For years as a model, Roz Purcell was obsessed with watching how much she ate. Now as an author of three cookbooks, she has a more positive relationship with food. She chats to Janice Butler about arriving at a really good point in her life 

In a social media world where everything is made to look picture-perfect, Roz Purcell is blazing her own trail with her food blog Natural Born Feeder. The former model from Tipperary has been very honest about her past problems with food and constantly monitoring her weight. More recently, she's turned it all around and has made the decision to show her life as it really is on Instagram – every lump, bump and untouched photo – a breath of fresh air in a digital world of fakery.

She’s recently back from her Christmas holiday in Hawaii with her boyfriend Zach Desmond, where they spent their days hiking and enjoying the local cuisine. She’s straight back into work now with the launch of her third cookbook, No Fuss Vegan.

She doesn’t claim to be a fully-fledged vegan but is, with this book, encouraging us to integrate more vegetables into our meals. Here she chats about being in a positive place and why she’s happy to share her experiences. 

This is your third cookbook and the obvious difference with others is that it’s vegan – why did you decide to go down that route?
When you get onto your third book, there’s only so many ways you can make a recipe. With my food blog and my books, it’s always been very important to me that they shadow how I eat myself and over the past two years, I’ve definitely enjoyed eating more vegetable-based meals at home. I’m not vegan but, with this book, my intention is to champion vegetables. We’ve grown up with meat, chicken and fish dinners, but when it comes to vegetables we tend to boil or steam them and they can be an after-thought on the plate. My idea with this is you can make vegan food, but you don’t have to be vegan the whole time. 

As a Tipperary girl, when you go home are the meals still very traditional or have you managed to sneak in some of your food?
Funnily enough, it was Dad who got me eating vegan food. He’s 70 next year and an ex-beef farmer and he’s the one who wanted to try eating a vegan diet around two years ago. When I go home, it’s veggie curries all the way; such a big change from when we were growing up. They grow their own veggies, Dad has oat milk in his tea – it is surreal going home and seeing the change. So if someone like my Dad can make vegetables the focus of his meal, anyone can. 

You’re very honest on social media about your journey with food and the problems you’ve had in the past. Would you say you’re much kinder to yourself now in terms of what you eat?
First of all, with social media - I’m not a fan of it. I know I’m on it but weekly, I ask myself why. It’s so time-consuming and no matter who you are, you end up comparing yourself to other people online and you come away from it feeling really overwhelmed, and sometimes underwhelmed with yourself. So I always question why I’m there but I guess it’s better to be in the room and saying something positive. I’ve changed my social media into the kind of social media I would have liked in my early 20s and when it comes to food, I’ve been through the wringer with my attitude towards it. But thankfully, I’m in a really good place now – how I see it is I don’t want to be 85 and wish I ate what I wanted rather than ordering the lowest calorie option.  

When did you have that realisation;  that you weren’t going to just show your 'best’ photos on Instagram?
I would see people online and think ‘Oh my God, they’re perfect!’ and then I wondered did people think that of me, because they weren’t seeing the 90 pictures that didn’t make the cut, where one of my eyes was closed and I’d a double chin and I’m not sucking in. So it was important to show that side as well. It’s human nature to want to show the best of yourself, but I’m not looking for validation so I’m happy to show the good and the so-called bad. Social media isn’t real life and it’s important to get that message across. 

You posted recently about businesses that you tried that unfortunately failed – was that hard for you to admit publicly?
On the outside, it always looks like people start these businesses so easily and they’re a huge success. I find that hard because that wasn’t the case for me. When we have failures in life, I know for me, I tend to hide them and be ashamed but it’s such a normal thing. I have failed countless times and never shared it before but as someone who is self-employed, I think it’s important for others to see that. I have three cookbooks in my 20s so it seems I have it all but I’ve been embarrassed about my failures and been fearful to try other things. My post encouraged other people to share their experiences and it was really refreshing. 

You seem in a very happy place, with your relationship with Zach too – does it all help?
Yes definitely, it always helps when you’re with someone who’s really supportive but there are other factors to why I’m in a good place; I went and got professional help and I still see somebody. That definitely helps with how comfortable I am with myself now. 

No Fuss Vegan by Roz Purcell, published by Penguin Ireland.