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Interview: Emily Symons - The Real Real Me: I cut out the gym to lose 10cms off each thigh; Emily Symons reveals all to NINA MYSKOW.

IT'S quite a shock meeting Emily Symons, who plays the dizzy, ditsy, delightful Marilyn in the Australian soap Home And Away. She's not just tiny - she also looks so much younger, softer and smaller than the pregnant wife of school headmaster Donald Fisher.

Emily joined the soap in 1989 and left for three years in 1992. During that time she married and divorced musician Nick Lipscombe, returning to Summer Bay three years ago.

Emily lives in Sydney, but is currently appearing in Goldilocks And The Three Bears at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. A classic pocket Venus, she is fragile, fun and stunningly pretty.

DO YOU realise that for the 10 years of my life on TV, people have been telling me I look fat? Psychologically, it's not really healthy.

Every single person that meets me says to me: "You look fat on television."

Like, every day, 20 people a day say that to me. They do. Every single person. And as people go: "Gee ...", I go: "I know. I look fat on TV." I've started to say it for them.

I've got a very square face, so that can come across as being bigger. And I'm 5ft 11/2 ins - the half is very important. Although it doesn't bother me being short - most of us on Home And Away are quite diddy - I tend to put on weight very easily on my legs and my bum. I go outwards.

A lot of my weight problems are related to emotional things, or personal things that happen in my life. They are completely psychologically linked.

My weight has been yo-yoing since I turned 20, I'm 29 now. I was very underweight, very, very ill and not looking after myself at all. I'm a very highly-strung person at the best of times, but I suffered from a kind of incredibly high anxiety, where I just couldn't eat. I was depressed and unhappy, and when I would eat, invariably I was sick.

I don't want to call it bulimia, it was more nerves. I could never do that - make myself sick. I hate being sick. I just felt sick all the time, because I was undernourished and not looking after myself.

T HAT little problem sorted itself out, and people said: "You're too thin, you're too thin," - so I just started eating like a horse. Again.

When I came over to England for panto the first time, I just kind of ate everything in sight. I put on a fair amount of weight the year I turned 22, so I went on my first big fitness kick. I went to the gym five nights a week. I lost a lot of weight, but my thighs bulked up.

It was always kind of seesaw, and I didn't know anything about nutrition. I tried everything - food combining, all protein ... I bought any diet book I could get my hands on, I'm an absolute consumer's dream.

And I would read this book and then that would be it and I'd be focused, focused, focused.

I mean, I've done everything. Ooh, I've done the Thighmaster. Anything on TV, right, I'm on the phone, ringing up. I've had personal trainers, spent a fortune on gym membership. I've got exercise equipment gathering dust in every home I've lived in.

It just got so ridiculous, and all these stupid books. I just didn't know what to eat, I confused myself.

In the end, in May 1997, I went to my doctor. Working on TV, OK, if you go too far one way or the other, the producer - whoosh, up to the office: "Right, what's happening?" Not a nasty thing, just a quiet little chat.

Because you've got a whole wardrobe there. They've spent a lot of money on your character's clothes, and they don't fit.

I was getting a bit large and feeling very down. I went to my doctor and asked for appetite suppressants. He said: "Emily, I'm not giving you any. If you want to lose weight, lose weight the proper way. I'm going to send you to see a nutritionist."

I thought: "Oh, great! Now I'll have to go somewhere else." But I went off to see the nutritionist, and completely changed my life.

It's not a diet. You're not allowed to say the word diet. Diet is gone. It's just a completely new eating plan for your whole life. You're not allowed to tell anybody. And you're not allowed to have scales at home. I threw mine away - yippee! I used to be obsessed.

I had to go to see him every Tuesday for a weigh and my little pep talk. The first day I jumped on the scales, I went: "Oh God! Can I take my jeans off? They're very heavy. Because these scales say I'm 58.5 kilos. I'm not that, I'm 50."

I was nearly nine kilos more than I thought I was. But you kid yourself, don't you? And he just said: "Right, you go to the gym? How often?" I said: "Four or five times a week."

He said: "STOP going to the gym. I don't want you to go to the gym any more." I was, like: "Ooooh, I love you!"

I was doing so much weight training, my thighs were like a Eastern European weightlifter's. I was leg-pressing 110lbs, which is all very wonderful and clever, but my thighs were whoomp!

Basically, he put me on a low-fat diet and completely changed the way I was eating. I had smaller portions as well. And he made me walk for half an hour every day. I said: "Is that it?" And he said: "Just go for a walk. Don't walk uphill, don't walk upstairs, just walk flat."

