ONE of the biggest myths about Love Island is that we look so toned, tanned and skinny all the time.
In reality, I practically starved myself going into the villa — eating nothing but fish and vegetables for months and spending hours sweating away in the gym each day.
It’s why, ahead of the new series which starts on Sunday, my heart goes out to the new contestants who will no doubt be under the same pressures from trolls who are desperate to scrutinise every pound they shed or gain.
Just last month, my good pal Molly-Mae Hague had to defend herself against vile body-shamers — rightly pointing out she is “healthier” for putting on a stone and a half since the show.
Dealing with critics is ‘part of the job’ and you need to develop a thick skin.
But I can totally relate from my own experiences of ‘fat-shaming’, which left me feeling lower than I ever had in my life.
‘I sobbed all day’
Last summer, I was on holiday in America with my girls.
I didn’t think I’d get papped over there, so it was a complete shock when the most disgusting photos of me in a bikini were taken and shared online.
Sure, I’d put on a stone or so since Love Island, but this didn’t even look like me.
I looked like a 50-year-old who’d had two children — and before I knew it, these pictures had gone completely viral.
All of a sudden, my social media accounts were being flooded, with trolls accusing me of being a ‘liar’, of editing photos of myself on Instagram to cover up how I really looked.
The truth is that it was just a horribly unflattering photo, like we’ve all seen on Facebook after a night out. But that didn’t matter.
I couldn’t stop sobbing, I FaceTimed my mum and couldn’t leave my hotel room for the rest of the day. It absolutely ruined my holiday.
Extreme diets and gym binges
People say you know what you’re getting yourself into when you go on reality TV — and you do. You just have to deal with it.
But what the shamers need to realise is that there’s a difference between someone who is unhealthy and overweight, and someone who’s just a normal size.
I’m perfectly fit and happy now — just as I was before Love Island.
There was no real pressure from producers to get in shape, but we’d all seen the show before and know people would have opinions on how we looked.
If you knew you were going on national TV, wouldn’t you want to look your best?
Even fruit was off the menu – no apples or bananas, they had too much sugar. And forget about touching a drop of booze.Ellie Brown
For two months, I spent two-and-a-half hours a day in the gym.
I hired a personal trainer for weight training, then would spend the rest sweating away on the treadmill.
My diet was even harder. Over those eight weeks, all I would eat was white fish and vegetables — about five times a day.
Even fruit was off the menu — no apples or bananas, they had too much sugar. And forget about touching a drop of booze.
I looked amazing, but that diet really isn’t sustainable. I’d end some days completely exhausted because my body wasn’t getting all the nutrients it — and, of course, the meals became SO boring.
‘Everyone put on weight in the villa’
Once you’re inside the villa, everything changes. That body doesn’t last for long.
It’s so hot in Majorca that you can only exercise first thing in the morning, and your schedule is so packed that you can’t always find the time.
While we were only allowed two alcoholic drinks a day, after months of not drinking, that quickly caught up with us when we got out too.
We all thought we’d put on weight. In the first two weeks I felt fine, but after that, there were clothes that I stopped wearing. I remember a little crop top and shorts I wore in the first few days that by the end was right at the bottom of my suitcase.
When the show ends, there are so many other things going on that staying ultra-slim isn’t your top priority anymore.
Suddenly, you’re doing PAs until 4am and being whisked around the country.
I was mostly in London — five hours from my home in Newcastle — so I was grabbing food quickly on the go, wondering more about which shows I had to go to, what was being said about me in the press.
Inevitably, you’re not going to stay how you looked at the start of the series.
Develop a thick skin
I’m constantly trolled by people asking how I’ve put on so much weight. I’ve learned to live with it, but I never want to go through that day on holiday ever again.
Now, any time I do a photoshoot, I immediately cover up before anyone can catch me off guard.
When I saw what was happening to Molly-Mae, I text her saying, “If you want to feel any better about your photos, just look at mine.”
I told her it will feel like the worst thing in the world because whenever you Google your name, those pictures are what comes up — but that will pass in a few weeks.
In some ways, it’s even worse for men. The abuse Curtis Pritchard got during last year’s series for putting on weight was just ridiculous — he’s a dancer for crying out loud, he’s obviously a very fit, healthy grown man.
What we need to acknowledge, though, is that just because someone’s a boy doesn’t mean you can comment on his weight and it won’t have the same impact.
Men are just as conscious as girls about these things — but often feel like they can’t speak about it as much.
‘We’re seen as fair game’
Everyone says Love Island’s for skinny people. While I completely support the idea of putting more diverse body types on the show, people need to remember the way I look now is how I looked in my first audition.I made a conscious effort to go to the gym afterwards and work out to feel better on the show, and then I went back to my normal shape.
A lot of us look different to how we did then — it doesn’t mean it’s unhealthier, it’s just different.
But for some reason, many just see it as fair game to be horrible to Love Island contestants online.
They don’t care: they write a comment, then they forget about it, get on with their day and don’t think about how it could impact yours.
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It’s why I always find it amazing when in real life, people say, “Oh you’re so much nicer than I expected you to be.”
At the end of the day, I’m just a 21-year-old girl, like a million others.
I bet if any one of these trolls met us in real life, they’d feel a lot worse about the damage they were causing.