Life

Gok Wan: My new year's resolution is to slow down a little bit

TV presenter and stylist Gok Wan opens up to Gabrielle Fagan about his personal battles

Gok Wan has teamed up with American Express to uncover hidden gems and local small businesses

FASHION expert Gok Wan is a hugely popular television personality, best known for presenting hit TV show How To Look Good Naked. Cheeky, charismatic and versatile, he has demonstrated his expertise on a host of programmes concerning weight, cooking and self-confidence

The Leicester-born 43-year-old, whose parents ran a Chinese restaurant, has spoken open about the bullying he endured in his younger years and his subsequent struggles with an eating disorder.

Here, Gok tells Gabrielle Fagan about his passion for work, his battle with anorexia and why he's no longer worried about what people think.

What do you worry about when it comes to your health?

"My biggest failing is being a workaholic. I push myself too much because I love what I do but it means looking after myself comes bottom of the list until I get ill. Then I panic and try to be better.

"Five years ago I had seven operations on my back because of slipped discs. My back's much better than it was, but I don't think it will ever be back to what it was. I still have good days and bad days.

How do you take care of yourself physically?

"My new year's resolution is to slow down a little – mind you, I say that every year. Walking my bulldog, Dolly, is both exercise and pleasure and, of course, shopping is my therapy."

What was your biggest turning point when it comes to self-care?

"Leaving my career working as a stylist in fashion and music and moving into television for How To Look Good Naked. I was anorexic while I was filming the programmes. Filming them made me realise I needed help and made me question why I had this dysfunctional relationship with food. So I was going on a journey with my body confidence issues just as much as the woman on the show. Sharing their problems about body image really helped me to confront my own."

Do you think you've overcome your issues with anorexia?

"In the darkest moments of my life I was definitely battling anorexia but now I've come to live with it. In a way, I've almost made friends with it. I've come to terms with the fact it could come back, but I know now that I have the right skills to control it if it does.

"There's a myth that once you no longer have anorexia you are 'fixed', but eating disorders lie dormant within you like parasites. Anorexia is part of my tapestry. The only times I've really struggled with it was when I tried to get rid of it or ignore it. It's important to help get rid of the stigma around these sort of illnesses by talking about it."

How do you feel about yourself now?

"I'm in the happiest place I've ever been in my life and I feel I'm a better friend and family member these days. I regard my biggest achievement as my relationship with my family. I really love them and work hard to keep those relationships – which has been hard with my lifestyle of working and travelling.

"My parents were totally accepting about me being gay. They went through so much social persecution themselves when they first got together, as my dad's Chinese and my mum's English.

"The biggest problem for them came when I became well-known, because they had to share me with the rest of the world, which was hard for them. They'd always thought of me as the baby of the family, and suddenly I wasn't around any more and the world intruded on our close unit. I've missed loads of family occasions and sometimes I've even been too busy to speak to them, but they're massively supportive and understanding."

Do you have any regrets?

"I've worked hard at not having regrets as it's a waste of time. Life's short so it's very important to take opportunities, give things a go and see what happens.

"I never think of myself as a celebrity; that lifestyle doesn't appeal to me at all. I'm just a fashion stylist who works on TV sometimes. I have my values and beliefs and nowadays I don't need everyone to agree with those to reassure me. I'm confident enough in who I am.

"I have a very fulfilled life. I think I probably won't have children now because I'm 43 and I have a lot on my plate as it is. I actually have more godchildren than shoes, which is lovely."

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