I made sacrifices. And I had to stop drinking for three months. But once I started the walking, the weight just fell off me. It did take about five months. But at the end I was losing a kilo a week. And I lost 10cms off each thigh! And I've kept it off.

A ND the energy boost I got! I went from being lethargic, because I'm a bit lazy, to being completely addicted to walking.

Now I go to Bondi every morning when I'm at home, along the promenade, back up the sand with the sun coming up. Beautiful. Beautiful. It's a great way to start the day.

I felt fantastic. And I especially love him, because when I got to my target weight, 48 kilos, he said to me: "I want you to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe!"

I went out and bought all these little tiny pants, and everything that I've never been able to wear before. And I was like ditt-da-daa! It's given me so much more confidence. I was constantly looking for clothes that would hide my bottom. And all of a sudden I was looking for clothes that would show off my bottom. Oh dear. That makes me sound like a w****r, doesn't it?

I'm very used to men having conversations with my chest, even though they've gone down a lot since I've lost weight. But men really have got to learn to look at your eyes when they talk to you.

I was teased mercilessly at school. They used to call me Big Bubbles No Troubles. And it is hard buying clothes, even now. I take a size 8 pants and a size 12 to 14, D cup, on top. It's impossible to buy suits that fit. I can't stand it when buttons are all straining, it just looks yukky.

It's been better the second time around in Home And Away. I have the maturity, the life experience, and I appreciate it more. There's nothing like a couple of years of unemployment to make you work hard.

I came over here to get married six years ago. It lasted 18 months, not happy. I completely chunked out, really badly. I couldn't get any work and stayed at home and watched Richard And Judy and ate all day. I eventually had to go home to my mother, and I had to try to get my life back together.

I'd made some bad career decisions, followed my heart. I'm an incredibly romantic, passionate person. Looking back, I should probably not have left while my career was going so well.

I was destroyed, I had nothing. I had no money, no self-esteem, I was fat. I hated being in Sydney, everybody hated me because I'd left my husband, I didn't want to be in the business any more.

When I got the call to come back, six months later, I was rebuilding my life very slowly, working in a shop in Perth. A hat shop. Selling hats with flair! I had to work, I didn't want to go on the dole.

The other day, Stephen Beckett of The Bill said to me: "Didn't you feel like a real loser, going back?" Ha, ha! I just said: "I'd gone past that. I was completely destitute, I didn't care!" I've had a really good time for the last three years. I have great fun playing Marilyn. She's a wonderful character. Pregnant at the moment, of course. Look like a whale, don't I?

I've got two more years on my contract, and I'm looking forward to going back and getting my teeth into some great storylines. It's all for fun and we do have great fun.

Right now I'm happy with my career and my health. I'm still petrified of getting fat. But I've reached a weight that I'm happy with, that doesn't involve starving myself half to death.

Isn't it wonderful to find that out? I would have gone all through my thirties and I'd have just got huge. My doctor really did change my life. I feel very, very happy with myself right now. For the first time ever in my life.

Ever. Ever. Isn't that great?




DIET Coke - I'm addicted to it. I don't drink during the week, maybe a glass of red wine. Alcohol's very fattening. I used to drink an enormous amount socially - Jack Daniel's and Wild Turkey bourbon till 4am. A bit of a rock-and-roll chick, I never knew when to stop.


MY HAIR. It goes frizzy - it's just revolting. Thank God my passport is expiring this year. Officials snigger. I look like a Muppet. I wear a wig for Marilyn. That's hardly flattering, either.


ITALIAN food. I adore anything with creamy, cheesy fillings, although I never eat them any more. And wonderfully disgusting gorgonzola cheese in hot polenta, all folded in.


I LOVE clothes. You can't beat a little black dress - the complete opposite of the bright clothes Marilyn wears. I have great fun choosing the maddest ear-rings for her.


I'M a shoe freak. I'm disgusting. I have over 60 pairs, nearly all black. I love high heels, strappy sandals, evening shoes. Looking down at them makes me happy. I have a weekly pedicure.


CHEESECAKE. I love it, but I never let myself eat it. I'm in heaven, and I just want to rub it all over my body. Then I found out there was Haagen- Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream, and you could eat it in the movies here. Oh, my God!
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Myskow, Nina
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 5, 1999
Previous Article:Last Night's View.
Next Article:TV dinner for lovers.

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