Mel C says comments about her weight led to restrictive eating habits: 'It made me question whether I looked the way I needed to look'

Sporty Spice Melanie Chisholm says a comment about her body caused her to obsess over her body. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Sporty Spice Melanie Chisholm says a comment about her body caused her to obsess over her body. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

Melanie Chisholm opened up about her battle with depression and disordered eating on a recent episode of the podcast Mayim Bialik's Breakdown.

"It was something I think that began very early on," Mel C, also known by her Spice Girls nickname Sporty Spice said, explaining that a one-off remark about her body sent her into a tailspin of body image-related issues. "There was a comment made on the way that I looked. And this band meant everything to me. It was you know, my entire childhood dream was all on this band. You know, we were together. Things were happening. Things were moving."

She continued, "It was a really throwaway comment probably made as a little joke. This person probably doesn't even remember saying it. But it hit me so hard because it made me question whether I looked the way I needed to look to achieve the things I wanted to achieve."

This self-doubt quickly manifested in the one thing Chisholm felt she had control over: her diet.

"So that was like, 'OK, I can control this.' You know? And that's when I started to restrict my eating for the first time," she admitted.

As her uncertainty surrounding her place in the Spice Girls grew, so did her disordered eating habits, recounting a tipsy blunder that sent her further down a rabbit hole of self-resentment.

"It's the year before we've released anything, so not really many people there knew who we were. I have a few drinks. And I have a little fallout with Victoria Posh Spice and the next day, I'm in all kinds of trouble. And it's threatened that I'll have to leave the band if I behave like that again. So another little trigger goes, where it's like, 'I can't believe I jeopardized everything with my behavior. I have to control my behavior.' So just all of these little elements of control started to appear. So I'm trying to control the way I look by the way I eat and exercising more," she said.

As the group's success began to rise, so did the surmounting pressures of superstardom.

"It started off being quite mild, but it just escalated. And I think it escalated because obviously the pressure became more and more, you know? The stakes got higher and higher. And, you know, it continued throughout the band, to the point where I had no control. And I had to seek help," she said.

The ebb and flow of what body types are "in" or "accepted" also played a role in the way Chisholm viewed herself.

"The aesthetic was completely different, wasn't it in the 90s? And yeah, there was no diversity at all in that way, you know? It was in what I call the "spice mania" days. So like '96 to '98-'99. It was something I hadn't even admitted to myself. It was something I had to do. I had no choice," she said of her disordered behaviors around eating and exercising.

Even though the pressures to look a certain way persisted, there were times she realized her behaviors were unhealthy.

"A tiny little voice occasionally will creep up and go, 'You can't keep doing this. This isn't sustainable.' And a bigger voice will go, 'Well you've got no choice. You have to do this.' So I was in denial for a long, long time," she said.

"And I feel sad for my younger self. But it wasn't really until we toured in '98 we had a little bit of time apart I started to embark on my solo career. And that's when I just couldn't do it anymore. And that's when things started to change," she said, noting that her binge eating began soon after.

"The compulsive overeating began. And that was me losing control. And that was the scariest moment for me," she said.

Eventually, she did seek help, citing that she felt so out of control she began to think she was "losing my mind."

"There were many things that took me to the GP. I think fear was the biggest thing because I was frightened of where it was going to lead [and] where it was going to go. It was vanity, because I couldn't control my eating anymore. And I was gaining more and more weight. And also, I thought I was losing my mind, you know, I didn't know what was going on inside my head," she said.

This made receiving a diagnosis a major point of relief.

"To hear those words from a medical professional telling me I had depression was a huge relief. And it made me realize, 'Wow, it's got a name, it can be treated. And potentially I can get better," she said.

The relief she felt after realizing there was an explanation for her behaviors gave her the courage to be open about her experience in her book, in hopes it may help someone going through something similar.

"It was so important for me to be as descriptive about all the things I went through as I possibly could to normalize it. ... Because I think anybody with any of these issues, you think you're the only one. You're the only one who is behaving in that way. And you know what, as humans, we are so unique and so wonderful and so different. But there is so much about us where we are so the same, you know? We need the same things. We go through so many of the same emotions. And, you know, and I am not ashamed.

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