Love Island’s Zara McDermott says: ‘Trolls say I'm a fat whale now but before I was only eating carrots and friends had to force me to eat'
Now, speaking exclusively to The Sun Online, Zara wants to address the taunts over her bikini pictures, as she reveals the heartbreaking truth that she was starving herself and surviving on just carrots before the dating show.
"To the trolls who posted so many nasty comments about my weight, I want you to know that before being signed to Love Island, I was almost starving myself and eating just a bag of carrots a day.
Earlier this week, a cruel Twitter post, dedicated to celebrities who had supposedly heavily edited their Instagram snaps, showed 'before' pictures of me from around October last year – shortly before I was signed to the ITV2 dating show.
To some I looked better. I was a tiny size 6, but inside I was so unhappy.
Yes, Instagram photos don't always show the reality but, for me, it was how I was feeling, rather than what I looked like.
The picture was taken when my friends and I had jetted off on a holiday to Greece because I was so low.
I wasn't anorexic but hadn't eaten properly and had been skipping meals for months.
I had just endured seven months of unintentional emotional abuse from an ex-boyfriend and my body had been the last thing on my mind as I spent each day crying.
Our relationship had become so toxic and my self confidence had been completely destroyed. I was nothing like the happy and bubbly person I am today.
I remember one day, my friends had noticed how my weight had dropped and that I had skipped meals. They took me to Tesco and begged me to pick something to eat.
They encouraged me to go for a protein shake or something nutritious, but I opted for a small bag of carrots.
I forced myself to snack on them because hunger and anxiety had made me feel so sick.
The way I looked in my bikini – sadly the way some girls aim to look – wasn't about showing off. Some days I became so anxious I barely ate a thing.
'Trolls called me "fat whale", "unit" and "hamster"'
Now I'm happy and in love with Adam [Collard, who Zara met on Love Island], yet I've never received so much hate over my body.
I’m not upset by the paparazzi pictures – I know they’re unflattering but I thought: “So what? Not everyone is a size 4.”
Then I saw the comments and I was really upset.
They said things like: “Zara has become a fat whale” and: “Look at Zara, she’s a unit”.
One troll said that I looked like a hamster because my face looked puffy and others said my bikini looked awful.
Another bully even speculated how I had either lost weight and was showing off my figure, or I had put on weight and needed to get it in check now before I was in trouble down the line.
They told me that I think I’m so much more attractive than I am – I was so shocked. How can people be so mean?
In today’s society where we’re teaching women and young girls to love ourselves, I now realise there’s still a long way to go.
I can’t believe people are so abusive about my weight, or anyone's. I feel like people in the limelight can’t do right from wrong.
If they’re seen as fat, they’re told to diet, or too skinny and they’re told to eat a pizza.
People Photoshop their pictures all the time to show their best selves, but I wouldn't dare.
Now I'm in the limelight after Love Island, I feel like I'm being watched all the time.
'I was bullied for looking anorexic at school'
Even before I entered the villa, I was hitting the gym three to four times a week, and although I had put on a little weight after me and ex finally split for good last January, I still stuck to a strict diet of chicken or salmon and vegetables.
When you're entering a show where all eyes are going to be on you parading around in a bikini body, there is a lot of pressure.
Luckily I had finally got out of that dark spell, but I always ate until I was just satisfied, never full. That way I could keep my weight in check.
I've never had a problem with leaving half of my dinner. I would think: "This is either going to go in the bin or make me fat, so I would rather it went in the bin".
I'm curvier now. I've put on about a dress size from a 6 to a size 8-10 but I like having boobs and a bum.
I was so tiny at school that I was bullied because people would think I’m anorexic, so for me, getting in shape was never about being super skinny
'In the Love Island villa, over a million pairs of eyes are on your bikini body'
I wouldn't go as far to say I'm proud of my weight gain, but I'm enjoying my life and I don't care too much.
In the Love Island villa, the producers know that over a million viewers will be analysing your body.
Things like manicures and waxing are a must, and although I didn't, lots of girls go for full make-up and hair extensions.
We make heavy meals like fry-ups and pasta for the camera, but behind-the-scenes, contestants can carry on a strict diet if they want to.
We had catering on site, with options like meat and fish and platters of vegetables and fruit salads. Of course, there's the gym in the villa, too.
'That troll is a complete tool'
The truth is, I just don't live like that anymore. I lead such a hectic lifestyle and although Adam is a gym freak, I prefer to spend my time off relaxing.
Even if I do put on weight, I'll just lose it again just as easily. For now I'm enjoying lots of delicious food.
Yesterday I had two Nando's deliveries and today, I had a cooked-breakfast!
It seems to bother other people more than me, but I always feel the need to justify myself. That's why I posted on Instagram.
I don’t want to sit back and let people abuse me online. For me to call someone out and say they are body-shaming – I hope it makes that person look like an absolute tool.
I hope it encourages other girls to do the same – this is not OK."
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