The Only Way is Iron
Jodie Marsh was once best known for falling out of nightclubs in skimpy outfits. Now, says Alison O'Riordan, the Essex girl has swapped partying for pumping up her muscles
Nights out for party girl Jodie Marsh used to involve hanging out of the window of a pink limo, drinking from a bottle of Champagne in hand, before teetering into an Essex nightclub with her entourage.
Now, the former glamour girl has turned her back on alcohol for good and instead pumps up her biceps in the gym seven nights a week.
Marsh has proven that her party days are long behind her. As I interview her, she is hard at work lifting huge weights in an effort to break the American bodybuilding scene.
Her former lifestyle led her down a dark path, a chapter in her life she would rather forget.
"The partying didn't make me happy; it was very shallow. I knew for years I wasn't enjoying it, but still would get dressed up and went out because I didn't know what else to do," says Marsh.
"Half the time you don't know why you're doing it -- it's just routine. I was like that for years and realised it wasn't making me happy, but I didn't know how to change it. I hated it. It was a very shallow and vacuous existence."
In 2009, Marsh became interested in bodybuilding and started to develop a muscular and sculpted physique, working with a personal trainer.
"I started doing it to get fit and stay in shape. Then, once I started, my body changed quite a lot and people said I should compete. It happened very naturally -- I got hooked and it progressed from me training to me competing," she explains.
"My weight was up and down for years. Now I am a size six and everything I wear is a size six, which is sometimes too big for me, whereas before I was a size 10 or a 12 at times." She now weighs 8st 2lbs.
In October 2011, the pin-up shocked everyone when she hit the headlines after competing in her first bodybuilding competition, the Natural Physique Association Bodybuilding Championships in Sheffield, where she was placed fifth overall and won silverware.
Bodybuilding brings stability to Marsh's lifestyle, and she is relentless in her desire to succeed in her new career.
"My whole life has been a roller coaster and I never knew what I was doing from one day to the next, with zero consistency," says Marsh.
"Then bodybuilding came along, which has a very strict routine, and it means I have to train and eat a certain way. It's all planned out for me, so it brings me that focus."
With virtually no body fat, Marsh has never felt sexier despite the gruelling workouts of intense weight training and bland diets of protein shakes.
"I feel better than I have ever felt, I have more confidence and all the men I meet say I look better than ever before," she says.
"I feel a lot sexier, too, because every part of my body is toned. Now if I strip off to do a shoot, I feel completely confident and comfortable in a bikini, while before I wouldn't -- I'd be trying to hide flabby bits and not liking my butt.
"As I'm now toned all over, it has given me a real boost," she adds.
However, a breast reduction is top of her list of priorities, as her breasts are now too big for bodybuilding and hide the top row of her abs during competition.
"Most women bodybuilding would have their boobs done but not as big as mine, because they train so hard and end up not having any boobs," Marsh explains.
"I would like to have them reduced as I've always thought my boobs were too large since I had them done.
"With the bodybuilding, they get in the way of my abs and how I should look on stage. I have to keep lifting my boobs up to show my abs, which isn't a good look," she adds.
Bullied as a school girl, this year Marsh appeared on Channel 5's 'Bullied: My Secret Past', speaking of the effect it had on her over the course of six years and how it has made her who she is today.
"Bodybuilding is partly to compensate for the bullying. As soon as I got to my physical best, I felt invincible and untouchable," she says.
"It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or says about you because you're standing there with an eight pack that you have worked hard for and no one can take away from you."
Taking it to another level earlier this year, Marsh took on the biggest challenge of her life by entering the American body building scene, competing against the best of the best at the INBF (International Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Natural North America Championships -- and won gold.
This can be seen in her new documentary 'Jodie Marsh: Brawn In The USA'.
Marsh, who regularly features topless in lads' mags and tabloid newspapers, is adamant her native country refuses to take her bodybuilding seriously due to her wild past.
"I wanted to go somewhere where they didn't know who I was and just compete as a normal bodybuilder competitor, not as a famous person," she says.
Enlisting the help of two of the UK's best trainers, who between them have won a hefty number of world bodybuilding titles, the 33-year-old hit the gym hard for several months and maintained an extreme diet.
The experience in America required Marsh to stay single-minded in her pursuit of a physique of the desired size, muscle density, symmetry and leanness.
'The first time around, when I competed in England, I had friends and family around me and they helped me when it got tough. They were there for me and I could talk to them.
"Whereas in the States," she continues, "I was alone, so it was tougher mentally and physically."
With a string of failed relationships behind her, Marsh adhered to a self-imposed man ban to help push her to her physical and emotional peak while in America.
"I knew I didn't have time for men and I wasn't really interested," she says.
"I am so focused. I have no interest in men and all I think about aside from work is training, diet and competition."
The result was Marsh stepping out on stage with a newly defined figure which earned her first place in the Fit Body category.
"It was amazing and the best day of my life. I didn't think I was going to win; I still can't believe it now and keep looking at the trophy to see it says 'first'," says Marsh, who is currently taking a break and eating what she likes.
However, she will compete again at the end of the year. The former Page Three girl's aim is to become a household name in bodybuilding.
"I'm going to carry on competing for as long as I can around England and I'll return to America as well, as I love them not knowing who I am and being treated like a normal person," she says.
"There is a lot more to come with me from bodybuilding and a lot more I want to do. I'm addicted to it. I'm never going to not want to do it."
"Once you have been at your physical best, it's hard not to be," she continues.
"At the moment, I'm relaxed and can eat what I want. It's called off-season, where you eat what you want -- but even then I don't really enjoy it. I want to get back to my best again."
Marsh has even released her own range of protein supplements for intense bodybuilding sessions -- JST Jodie, with the tagline 'Eat Clean and Train Dirty'.
One product, however, has caused controversy as it contains a performance-boosting substance that has been banned for pro-athletes.
"There is one product in my range that has a banned substance in it, but it is only banned if you are a professional competing athlete, so it's not banned to the general public as it doesn't affect you at all," says Marsh.
"I don't take that product myself because my competitions are natural and drug tested, but if I didn't do natural competitions I would take the product as it's amazing."
It was recently reported that Marsh's interest in bodybuilding prevented her from returning to the suicidal state of mind she found herself in, in 2006, after plunging into a state of depression.
Bodybuilding, she says, has become her saviour.
"I had a period some years ago where I was so depressed and didn't have any direction in life," she says.
"I did think many times about ending it all because I was having such a rough time from the press and public. They were always nasty to me. I was massively and miserably unhappy.
"Bodybuilding has changed all that; it has given me a goal that I can achieve and it makes me happy, so no matter how bad everything else gets, I know I still have bodybuilding."
And finally, she adds, bodybuilding is starting to change the public's opinion of her.
"Unintentionally," says Marsh, "I have made people respect me and like me as I have shown I have commitment, dedication and determination."