Apprentice star Camilla Ainsworth reveals how lockdown binge eating battle left her gorging on crisp & ketchup sarnies

WITH a large empty crisp packet discarded beside her, Camilla Ainsworth continued to make her way through three bowls of Coco Pops, a pile of toast and a full packet of chocolate fingers.

It was a standard late-night binge for the Apprentice runner-up at the start of lockdown, as she battled with a then-undiagnosed binge eating disorder.

The 24-year-old businesswoman has always had a large appetite, but it’s spiralled in recent years to the point she’d be tucking into crisp and ketchup sandwiches, as well as eating Nutella from the jar on The Apprentice.

Now Camilla’s opened up to Sun Online on how she finally discovered she was suffering with the disorder, after her unhealthy eating habits grew out of control at the start of lockdown.

According to the NHS, a binge eating disorder “involves regularly eating large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and then often upset or guilty”.

For Camilla, it got to the point that she felt she needed to shower straight after one to “wash away” the guilt.

Now she’s using her profile to help raise awareness of the issue, which many people may not know they have until it becomes dangerous to their health…

‘I was like a bottomless pit – it was funny at the time’

Camilla says her binge eating first really began in Sixth Form, as she and her peers were suddenly given freedom over what they could eat at lunch.

“There were these amazing Sixth Form cookies and it became a bit of a running joke, how many cookies could I eat?" she says.

“I was like a bottomless pit. It was funny at the time. They were big cookies and I’d have six or seven, when other girls were having two max.

“I never used to put on weight because I was so active at school and was in all of the sports teams.”

However she says what began as a running joke started to become a dangerous habit.

"It even got to the point where I didn’t need there to be an audience. I’d think, ‘oh I haven’t eaten a load of cookies in a long time’. It became secret eating without me realising,” she adds.

Camilla’s family also expressed shock at how much she could eat at the time. But little did any of them know it was becoming a long-running issue for her.

‘I quickly put on a stone and a half and I can’t shift it’

It was only after Camilla took part in The Apprentice in 2018, when she was just 22 herself, that she began to notice she was putting weight on.

“When I was on the show my eating was really extreme,” she admits. “It became a funny thing again… I’d be sat with a spoon in Nutella after a task.”

She says her guilty pleasures during filming were “random combinations” like brioche with crisps and sour cream and chive dip, or whole packets of chocolate fingers – all without ever feeling full.

And while many people’s extreme eating habits are linked to difficulties in their personal lives, Camilla says it’s not been until recently that she’s realised hers may have had a link to stress.

Where to get help

You can get advice from the eating disorder charity Beat.

Visit their website or call their helpline on 0808 801 0677 between 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

“I don’t get mega stressed about anything, but I do comfort eat. Even if I don’t feel that stressed, I’ll just find myself eating,” she explains.

“I don’t even realise I’m doing it sometimes… I’m pretty strong and resilient, but now I can take a step back and think, ‘okay, maybe these are the triggers, maybe I am a bit stressed’.”

While the 5ft6in stunner was always around 8.5 stone beforehand, she quickly went up to 10st4lb and hasn’t dropped much since.

‘I used to have a binge and then shower after’

Camilla says her binges can become much more extreme when she’s feeling hungover.

“I never usually get McDonald’s unless I’m hungover,” she says. “In my head, I class that as a cheat day so convince myself it’s fine. It’s not really, it’s a binge and I’ve disguised it as a cheat day.

“Normally you go, you get a burger, you get chips, maybe a milkshake – that’s a cheat day.

“Whereas I would literally go and have a large cheese burger meal, six chicken nuggets, mozzarella dippers, a McChicken sandwich, a milkshake and then a doughnut or something.

“I’d eat it all and then feel absolutely horrific. Not cute at all!

“I used to have a binge and then shower after, which is random, but it used to make me feel like I’d washed away what I’d just done.”

While many people may go the other way and cut their food right back in the days after, Camilla says she’d often convince herself that she’d already ruined her work that week, so would continue eating junk food until the following week when she could “start again”.

“I’d be exercising really hard but I just couldn’t shift any weight because I was having this huge excess of calories levelling it out,” she adds.

‘Once I get going I’m not thinking’

However, Camilla says the binging got much worse at the start of lockdown.

