How Celebrity MasterChef helped actress Lisa Maxwell beat bulimia

Celebrity MasterChef helped actress Lisa Maxwell beat her struggle with bulimia by helping her to stop seeing food as the “enemy”.

The ex-Loose Women panellist, 54, fought the eating disorder at drama school and later weighed just 6st 10lb as she tried to break in to Hollywood.

“I didn’t put any importance on food,” said Lisa, who found fame as DI Samantha Nixon in The Bill.

“I thought it was a bit of an enemy as a young girl.

“For years I used the excuse that I was a career girl and too busy to cook. I felt in some way it undermined my feminist, career-goal kind of thinking.

“It was more important to me that I got to meetings and felt confident looking a certain way, so food and basic nutrition weren’t something I put importance on. But now I can cook. I’ve found a new passion for it.

“It’s like I’ve had my first kiss – most grown ups my age have done it and got over it. I’m so evangelical about cooking now.”

The 5ft 2in actress told in her autobiography Not That Kinda Girl how she was weighed in front of her drama school class.

She added: “You’re dancing in front of a mirror and seeing your body every day and you can’t escape what you see.

“If you’re not happy with yourself it slowly eats away at you. It can destroy you.”

Her struggle continued in Los Angeles in the early 1990s.

“I’d go to meetings with the most perfect-looking people, in my eyes, and I felt I needed to compete,” she said. “I thought the best way was to make sure I didn’t have any fat on my body.”

Lisa recovered without professional help and when her daughter Beau, now 18, was born she resolved to be a good role model and eat healthily.

But her kitchen skills were the butt of jokes – until competing in Celebrity MasterChef against Strictly dancer AJ Pritchard, 23, furniture restorer Jay Blades, 48, Dolly Parton’s younger sister Stella, 69, and DJ Clara Amfo, 34.

Now Lisa cooks for husband Paul Jessup, 50, and Beau once a week – and may even attempt her first Christmas dinner.

Friend Carol Vorderman, 57, has spent the last four Christmases with her AND done the cooking.

“She’s insisting I cook this year or she isn’t coming,” said Lisa.

“I want to leave MasterChef with the confidence to pick up a pan, look in the fridge, chuck a bit of this and that in and create something people will enjoy.

“And actually, I feel like I’ve achieved that.”

Celebrity MasterChef is on BBC One this Thursday at 8pm.

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