health

"There's something no one is saying about Tziporah Malkah's eating disorder."

On Wednesday night’s episode of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, 43-year-old Tziporah Malkah spoke to her camp mates about her lifelong struggle with an eating disorder.

“I won’t eat for two or three days and then I will eat a whole pizza,” she said.

“I have had an eating disorder since I was eight-years-old… I don’t have a healthy relationship with food… I have never eaten healthy within the 35 years. It has been a lifelong condition,” the former model reflected.

After her parents separated, Malkah said she began “overeating”, which eventually turned into a habit she found “difficult to kick”.

Monique Bowley, Mia Freedman and Jessie Stephens discussed Tziporah Malkah on Mamamia Out Loud this week. Post continues below. 

“Then I started to not eat and then I got bulimia and all that kind of stuff.

“By the time I started modelling at 13 I had already had a chronic eating disorder for five years,” she told co-stars Lisa Curry, Tegan Martin and Natalie Bassingthwaighte.

“I felt like Shrek. I have always had a strange relationship with my body. My eyes lie when I look in the mirror. I felt that all the girls were little and blonde and here is big tall Tziporah. I didn’t fit in at all.”

tziporah malkah james packer
Tziporah Malkah with former boyfriend James Packer. Image via Instagram.

Before entering the jungle, Malkah spoke to New Idea about her "weight struggles", and said she was hoping to lose at least 20kgs while on the program.

"I'm way too heavy and it's time to trim down," she told the magazine.

“This is doctor’s orders - he says I’m morbidly obese. My blood pressure is way too high and I’m likely to die prematurely unless I lose weight."

Many have sat in front of their televisions, watching Malkah alongside Miss Universe contestant Tegan Martin and entertainer Natalie Bassingthwaighte, and read her body as 'unhealthy'. As a woman who desperately needs to change her lifestyle.

But the overwhelming irony is that neither of these images are the picture of health.

Malkah in 2000 next to Malkah in 2016. Images via Getty/Instagram.

Yet the way we interpret them could not be more starkly different.

When we 'imagine' an eating disorder, anorexia and bulimia are the two conditions that first come to mind.

They're simple, we think. You don't eat, and when you do, you throw it up.

We see a frail white woman, no more than skin and bone. Her collar bones are protruding, and she speaks with a whisper.

She's well off, she's likely vain. She just so desperately wants to be thin, so she eats only watermelon and Diet Coke and works it all off on the treadmill. She is a spectacle of pity and sympathy - of Western culture brought to it's logical conclusion.

For some, this may very well be what an eating disorder looks like.

But what do most eating disorders look like?

Tziporah Malkah.

We need to rethink how he imagine eating disorders. Image via Channel 10.

Of course, we're reluctant to have sympathy for her.

We interpret her as gluttonous. Greedy. Showy, perhaps. We shake our heads as she walks around without a bra on, and a low cut singlet, as though her body isn't something to ashamed of.

She lacks control and motivation. She is certainly Western culture brought to it's logical conclusion, but that makes us mad rather than sad.

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Women on I'm a Celebrity notoriously wear very little clothing. It's hot. They don't have much to choose from. But as of yet, it's only Malkah's body that's inspired outrage from the public and her camp mates alike.

Ash Pollard said to Tegan Martin last night, “She’s not confident... it’s just something she gives off.”

“She walks around with no clothes on,” Tegan replied.

“Don’t really want to see that,” said Ash.

Why do I feel like Malkah 16 years ago, significantly smaller in size but with the same issues when it came to disordered eating, wouldn't attract the same criticism?

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“Don’t really want to see that,” said Ash Pollard. Image via Channel 10.

Research tells us that obesity and eating disorders are symptoms of exactly the same problem. They are not at opposite ends of the same spectrum.

One in five people who are currently obese, Malkah being a prime example, also present with disordered eating; from strict dieting and purging to binge eating.

Although anorexia might be our first reference point when it comes to eating disorders, it is in fact the most rare. 47% of people with eating disorders suffer from binge eating disorder, 12% from bulimia, 38% from EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), and only 3% from anorexia.

And a 35 year struggle is not completely unusual. Research shows that less than 50% of patients fully recover from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

Simply, Malkah is not the exception to the rule. She is the rule.

And although it may not seem like it, she is the unlikely face of eating disorders. And one we so desperately need to see.

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected]. You can also visit their website, here.  

Check out all our podcasts and any books mentioned in any of our shows at apple.co/mamamia.