The star, who now runs her own non-dairy milk company, M+LK PLUS, moved in with her parents temporarily in Blackburn at the start.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!!! Got to love the golden oldies that parents dig out 😂I intend to spend the day as I did here on my 13th birthday… that is.. shovelling heaps of cake in my mouth, wearing a tiara & rocking a pink velour tracksuit💅🏽💗☁️👅💁🏼

A post shared byCamilla Ainsworth🖤 (@camillaainsworth) on

She had a knock back with her business at first when a launch she’d spent months planning had to be put back, bringing a few weeks of heightened stress.

It’s this, she believes, that may have made her eating worse.

“I’d be having crisp and ketchup sandwiches, which just sounds awful I know! Once I get going I’m not thinking,” she says.

What is a binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and then often upset or guilty.

Binges are often planned in advance and the person may buy "special" binge foods.

Men and women of any age can get binge eating disorder, but it typically starts in the late teens or early 20s.The main symptom of binge eating disorder is eating very large amounts of food in a short time, often in an out-of-control way. But symptoms may also include:

  • eating very fast during a binge
  • eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • eating when you're not hungry
  • eating alone or secretly
  • feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating

People who regularly eat in this way may have binge eating disorder.

The following warning signs could indicate that someone you care about has an eating disorder:

  • eating a lot of food, very fast
  • trying to hide how much they are eating
  • storing up supplies of food
  • putting on weight – though this doesn't happen to everyone with binge eating disorder

Source: NHS

“I’d get some pop chips from the shop and have a whole tub of sour cream and chive dip. I’d be thinking in my head, ‘oh pop chips are healthy it’s fine’.

“I’d often also have three bowls of Coco Pops, then I’d have four slices of buttery toast, then a packet of chocolate fingers… and this is all after breakfast, lunch and tea.

"I’d tend to do it in a window of about an hour, always in the evening.”

She says she’d usually eat downstairs, away from her parents and on her own to avoid them picking apart what she was eating.

She adds: “You get into bed after so you know you’re not going to feel rubbish for that long, because you’re going to be sleeping after it."

It was these binges that finally made Camilla realise something wasn’t right, and she eventually did an online binge eating disorder test online.

The test ran through a series of questions on what she ate, and how she’d feel afterwards, and she scored just two points below “severe”.

“I was shocked. I knew I could eat, and had a problem with excessive eating, but I was really quite surprised it was that bad,” she says.

“Knowing that it’s something that other people have too was helpful.

“I’ve shared a bit on social media since and I’ve had so many responses from people thanking me for sharing. That’s all you can really hope for.

“I do think that people from the outside that follow me on social media will think I’ve got my s*** together, but it just shows that we don’t always.”

‘Realising you’ve got a problem is the first step’

Camilla now works to combat the disorder by planning all of her meals a few days in advance, while ensuring she doesn’t have any junk food lying around.

“I’ve never had an issue with under eating, that’s for sure. I’d never go to that extreme,” she says.

“I just eat healthier and make more mindful choices… realising you’ve got a problem is the first step.”

Camilla says she has a thick skin, so is able to ignore any nasty comments she gets online, but worries others who haven’t had that experience of trolls may suffer more.

“Luckily I don’t have problems with my body, if I did it would be really bad,” she admits. “About a month ago one person commented on Twitter after I posted a photo from a shoot for my active wear range.

“She said, ‘the range looks great but be careful Camilla, you’re starting to look like a Russian shot putter, not a good look’.

“Luckily I can laugh it off, but imagine how bad it is for people that don’t have that body confidence.”

She says she has The Apprentice to thank for her thick skin, but admits lewd comments from trolls can prove too much even for her.

“I can deal with someone calling me a cow or a b***h, but it was weird pervy men,” she says of past comments she’s had. “I have around 500 people on my blocked list now.”

Camilla, who still exchanges the odd email with Lord Alan Sugar and chats to the other 2018 contestants on Whatsapp, says she’ll forever be thankful for the platform the show gave her – and now hopes to use it to help others going through what she has.

Camilla now has a new chocolate orange oat flavour milk coming out on Sunday, September 20, available on her website and on Amazon.

You can get advice from the eating disorder charity Beat. Visit their website or call their helpline on 0808 801 0677 between 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

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