These days she’s the bubbly, uber-confident star of TOWIE who thinks nothing of flaunting her ‘candy’ in a see-through swimsuit.
But Gemma Collins wasn’t always the curvy diva we know, and was in fact a slim size 10 until a quick succession of heartaches sent her eating spiralling out of control.
Years before finding fame, she fell pregnant with ex-boyfriend Robert, but didn’t realise for three months during which time she had continued to take potentially fetus-damaging medication for her stomach.
After weeks of soul-searching, they decided they weren’t ready to become parents – or run the risk of the baby being born suffering from abnormalities – and she underwent an abortion.
But after realising she didn’t want a child with Robert, she knew their relationship was in trouble and began to suspect he was playing away.
Tormented by her own thoughts and grief, one night she lost control and reached for a kitchen knife.
"A strange feeling of clarity came over me. I knew how to make things better. I took a knife out and placed the cold steel blade on my hand," she wrote in her 2013 autobiography, Basically… My Life As An Essex Girl.
"I pressed down hard and watched in fascination as the tip of the knife pierced my skin. The pain felt good. I drew the knife down and watched as a thin red line of blood sprang from the cut I had made. I withdrew the knife and repeated the action on a different part of my hand," she continued.
"Every time I cut me hand it was like a release. It felt good. Blood was trickling down on the work surface."
Robert thankfully managed to snap her out of her ‘trance’, but when he finally pulled the plug on their two-year relationship weeks later, she turned to food and started ‘self-medicating’ with calories.
"Every time I felt an emotion I would eat to block it. Food gave me a high. I had always been slim so I never felt guilty," she explained, admitting she would think nothing of eating three chocolate bars in a row followed by two burgers from McDonalds.
"I started to fixate about food. It became a focus away from the grim reality of my situation. I would think about it from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed. I had low self-esteem. I was suffering and without realising I morphed into a bigger person," she said.
"I went from being a thin girl who never had a weight problem and was a constant size 10 to a girl who couldn’t stop growing."
Within a year she had ballooned to a size 18 and was tipping the scales at more than 17st.
The situation came to a head when she accused her mum of shrinking her new dress – and her mum told her the truth.
"No Gemma, you are getting bigger, you’re not realising it but you are really putting on a lot of weight," Gemma recalled her saying.
While these days the GC is confident in her curves, back then she tried everything she could to slim down, including The Cambridge Diet, the Dunkan Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet.
"But I didn’t exercise and once the weight was on it stuck. I found it hard to resist temptation and I craved the comfort I found in food," she admitted.
Still tormented by why Robert had ended things, she began suffering from anxiety attacks and having suicidal thoughts.
At her lowest point, she even considered driving through the barrier on the side of a raised stretch of road to ‘end it’.
All that changed when she stole his phone bill from his letter box and worked out he’d been seeing a girl called Hannah. Finally she had closure.
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