The Vamps’ James McVey sheds light on his battle with body dysmorphia in the hope it will help others affected by the mental health disorder.
During a candid chat in the Attitude December issue, out now to download and to order globally, James opens up about his struggle to physically accept himself, dating back to when he was a teenager.
“Being 15/16, I gravitated towards thinking I had to look a certain way. I starved myself for quite a long time, which sounds a bit like a hyperbole headline, but I really did. I didn’t eat bread for a year, I didn’t have any condiments for a year… it got to a point where I was carrying around powders of protein and stuff,” he recalls.
James McVey opens up about his battle with body dysmorphia the Attitude December issue, out now (Photography: Markus Bidaux)
“I’d done that, and I realised I still wasn’t happy with my body. I’d wake up, look at myself in the mirror and just not be happy. If you wake up first thing in the morning and critique yourself, I think that’s quite a dark place to be.”
At the age of 20, James decided to go under the knife and have liposuction surgery on his chest.
“I had breast tissue which you can’t lose through exercise or lifting weights, so I did that thinking it would [have] all the answers. I guess for a long time it felt like it did – but it really didn’t,” he says.
“It’s only been recently that I realised I was in a bizarre place and I think it would be unfair for me now to say, ‘Oh, I went through a [tough] period and I sorted it out and I was fine.' The reality is, it’s massively affected me.”
The guitarist – who appeared on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! in 2018 – reveals he was nervous about speaking out, wary of being dismissed as simply "vain".
“The immediate thing you think is vanity. You think they are obsessed with themselves, but in many ways it was an opposite thing for me. I kind of revelled in destroying my body, which sounds really weird. I enjoyed putting myself through the pain, to have that control,” he explains.
“I think having conversations like this is really important because, like with other elements of mental [health], or the other struggles communities feel, when you talk about these things, you help break down those constructs around a subject.”
James, now 27, thanks his bandmates, Brad Simpson, Tristan Evans and Connor Ball, for their support.
The Vamps for the Attitude December issue, out now (Photography: Markus Bidaux)
“That’s one thing we do well in The Vamps, we really try our best to communicate how we feel, now more than ever… I am grateful for these boys.”
The Vamps’ number-one album Cherry Blossom is out now.
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this story contact Beat, the eating disorder charity on 0808 801 0677
Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays.