Aurora James Responds to Claims That She's on Ozempic amid Her Eating Disorder Battle (Exclusive)
“We need to understand that it's probably not alright to comment on the bodies of others,” the fashion designer, who struggles with anorexia and bulimia, tells PEOPLE
Aurora James is urging people not to make assumptions about someone else's weight.
The Brooklyn-based fashion designer, 39, opened up to PEOPLE about her longtime struggle with eating disorders — which she touches on in her new memoir Wildflower — and why it's a hindrance when people accuse her of using popular weight loss drugs.
As she actively works on being healthy, she expresses frustration with those who assume she's hopped on the Hollywood bandwagon of using Ozempic — an FDA-approved prescription medication typically used to help lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes — for weight loss.
Ozempic is one of the brand names for semaglutide and tirzepatide — also known as Wegovy and Mounjaro — which works in the brain to impact satiety.
"My weight has always really fluctuated, largely with stress and sometimes with eating disorders. It's an ongoing thing," James tells PEOPLE. "But I think right now, society has this particular fascination with weight loss because of Ozempic, and I think that we have to be really careful about how we talk about people and their decisions that they're making with their body and what we're accusing people of and what we're assuming that people are doing."
"First and foremost, we need to understand that it's probably not all right or in our best interest to comment on the bodies of others because that's their vessel to live their life out of, and it's not to be taken lightly," she continues. "We need to just make sure that people are doing everything that they can to be healthy, and that if we're going to put energy towards another person in regards to their body, it needs to be an energy that's coming from a space of love and care and support."
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James has long struggled with her weight after developing anorexia and bulimia as a child, which continues to impact her everyday life. Understanding that her own health has been a continuous journey, the designer says she doesn't judge those who use Ozempic as long as they're being careful.
"Listen, that's a specific medication that some people need, so I don't want to shame that at all," she explains. "I think in the same way that people make decisions to alter their body every day with different elective procedures or hair dye or cultural traditions, I'm a firm believer in bodily autonomy as long as it's not hurting anyone else. So that's really up to others, but I think with everything else, you just need to be careful."
James — the founder of sustainable accessories line Brother Vellies — also disagreed with stars who've claimed that Ozempic will cause people to develop eating disorders.
"There's so many different things that can lead to eating disorders," she stresses. "I think the number one thing that leads to eating disorders is how we feel about ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves is not entirely up to us. It's up to the external voices and how those are speaking to us, be it media, be it imagery, be it a partner, a family member, all of those things."
For James, there are numerous factors that she associates with her developing eating disorders.
She recalls having a difficult bond with her mother and grandmother, who both had complicated relationships with food that she believes got "passed down" to her. James also grew up in a time when mainstream media was "telling her" that she didn't fit the ideal beauty standards.
"My grandmother was someone who counted every calorie, and my mom was someone whose weight naturally fluctuated because my stepfather used to restrict food from her," she says, recalling the domestic abuse she survived as a child.
"Also, as much as fashion magazines would transport me to another world — beautiful Kim Walker editorials with pastel-colored Persian cats and beautiful Chanel couture gowns — the girls in all of those ads were size zero," she explains. "So I think it was complicated because I didn't feel like I fit into that body type and that perhaps because I didn't, I wouldn't be seen as attractive or accepted."
Related: Doctor Who Prescribed Ozempic to 'RHONJ' 's Dolores Catania Says 'Nobody Can Assume' Why a Person May Need It
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All of those factors were moments where James says she lacked opportunities "to exert any kind of control." But she achieved that form of control through her eating habits, admitting that her anorexia and bulimia were "a control mechanism" that continued through adulthood.
"I definitely knew that it was wildly unhealthy, but to me, it just was what it was. I think most people who struggle from an eating disorder, that's also partly depression. So I think I was depressed and just managing it the best that I could," she says. "I think that a lot of young girls, when they don't feel accepted or seen or enough or valuable, you kind of want to fade away, to disappear. And I think I definitely fit under that category."
Today, James says she's doing better, admitting that she'd be lying if she said her eating disorders aren't a daily struggle.
"I don't know that eating disorders are a thing that you get over and then never struggle with again," she stresses. "It's almost like having issues with alcohol or anything like that. This is a thing that you grapple with for the rest of your life. Sometimes it's going to be easy, sometimes it's going to be hard, and sometimes it's going to be somewhere in the middle."
"I just think it is an ongoing battle," James continues, noting that she has to be "extra diligent" with loving herself more. "I need to be eating based on fueling my body because I want to be on this planet for a really long time. And I think in order to do that, I'm going to have to make sure that I give my body what it needs in order to be healthy and happy."
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.
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