desperate to try and help other people out there.”
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.
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