Friday 22 March 2019

'My eating disorder was my best mate, I relied on it' - comedian Joanne McNally on overcoming anorexia

Joanne McNally. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Joanne McNally. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Sean O'Grady

JOANNE McNally has opened up about her struggle with anorexia nervosa and admitted she felt she went "mad " as she struggled with the disorder.

The comedian (34) told how she eventually could no longer work because the eating disorder began to take over her life and affected her relationships with her friends and family.

"I think there's humour in madness and I was mad. I was sick for about eight years and I was slowly getting worse and worse. 

"I could hide it in the beginning and then it got to the point where I couldn't hide it," she said.

The former Republic Of Telly star's friends tried to help her but at the time, she didn't believe they meant well.

"People were trying to intervene and were overly concerned. I felt they were jealous of my new body or sabotage my process. 

Joanne McNally
Joanne McNally

"I couldn't even work because my day was just binge, purge, binge, purge. One time my mom didn't want me in the house anymore because I wouldn't go to counselling. 

"I was sleeping in my office and I was still trying to tell myself, 'I am in control'," she told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

Joanne said that while she was struggling with anorexia, she equated being thin with being successful in life.

"Being thin means I'm successful, it means I'm in control of things. Of course, I was completely gone.

"All my ribs were showing but because of my hips, I felt I had saddle bags. 'You have to keep working because you have to reduce'. All of this, just mad thinking," she said.

The Dubliner believes she hit "bottom" around the age of 30, when she moved back in with her parents.

"I remember one day I was sitting on my bed, because I had to move back to my mum's house, I was 30. I hit bottom at 30. My friends were married with kids and this was my complete focus. 

"In my mind, if I'm not the thinnest person in the room, I don't know who I am. Losing that, was really hard. 

"My eating disorder was my best mate. I relied on it all the time. It took years, it really did," she said.

Joanne has since become one of Ireland's busiest comics. 

Following her stint on Republic of Telly, she has performed stand-up around the country and in the UK and presented a documentary, 'Baby Hater', for TV3.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact Bodywhys – the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland Helpline on 1890 200 444 or contact their email support service on

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