Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten ‘nearly died four times’ during 13 year battle with anorexia

Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten ‘nearly died four times’ during 13 year battle with anorexia

May 12, 2021

Gemma Oaten talks emotionally about her eating disorder

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Emmerdale star Gemma Oaten, 37, reveals she “nearly died four times” over the 13 years she’s battled anorexia, as she opens up about some of her darkest times. In a film for ITV’s Lorraine the actress, who played Rachel Breckle from 2011 to 2015 in the long-running soap, speaks to Love Island’s Dr Alex George about her brushes with death in an attempt to raise more awareness around the silent killer.

I lost 13 years of my life and nearly died four times

Gemma Oaten

Gemma says: “I lost 13 years of my life and nearly died four times. I don’t want that to happen to anybody else.

“It’s not about food – food is the symptom, it’s not the cause.”

She adds: “When you’re encompassed by an eating disorder, which is a health illness, the misconception of it is that you chose to have an eating disorder.

“An eating disorder is not a choice. I definitely didn’t choose it.”

Gemma continues: “I had no idea what was going on.

“Sadly, it wasn’t until being in the depths of therapy and really starting to understand what an eating disorder was that I was actually able to address it.”

The actress recalls a point in her suffering when medics warned her that she had just 24 hours to live.

She has also stressed the importance of not judging whether somebody has an eating disorder based on their weight, as she opened up about her own experience with bullying.

Speaking to the Loose Women panel in March, she said: “I was 10 years old [when I developed an eating disorder] and in hindsight I realised it was down to the bullying and I couldn’t control what people were saying about me.

“My parents took me to the doctor because they recognised the warning signs, God love them, but the doctor turned me away and said I wasn’t low enough in weight to have a problem.”

She went on: “Cut to a year and a half later, I was admitted to a children and adolescent’s psychiatric unit and told that if I didn’t eat or drink within 24 hours, I would be dead.

“And thus began the 13 year narrative of my life, battling, fighting for my life with an eating disorder.”

Gemma remains adamant that “early intervention” is key when it comes to eating disorders and waiting for someone’s weight to change isn’t going to help.

“We have got to stop trying to treat a mental health illness by looking at physical attributes,” she insisted.

Talking of her own recovery, she explained that it stemmed from talking about it to her parents.

“When it comes to reaching out, an eating disorder loves confrontation,” the actress explained.

“It’s heartbreaking and touch to hear but it’s so important that its much deeper rooted than just weight loss.

“The heartbreaking thing for me which I remember the most is when my dad said my daughter became a shell of her former self and was in a prison and there were no bars but I couldn’t get her out.”

She continued to tell the Loose Women panel: “Speaking is so key – you have nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about.”

For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk.

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