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'It’s ruined my body': Welsh model reveals her struggle with laxative abuse

A model and TV presenter from Aberystwyth has spoken out for the first time about the pressures she experienced whilst working in the fashion industry and how she subjected herself to laxative abuse in order to try and lose weight.

Nia began modelling more than ten years ago after winning a competition in a bridal magazine. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Speaking exclusively to Siôn Jenkins for ITV Wales’ current affairs programme Ein Byd (‘Our World’), Nia Marshalsay-Thomas says her years of laxative abuse have “ruined” her body.

Nia began modelling more than ten years ago after winning a competition in a bridal magazine. Since then, her career has varied from catwalk to commercial modelling.

But a career in the eye of the lens can also come with its downsides. One particular experience modelling bridal wear left the former Miss Wales finalist feeling ashamed of her body:

All of the sample size dresses were a UK size 6-8, and I'm an 8-10. I felt like I was the biggest one there. I left there feeling really degraded. I felt like they were trying to hide my body under the bigger dresses because the smaller ones didn’t fit me. I was made to feel ashamed of my body.

– Nia Marshalsay-Thomas

Shortly after this experience, Nia received a message from a modelling agency which expressed an interest in representing her. After sending her measurements to the agency, she was told that they would only be willing to represent her if she lost weight and slimmed down to a “genuine size 8”. This particular experience made Nia turn to extreme lengths to try and get the “perfect figure” by taking laxatives.

“I started off taking one a day, then when my body got used to that and it no longer worked for me, I increased the dosage until I was taking so many that my body just didn’t work without them.”

Once the over-the-counter laxatives had stopped having an effect, Nia was forced to go to her doctor where it became apparent that her body had become so used to taking laxatives, that it was now dependent upon them. Since then, she has been prescribed laxatives which she takes twice a day, every day.

“My life now revolves around it - it’s really embarrassing. If you go anywhere, you have to take it with you. It’s had a massive impact on my life ten years down the line.”

Nia now does commercial modelling and says she feels much happier. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Nia is now represented by agencies as far as Manchester and Sheffield and says that she feels much happier doing commercial modelling for names such as Jaguar Land Rover, Clogau, and Dyfed Menswear. She hopes others can learn from her experience by being happy in their own skin, rather than feeling the pressure to fit a “perfect image”.

“If I’d have realised before that I could do all this as me and embrace who I am, rather than trying to change to suit the industry, I would never, ever have done it and my body would still be working as it should be.”

You can see the full Ein Byd programme on S4C tonight at 9:30pm. The programme has English subtitles.

Who can you contact if you’ve been affected?