WHEN Julia Bradbury shared a picture of herself online enjoying the summer she could never have predicted the trolling she would receive from skinny-shamers.
The super-fit host of walking shows thought she might get a few messages from her Instagram followers or the odd quip from friends jealous that she was enjoying the outdoors.
Instead Julia, 50, was slated for showing off her super-trim frame in a bikini, with some cruel carpers even suggesting she’d had cancer treatment.
The mum-of-three revealed: “One of the comments said, ‘She looks like she’s come out of a chemotherapy session’. That was the thing that surprised me — the vitriol.
“They asked, ‘Have you had chemotherapy?’ Absolutely not. I do not have cancer.
“Initially it just makes you feel very sad. Then online, very quickly, that skinny shaming became just nastiness which rolls into lots of very personal comments which have nothing to do with the original post.
“But positive body image for women over 50 is so important, so I will carry on doing what I’m doing. I’m not going to stop for the haters.”
The photo, which she posted this month, showed Julia sunning herself in shades with the caption: “It’s all about the #staycation”.
She also shared a second bikini pic featuring her sitting outside with her laptop screen shielded from the sun with cardboard, captioned: “Welcome to my office in a box.”
The former presenter of Watchdog and Countryfile said: “When I posted the first image I was sunbathing in my garden enjoying the outdoors. And obviously you’re aware you’re in a bikini and cautious.
“But it wasn’t even a risque pose. It was a head and shoulder shot.
“I haven’t even got big boobs, so it certainly wasn’t one of those kind of photos.”
“When I started getting the nasty messages I didn’t respond, because what I’d rather do is post more information about my diet and my exercise regime.”
Julia posted another image, this time showing her midriff, in response to followers worried about her appearance.
‘SUCH A HORRIBLE, CRUEL, MINDLESS STATE TO BE IN’
She added a message which said: “For those of you genuinely concerned: I’m 5ft 9 inches tall (1.75mtrs) & weigh 9 stone 6 lbs. According to the NHS BMI indicator my BMI measurement is 19.5.
“The healthy weight range for my height is between 8st 13lb and 12st 1lb. So I’m a healthy weight.
“For those of you just trolling: How do you rate?”
It was important for Julia to take on cruel online commenters who she believes are contributing to people developing eating disorders.
She said: “Skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming. You’d never walk into a room and say to someone, ‘Oh, you’re fat’ and I’d hope you’d never think it’s OK to say, ‘Oh, you’re skinny’.
“Both are very negative comments that could make people want to alter how they look. And kids are really struggling with their body image.
“Half of 15-year-old girls felt they were too fat and a quarter of boys thought the same. Only about six per cent thought they were about right.
“It’s like bullying at school. It’s such a horrible, cruel, mindless state to be in and it does so much damage.
“My concern is for people who have eating disorders, body image problems and are struggling with their weight.
“It’s a very serious topic and I want to be as positive about it as possible. And my message is about being healthy.” Like many women her age, Julia’s experience of body shaming is rooted in prejudice.
She said: “It’s an ageist and sexist thing — when do you see comments like that about an older man on the beach if they’re thin? Someone like Pierce Brosnan, they say ‘Look how great he looks’ and then they pick on his wife because she’s overweight.
“Another comment I read following the picture being posted was, ‘You have to make a decision when you’re an older woman between your face and your body.’
‘YOU HAVE TO FIND YOUR NICHE’
“So what does that mean? You stop exercising and have a plumper face so that makes you look better?”
But Julia, who currently hosts countryside walks show For The Love Of Britain on ITV, admits she is thrilled to be part of a growing band of women in their fifties who are still prominent on our screens.
She started her TV career 24 years ago on Channel 5, then Children’s ITV before fronting BBC1 consumer series Watchdog from 2005 to 2009 and Countryfile from 2009 to 2014.
Over the past seven years she has mainly dedicated herself to making walking and travel shows on ITV — where she works alongside channel stablemates Amanda Holden, 50, and Davina McCall, 53.
Julia said: “As you get older as a woman you have to find your niche and trailblaze, and I am proud to be woman over 50 still doing that on television.
“Amanda is ageless and beautifully glamorous and Davina is a brilliant role model.
“We started out 25 years ago. It’s lovely that we’ve all grown up on telly and we’re still there.
“It wasn’t always that way. We are the women who are helping the change to happen, because we’ve worked hard to maintain our profile.”
Julia was particularly admiring of Davina’s recent Channel 4 doc on the trials of going through the menopause. She is now experiencing the change herself, but she will not take drastic measures to make herself feel better about her appearance.
Julia said: “I’m quite scared about having nips and tucks and I’ve no desire to inject botulism into my face. I’m all for working it the natural way, but I don’t judge anyone else.
“I’ve got a big nose and if I was sensitive about it maybe I would have had a nose job, but I don’t want to go under the knife I’ve had plenty of being prodded and poked by doctors.”
Julia, who is married to property developer Gerard Cunningham, had IVF before giving birth to twin daughters Xanthe and Zena in 2015. The couple’s first child, son Zephyrus, was born ten years ago after Julia had the human tissue disorder endometriosis.
Staying fit for her family is now her priority rather than looking good or feeling sexy. She said: “It’s more about inner wellness.
“Sexy is a more uncomfortable word the older you get. When you’re younger, you’re a bit more brazen and its part of your everyday vocabulary.
“Now it’s more about confidence and feeling assured rather than feeling sexy. I would never compare myself to a beautiful 25-year-old.
“For me it is about staying fit and healthy for my kids, for me and for my sanity. You don’t want to feel like you’re all done by the time you’re 55.
“One of the lovely things about the job is we do photoshoots and I have some lovely photos taken with make-up artists and lighting. I’m just glad I can look at them and think, ‘You’re kinda looking all right for an older bird’.”
And the “old bird” is off to the Orkney Islands for her next ITV show which coincides with the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.
She said: “It’s one of the greenest places on the planet. I’m going to do a bit of kayaking and hiking there to show how a new green world really looks.”