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.
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.
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.