SHAUGHNA Phillips beamed as she proudly showed off her svelte pins in skates this week while stripping off for The Real Full Monty On Ice.
The former Love Islander had faced years of cruel bullying over the size of her legs, which left her feeling self-conscious and insecure.
But after her stint in the famous villa in January, Shaughna, 26, discovered she was suffering from lipoedema — an abnormal accumulation of fat in the legs — and has since got her confidence back thanks to an operation, which saw two litres of fat drained from her calves.
Shaughna says: “My legs had been my biggest body hang up since I can remember.
“It has been the one thing I have always said I would want to change about myself.”
Shaughna, who worked for Lambeth council in London before finding fame on the ITV2 dating show, continues: “I’d be going to the gym six times a week, and even though I got down to 9st 6lb and a size six on the top half, my legs would stay at a size 14.
“I was killing myself doing these workouts.
“When I went on Love Island, I spent lots of time crying to the therapist.
“I was surrounded by these lovely looking girls, and I felt like the show’s box-ticking fat girl.
“I would get constant bruising on my legs, and they would be so painful but I had no idea what it was.
“When I came off the show I had all these messages asking if I had been diagnosed with lipoedema — I had no idea what it meant but it was a breakthrough for me.
“It’s scary to think that had I not found out about my condition, and intervened when I did, I would’ve just been getting progressively worse, and in pain as well.”
The brave reality star, who now boasts 1.5million followers on social media, was left with blood running down her legs during Full Monty rehearsals, which took place just five days after her liposuction procedure in September.
She recalls: “There was blood pouring down my laces.
“I was in so much pain. But there was no way I wasn’t going to do it.
“Plus I’m an Aries — it’s not in our blood to quit.”
As for the trolls who have mocked her “cankles”, Shaughna refuses to let them get to her.
“Yes, I have had liposuction on my lower legs. It’s something that I have been suffering with physically and mentally my whole life and it has now been sorted.
“So I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say I have had that done.
“It was to help with a condition I have, and hopefully it will help others too.
“Right now, all I want to do is relax over Christmas, and have fun enjoying the moment.”
Medical expert and the founder of Chemist 4 U Shamir Patel said lipoedema is a condition that affects up to 11 per cent of women.
He said: “It’s often mistaken for obesity, as it is a build up of fat cells in the hips, buttocks and legs, often creating leg bulges and tissue that bruises easily.”
Shaughna, who appeared on the first ever winter series of Love Island, filmed in South Africa in January, was in primary school when she first realised her legs were abnormally large compared to the rest of her body.
She says: “I have always bruised terribly on my legs and they would make it look like I had seriously hurt myself when I was younger.
“In Year Six, I remember being so upset getting ready for the school disco because I couldn’t fit these boots that everyone else had around my calves.
“And I got comments when I was 13 in secondary school, as my legs were compared to girls who are smaller than mine.
“Ever since then, I have always looked at girls’ legs thinking that mine are triple the size.
“It’s crazy how things can stick in your head. But it makes sense now as lipoedema is progressive, and diet nor exercise affects it.”
It wasn’t until her stint on Love Island that Shaughna’s anxiety worsened.
The former council worker says: “I was the most insecure I had ever been in my life on the show.
“I suffered really badly with water retention from the flight, my feet swelled in the heat, the altitude caused more swelling, and I had lipoedema that I didn’t know about.
“I couldn’t even fit my shoes on. It was a nightmare. All you can think about is what you look like.
“I was so embarrassed people would think I was plodding along with my legs.”
Treatment options are limited for the condition, but liposuction can be a permanent option that will remove the fatty deposits.
And despite doctors advising that recovery can take up to six months, she has already dropped from a trouser size 14 to a size ten.
Shaughna says: “I have had liposuction on my calves, and it has been such a relief for me.
“I recently tried on a pair of size 12 jeans, and they’re too big for me, and baggy around the ankle.
“It’s something that I have been suffering with physically and mentally my whole life and it has now been sorted.”
Shaughna took part in ITV’s The Real Full Monty On Ice with a host of other celebrities, including Diversity and Britain’s Got Talent star Ashley Banjo, Loose Women panellist Coleen Nolan, Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas and reality TV star Jake Quickenden, in a bid to urge viewers to check for early signs of cancer.
But beneath Shaughna’s confident smile was a mixture of sadness and pride, as she remembered her father Eddie who passed away four years ago.
The black cab driver was aged just 50 when he died following an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving behind Shaughna, her brother Callum, 19, a student, and lawyer mum Tracy, 53.
Since then, Christmas has been a difficult time for them all.
Shaughna says: “My dad passed away just before Christmas, which was devastating for our whole family. It changed all our lives forever.
“I remember thinking on Christmas Day I could have all the gifts in the world and a billion pounds but it wouldn’t make me feel any better or fill the void he left. It just lost its magic for me.”
Not long after Eddie’s death, Shaughna was faced with another trauma after finding a lump in her left breast.
She says: “Two weeks before I had my boobs lifted in June 2017, due to suffering with back pain, I felt a lump.
“It was only six months after my dad had died so I remember thinking, ‘How on earth am I going to tell my mum who has just buried her husband?’
“You instantly think the worst. I was terrified but I was more scared for my mum than I was for myself.
“We went to the doctors the next day, and when they said it was a blocked milk duct, my mum burst into tears.”
This year, for the first time since losing her dad, Shaughna is trying to embrace the festive period in her new London home.
She says: “Dad’s death really brought home that money can’t make you happy or solve your problems, and you have to appreciate everything you have in life.
“I have realised Christmas is a time of appreciation, and I am definitely thankful for where I am today.
“There are so many people out there in a worse position than me. I am really lucky.”
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