Anorexia is a disease of the middle classes, says Springwatch star Michaela StrachanThe wildlife presenter revealed how she battled the disorder as a teenagerShe blames her 'middle class upbringing' and is speaking out to help others

Chloe Thomas


01:40 GMT, 5 January 2013



08:12 GMT, 5 January 2013

Battle: Michaela Strachan has revealed she suffered with anorexia as a teenager

Battle: Michaela Strachan has revealed she suffered with anorexia as a teenager

Wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan has revealed how she battled anorexia as a teenager.

Miss Strachan, 46, says she has spoken out to help today's young girls avoid what she controversially calls a 'middle-class disease'.

The Springwatch presenter described herself as a 'textbook' case for an eating disorder, which took hold when she was 17.

Miss Strachan, who returns to television screens this month in the BBC's Winterwatch, found her world torn apart in 1983 when her father was jailed for six years after a 270,000 fraud was uncovered at the building society where he was a director.

'I had grown up in a secure suburban family in Surrey,' she said. 'But then it all fell apart, my dad lost his job, my parents split up and I had no control over what was going on… so I decided to control my body, which is typical of anorexia sufferers.'

The presenter, who lives with her family in Cape Town, South Africa, explained why she believes anorexia is a middle-class illness.

'I live in Africa now and there are people who cannot afford to eat, there are people starving and I did that to my body,' she said. 'But I was a product of my middle-class upbringing; it's a disgusting thing to do to your body.'

Miss Strachan said teachers at the dance school she attended helped to plant the seeds of dissatisfaction with her body image.

'As a dancer I would spend my whole day in my leotard and leggings looking in the mirror,' she said, adding that teachers didn't help as they would tell some girls, 'You need to lose weight'.'

Miss Strachan conquered the disease by her mid-20s, when she managed to break into television, but admits that she regrets having been through it.

'I am not proud of having anorexia, I look at it as a failure; it's something that I wish I hadn't gone through,' she said. 'Now that I am in my 40s, I look at it and think, 'how dare I do that to my body'.'

She decided to speak out about her problems growing up after being appointed a celebrity ambassador for the campaign group Body Gossip, which works with schools and lobby groups in the UK to raise awareness about the importance of body confidence.

Miss Strachan, who describes herself as being part homemaker, part careerist, lives with her partner Nick Chevallier, their son Oliver, seven, and Mr Chevallier's three older children from his first marriage.

Speaking out: Miss Strachan said she wants to help today's young girls avoid the eating disorder

Speaking out: Miss Strachan said she wants to help today's young girls avoid the eating disorder

Having given birth at 39, Miss Strachan, who rose to fame in children's TV shows Wacaday and Wide Awake Club, said that she was shocked by her lack of knowledge about motherhood.

'I think it's because in Britain people just don't really talk about it, certainly I had no idea about the truth of giving birth,' she said.

'Before I had Ollie I had never changed a nappy except for a gorilla, an orangutan and a baby chimp.'

She blames the absence of community in the UK for the dearth of shared experience on how to rear a child.

'In Africa the women are such good mothers because the community teaches them how. But, of course, western career women tend to lead a very selfish isolated life – a baby appears and everyone goes, “Oh my god, how do I change a nappy”.'

Miss Strachan, who recently presented Autumnwatch, admits there is another BBC show she would love to do – Strictly Come Dancing.