Kay Mellor, the producer behind the BBC3 drama Overshadowed, has warned that the country faces an “anorexia epidemic”.
Mellor, a veteran writer whose production company Rollem Productions has made the eight-part BBC3 drama charting one young woman’s struggles with the illness, said that she believes the problems with eating disorders in the UK are only going to get worse.
“I think it’s an epidemic going to happen, I really do,” Mellor (pictured below) told RadoTimes.com.
She said that her study of the problems for Overshadowed has convinced her of the dangers.
“I think it will be due to the backlash to obesity to be honest with you.
“I think we are on the brink of an epidemic of anorexia. I am seeing more and more young girls on diets or watching what they eat. That’s how it starts. You have to be so careful managing body image and diet, you really do.
“My worry is they get it from the media and from airbrushing. Automatically photoshoots are airbrushed. Models are automatically airbrushed. Once upon a time that was laughable; now it’s the norm.
“We’re striving to get to this ‘perfect size’ that doesn’t exist.”
New TV series Overshadowed, which is launched this Sunday 1st October as a box set on BBC3, centres on a young Irish vlogger called Imogene (Michelle Fox) whose life spirals out of control when she meets ‘the monster of anorexia personified’, presented in the drama as her friend Anna.
Co-writer Eva O’Connor plays Anna, who is only seen by Imogene. O’Connor herself struggled with anorexia and Overshadowed is based on her stage play of the same name.
Mellor said, “When I first spoke to Eva she told me it was an insidious disease; it creeps up on you. It was creepy, it really touched a nerve when I saw the stage play.
“I had long chats with Eva. I had the research at first hand. I thought it was really important what Overshadowed had to say and what, ultimately, was the message that it was was giving.
“Eva’s message – our message – is, ‘Don’t mess about with your body and your food intake. As a mother, be careful what you say to your kids. Because that’s in it too. If you have got a problem, seek help and this can be fought. Eva is living proof of that.
“If you get help soon enough you can fight this. There are experts out there who understand anorexia.”
Mellor describes Overshadowed as a “companion piece” to her classic ITV series Fat Friends, which examined life in a Leeds dieting club and aired between 2000 and 2005. It starred Alison Steadman, James Corden, Ruth Jones and Mellor’s own daughter Gaynor Faye, and explored the pitfalls and absurdity of the dieting industry.
“Fat Friends was body image in a different way,” she added. “It is a companion piece. The message I am trying to send out is love who you are; don’t be obsessed with what people say to you about what you should look like. There is more misery around being fat than anything else. It’s like cancer; it’s an insidious disease.”
Mellor admitted the climax to Overshadowed is “frightening”, but added, “We want to say this is something which can be deeply unpleasant, you think you’re starting off with control and getting fit. You don’t know where it will end. You don’t know what monster you’re creating. But ultimately something can be done and Eva is herself living proof of that.”
When she was writing Fat Friends, Mellor said she visited a diet club for research purposes. While she was perfectly happy with her weight and appearance, she was told she was two-and-a-half-stone overweight.
“I was in my early 40s and I was told I had to be 9 stone 1. The last time I weighted that I was 15! I didn’t want to be 9 stone 1. I would have looked shocking. I would have looked like I was going to peg out.”
Overshadowed is available on BBC3 in box set format from Sunday 1st October
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years writing for Stage newspaper, Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.