LONDON -- The Princess of Wales, who reportedly suffered from a compulsive eating disorder, spoke Tuesday of the 'spiral of secret despair' endured by those with such illnesses.
Without refering to direct personal experience, the princess began a speech at an eating disorder conference in central London by saying: 'I have it on very good authority that the quest for perfection our society demands can leave the individual gasping for breath at every turn.'
The speech marked the princess's first public comments on the issue of eating disorders.
A controversial biography on the princess published last summer by British author Andrew Morton alleged that Diana suffered from bulimia -- an illness in which people gorge themselves on food and then purge their system by enforced vomiting. The book also claimed that difficulties in her marriage to the Prince of Wales led to her making at least three suicide bids.
Diana said Tuesday that diseases such as anorexia and bulimia 'show how an individual can turn the nourishment of the body into a painful attack on themselves and they have at their core a far deeper problem than mere vanity.'
The princess, 31, described the illness as a 'shameful friend' and said it 'inevitably extends into the way we look' and led to people being 'locked into a spiral of secret despair.'
She added: 'I am certain the ultimate solution lies within the individual. But, with the help and patient nurturing given by profesionals, family and friends, people suffering eating disorders can find a better way of coping with their lives.'
The princess said events which molded a youngsters' outlook on the world played a crucial role in whether someone developed eating disorders.
Following talks with youngsters suffering from such disorders, the princess said 'many had felt they were expected to be perfect, but didn't feel they had the right to express their true feelings to those around them.'