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A Victoria’s Secret Veteran On How Modelling Hurt Her Body Image & Mental Health

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Photo: Randy Brooke/WireImage/ Getty Images.
Just how much body-image pressure can be involved in modelling, particularly for the high-stakes, widely televised annual extravaganza that is the Victoria's Secret fashion show? Far too much, as former VS model Erin Heatherton is sharing. She got frank last week about the stressful expectations involved with walking in the bikini-laden show (and in modeling in general).

"My last two Victoria’s Secret shows, I was told I had to lose weight,” Heatherton told Time's Motto website. “I look back like, ‘Really?'” Victoria’s Secret didn’t comment to Motto about the model's tenure or requirements put upon her.

Despite twice-daily workouts and a healthy diet, Heatherton said that her body "just wouldn't do it" during the punishing pre-show regimen before her final time on the VS runway, in 2013. She says the pressure to slim down subsequently caused depression and a contentious relationship with food and body image.

"I got to a point where one night I got home from a workout and I remember staring at my food and thinking maybe I should just not eat,” she told Motto. “I was really depressed because I was working so hard and I felt like my body was resisting me."

But Heatherton isn't just opening up about her struggles with weight and mental health as a result of being in the modelling industry (though that's admirable on its own). She wants to set a more realistic, maybe even inspiring, example through her transparency about the hard work and unhealthy habits that looking like that can entail.

"I realized I couldn't go out into the world — parading my body and myself in front of all these women who look up to me — and tell them that this is easy and simple and everyone can do this," Heatherton told Motto. Being honest about the unglamorous, painful repercussions of modelling doesn't sound like it was easy, either. “I’m willing to sacrifice my pride, in a sense, and my privacy, because I know that if I don’t speak about it, I could be withholding information that would really help women,” she said. “It hurts too much to keep it in, and that’s why I’m not keeping it in now.”

A few weeks earlier, Heatherton posted a lengthily captioned Instagram post addressing how modelling took a toll on her: "I was struggling with my body image and the pressures to fulfill the demands of perfectionism upon me. I am not perfect. Through this struggle, however, I found the strength to love myself," she wrote.

The breakdown to breakthrough moment in my life has allowed me to become the truest version of myself. In my moment of “failure,” I stood in the face of adversity. I was struggling with my body image and the pressures to fulfill the demands of perfectionism upon me. I am not perfect. Through this struggle, however, I found the strength to love myself. I stood in my power. I thought of one of my favorite quotes, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a men’s character, give him power” - Abraham Lincoln. I look back on that moment now, and I embrace it. This feeling I once perceived as “failure” was, in truth, a powerful awakening for me to stand behind my purpose in life. I stepped away from hiding behind a fabricated version of myself. I no longer put actions behind my fears and insecurities. I made a choice to redirect my energy to be a catalyst for change. To create a channel for women to become the truest versions of themselves, along with me. (Stay tuned for more...) In the end, if you aren’t being true to yourself, then what the fuck is the point. #rebelwacause #empowerment #womensempowerment#empoweredbyyou

A photo posted by Erin Heatherton (@erinheathertonlegit) on

Photo via @erinheathertonlegit.


Plus, it sounds like Heatherton now wants something constructive to come out of her negative physical and mental health experiences from modelling: "I made a choice to redirect my energy to be a catalyst for change. To create a channel for women to become the truest versions of themselves, along with me. (Stay tuned for more...)," she wrote. So, does Heatherton have some sort of body-image initiative or project on the docket? All signs point to yes...
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