Former Victoria’s Secret Angel Erin Heatherton has opened up about her decision to leave the brand in 2013, after a five-year stint at the company.
The supermodel, who featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, said she spiralled into depression after she was told to lose weight ahead of the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show.
“My last two Victoria’s Secret shows, I was told I had to lose weight,” she said in an interview with TIME’s Motto. “I look back like, ‘Really?’”
Heatherton said she initially tried to comply with the brand’s demands, by eating healthy and exercising twice a day.
But while preparing for her last Victoria’s Secret show in 2013, her body “just wouldn’t do it,” she said.
“I was really depressed because I was working so hard and I felt like my body was resisting me,” she explained. “And I got to a point where one night I got home from a workout and I remember staring at my food and thinking maybe I should just not eat.”
Reflecting on leaving the brand, Heatherton said she couldn’t continue maintaining her physique for the sake of young women who perceived her as a role model.
“I realized I couldn’t go out into the world—parading my body and myself in front of all these women who look up to me—and tell them that this is easy and simple and everyone can do this,” she explains.
“I’m willing to sacrifice my pride, in a sense, and my privacy because I know that if I don’t speak about it, I could be withholding information that would really help women,” she goes on to say. “It hurts too much to keep it in, and that’s why I’m not keeping it in now.”
Erin recently took to Instagram to explain her decision and open up about her struggles with body image.
She said: "The breakdown to breakthrough moment in my life has allowed me to become the truest version of myself. In my moment of ‘failure,’ I stood in the face of adversity.
"I was struggling with my body image and the pressures to fulfill the demands of perfectionism upon me. I am not perfect. Through this struggle, however, I found the strength to love myself. I stood in my power."