For Louise Thompson, 2017 has been a transformative year. The original cast member of Made in Chelsea has quit the party scene and created a promising new career in fitness – with a sportswear line, a book on positivity, and a million followers on Instagram. But the greatest improvement has been to her mind. For the first time, she opens up about her battles with anxiety, depression, codependency and her self-destructive drinking streak. ‘It’s an ever-evolving journey,’ she tells Happiful, ‘but I’m a happier, calmer person now’
Two hours into our Christmas photoshoot at a beautiful house in south-west London, Happiful calls for a tea break. Louise Thompson, our cover star, sits in the kitchen having her brown hair extensions straightened when a plate of chocolate biscuits starts doing the rounds.
“Ooh yes please!” she says, snatching one off the plate. “I’m wearing clothes that cover me up today so I can eat whatever I like.” Most of Louise’s photoshoots require her to wear very little – and on one recent shoot, nothing at all. With those kind of shoots, not a single morsel will pass her lips until the final image is in the bag. But today, with Happiful, she’s relaxed and in her element.
Now 27, Louise has been photographed for most of her adult life, from the moment, in fact, she joined the BAFTA-winning reality show Made in Chelsea in 2011. But it’s only over the past year – a year in which Louise transformed her physique into a toned and taut fitness star – that her body has become the main attraction.
Four gym sessions a week, a brow-wiping eight hours of low cardio, high resistance exercises, plus reformer pilates, are responsible for Louise’s new lean muscle mass. “I work out a lot, to the point where I kill myself,” she confesses. “I like to really punish my body.” Blimey.
Still, others gain from Louise’s pain. More than one million Instagram followers devour her daily upload of fitness and fashion posts, plus the occasional video of her exercising, Cirque du Soleil-style, with her personal trainer boyfriend of 18 months, Ryan Libbey.
My mental state was all over the place. I didn’t think of myself as a human being who I should look after, I just bulldozed through life. I was really, really unhappy
Her physical transformation is undeniably spectacular, but the biggest change in Louise can’t be cropped or filtered on social media. The greatest improvement is to her mind. And it’s something she works on every day. It’s also the reason she’s talking with Happiful today.
“Exercise has been more of a mental transformation,” Louise says. “I’ve taught myself how to do that.”
Fame, and the pitfalls of fame, came quickly to Louise. She joined Made in Chelsea one year into her geography degree at Edinburgh University, and quickly became overwhelmed by juggling the sudden and unexpected media attention with the pressures of study, and relationship dramas. Her coping mechanism? Drinking to oblivion.
“My mental state was all over the place,” she admits. “I didn’t think of myself as a human being who I should look after, I just bulldozed through life.” Booze was the demolisher. “I was studying, then getting on a train to film the show, and none of it was making me happy. I’d go out, get so wasted to the point of blacking out, and then be really hungover the whole of the next day.” Three days later, once she felt “normal” again, Louise would hit replay.
“It was a really bad cycle,” she admits. “Every time I was hungover I’d think, ‘I can’t live my life like this’ but then I’d do it again.”
Louise acknowledges her relationship with alcohol was “unhealthy” and that her drinking masked deeper, fundamental problems. “I was really, really unhappy. It must have been a lack of confidence – I would drink in order to not think about things.”
She says her drinking was sparked by her first romantic break-up at 18, after her boyfriend of two years cheated on her. With her self-confidence in tatters, instead of “talking out” her emotions, she turned to alcohol to escape her insecurities.
“I was on a slippery slope and it got worse and worse,” Louise says. “I was all over the place. I would go out and get really drunk and forget about everything. I was never a horrible drunk or aggressive, but I would embarrass myself, so I would have to pick up the pieces for the next few days.”
Emotionally at sea, Louise began experiencing anxiety attacks. She feared leaving the safety of her student room. “When I was hungover and had spent all my money, I’d search under my bed for 60p to buy Super Noodles, which I’d then cook with hot water from my sink because I didn’t want to be in the student kitchen. I’d have really bad anxiety.”
The anxiety grew worse, even when Made in Chelsea was in the works. Louise sometimes avoided friends, and would often decline invitations to spend time together. “I just wanted to be on my own,” she says.
Then, while working a summer job at the Queen’s Club (the private tennis club in London), Louise experienced a terrifying anxiety attack. She collapsed at work.
“I’d driven myself crazy in my head, and had to quit because I was getting migraines that were completely induced by stress. I thought I was really ill, and insisted on getting a brain scan at Charing Cross Hospital. I can’t believe this was me,” she says, shaking her head. The cause of her anxiety, says Louise, was in how she approached relationships. Like everyone else, the origins began in childhood.
To read more, pick up a copy of Happiful in your local Waitrose or order from our online shop. Louise's story features in the December issue of Happiful magazine
Photography | Joseph Sinclair
Set Design | Gill Nicholas
Styling | Krishan Parmar
Hair | Amanda Clarke using Paul Mitchell hair products
Make-Up | Alice Theobald using Cosmetics A La Carte and Sukin Skincare
Location| Richmond, London
Follow Louise on Instagram @louise.thompson