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Aimee Lou Wood says she ‘hated my body’ while struggling with body dysmorphia: ‘I didn’t want to be in it’

Sex Education star Aimee Lou Wood has spoken candidly about her struggles with body dysmorphia and eating disorders this International Women’s Day.

The actor, who won her first Bafta award in 2021 for her portrayal of Aimee Gibbs, said there was a time when she “hated my body and didn’t want to be in it”.

At this year’s Harper’s Bazaar International Women’s Day event on Thursday (9 March), Wood spoke candidly about her relationship with her body, saying: “My past with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, I felt like a floating head.

“I hated my body and didn’t want to be in it – that’s not the case any more, thank God.

“But then, going to drama school, it can get even worse. I have scoliosis [curvature of the spine], so neutral for me is not neutral for everyone else.

“You go to drama school and everyone’s being straightened out. It’s not easy being told you’re moving wrong – it’s basically a tirade on your body.”

Wood, who spoke at the Connaught in London along with author Naomi Alderman and MP Tulip Siddiq, also admitted it was a relief not to feel like a “mannequin” while working on her recent film Living.

Speaking about her experience of working with British costume designer Sandy Powell on the set of the movie, which also stars Bill Nighy, Wood said: “I’ve had many awful experiences with costume designers because people forget that you’re a person with feelings and not a mannequin.

“One told me to eat radishes to fit back into a pair of jeans... Sandy is one of the best costume designers there is. She saw me in real life and worked it around me.

“She was asking me what I thought Margaret (Wood’s character in Living) would wear. She wasn’t trying to make me fit into how she saw her.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Aimee Lou Wood and Bill Nighy attend the Newport Beach Film Festival UK Honours 2023 (Getty Images)
Kazuo Ishiguro, Aimee Lou Wood and Bill Nighy attend the Newport Beach Film Festival UK Honours 2023 (Getty Images)

“How can you possibly be the wrong shape and size if you are the character?”

Following the success of Sex Education, which also stars Bafta Rising Star winner Emma Mackey and forthcoming Doctor Who Time Lord Ncuti Gatwa, Wood admitted she found the show’s popularity “very overwhelming”.

“It’s unreal how quickly my life changed,” she said. “We had no idea that it was going to be as massive as it was. For all of us, it was quite a shock.

“You’re walking down the street and all of a sudden your face is known. Amazing things have come from it, but it had a real effect on my mental health – I became a recluse, because most actors are not famous. Only now am I really starting to enjoy it.”

She added: “People don’t see that you’re a person who might be going through their own stuff – they look at you as a novelty.”

Additional reporting by PA

For anyone struggling with the issues raised in this piece, eating disorder charity Beat’s helpline is available 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677. NCFED offers information, resources and counselling for those suffering from eating disorders, as well as their support networks. Visit eating-disorders.org.uk or call 0845 838 2040.