Here’s How 12 Celebs Learned to Overcome Their Struggles With Eating Disorders
Fame is a fickle, fickle thing. For all its perks, of which there are quite a few (Oscars swag bags, anyone?), there’s also some pretty glaring negatives, such as a lack of privacy, unwarranted criticism, and sometimes even hate from those you don’t even know — just ask Harry Styles’ rumored GF and food blogger Tess Ward (the 27-year-old is currently battling backlash from trolls one week into making headlines over their possible romance).
1. Kesha: In Kesha’s personal essay for Teen Vogue, the singer says that it was indeed public scrutiny that led to her problems with food. “Seeing paparazzi photos of myself and the accompanying catty commentary fueled my eating disorder,” she wrote. “The sick irony was that when I was at some of the lowest points in my life, I kept hearing how much better I looked. I knew I was destroying my body with my eating disorder, but the message I was getting was that I was doing great.” She eventually sought treatment, spending two months in rehab to get back in a healthy frame of mind. “I feel stronger now,” she said upon release. She also took some time to get back to basics, unplugging from social media and spending time in nature, two things she cites as extremely therapeutic. “Remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” she writes in her essay. “And that no one can take the magic you make.”
2. Demi Lovato: Demi Lovato has been through the ringer in her 24 years, copping to problems with mental health (Lovato has been diagnosed as bipolar), alcohol, drugs, and yes, eating too. After seeking treatment and living in a sober house for at least a year, Lovato is now embracing the things that once caused her to purge, such as, say, her lack of a thigh gap. She recently celebrated five years of sobriety, saying, “It feels amazing. All I’ve been doing is focusing on bettering myself, but it’s well worth it.” (Photo via Rich Fury/Getty)
3. Lily Collins: Though Lily Collins conquered her eating disorder 10 years ago, she says revisiting the topic through her art years later further cemented her healing. The 28-year-old not only dedicated an entire chapter in her new book, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me ($10) to the problems with eating she suffered from as a teen, but she made the decision to take on the role of a young woman at odds with anorexia in her latest film, To the Bone. “It was like the universe putting these things in my sphere to face, kind of dead on, a fear that I used to have.” (Photo via Neilson Barnard/Getty)
4. Mary-Kate Olsen: These days, the Olsen twins are mostly known for their fashion empire, but in 2004, then-teen Mary-Kate was making headlines for an entirely different reason: her eating disorder. The child star’s family reportedly staged an intervention just before her 18th birthday, contributing to her ultimate decision to seek medical treatment in rehab. Now 30, the businesswoman appears to have a much different relationship with food, regularly cooking frequent meals for herself, her husband, and her two step-kids. (Photo via James Devaney/Getty)
5. Nicole Richie: Richie has famously struggled with her weight for years, even being categorized by medical professionals as being “in the realm of anorexia” at one point. The Great News actress admitted her issues to People mag back in 2006. “I know I’m too thin right now and I wouldn’t want any young girl looking at me and saying, ‘That’s what I want to look like,” she said at the time. In an effort to be the change she wanted to see, Richie told the publication that she not only forced herself to eat in times of stress (which she says decreased her appetite), but she began seeing both a doctor and a nutritionist to get herself on a healthier track food-wise, as well as a psychiatrist to deal with any residual contributing mental factors, like the divorce of her adoptive parents and her hard-partying adolescence. (Photo via Bryan Bedder/Getty)
6. Zayn Malik: Eating disorders don’t only affect women. Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik recently opened up about using his diet as a means of control in times of chaos in his book, Zayn ($16). “Something I’ve never talked about in public before, but which I have come to terms with since leaving the band, is that I was suffering from an eating disorder,” he wrote. Sometimes going two to three days without eating, the singer explained himself in an interview to UK’s The Times, saying, “It was the one area where I could say, ‘no,’ I’m not eating that.” Luckily, Malik says he was able to overcome his unhealthy eating habits (or lack thereof) by learning to let go. “Once I got over the control, the eating just came back into place, super naturally.” Mum’s home cooking sure didn’t hurt, either. “I came back to the UK and spent some time with my mum and got some TLC, and she cooked me food, and I got back in touch, mentally, with a lot of the things I’d lost.” (Photo via Pascal le Segretain/Getty)
7. Paula Abdul: Paula Abdul says her issues with eating began early on due to insecurities from those around her in dance class. “I learned at a very young age I didn’t fit in physically,” she said. “I learned through years of auditions. I would ask myself, ‘Why can’t I be tall and skinny like the other dancers?” The self-destructive thoughts continued well into early adulthood, as she strived to be perfect in the limelight. “I thought, ‘God, I’m not perfect… I’m going to disappoint people.'” More than 17 years after her battle began, she finally checked herself into a mental health clinic in 1994, saying, “I wanted to get help. I wanted to be free from weighing myself on the scales.” (Photo via Rick Diamond/Getty)
8. Lady Gaga: Gaga has come clean about many things over the years, sharing everything from her sexual assault to the PTSD she developed as a result. She’s also been open about the issues with food she faced growing up, speaking to fans about her past experiences with anorexia and bulimia back in 2012. “I used to throw up all the time in high school,” she admitted. Ultimately, she says it was her love of singing that forced her to stop. “It made my voice bad,” she said. “I had to stop. The acid on your vocal chords… it’s very bad.” She’s also in a much better head space than she was back then these days, embracing her body even in the wake of criticism she faced over her weight following the Super Bowl. “I heard my body is the topic of conversation, so I wanted to say, I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too,” she said in an Instagram post following the controversy. (Photo via Frazer Harrison/Getty)
9. Naya Rivera:David Spade’s GF got real about developing anorexia in high school while trying to deal with her parents marital issues in her memoir, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up ($14) — really real. “One day I was so hungry I was shaking, and I decided to eat an apple,” she recalls. “Instead, I just sat there and held it up to my mouth. I couldn’t bring myself to take a bite. It was like the two sides of my brain were competing, one telling me to ‘Eat it, it’s just an apple,” and the other telling me, ‘No, no, no — that’ll ruin everything.” Fortunately, she realized she was harming herself, saying, “By the time I was a sophomore, I started feeling that what I had begun as a game had maybe gone too far.” (Photo via Tommaso Boddi/Getty)
10. Ashlee Simpson: For singer and actress Ashlee Simpson, who struggled with her body image as an 11-year-old would-be ballerina, it was the support of her family that ultimately got her through her darker times. “I was around a lot of girls with eating disorders, and I actually had a minor one myself,” she shared with People in 2005. “My parents stepped in and made me eat” after six months of “not eating too much at all.” Now, Simpson is happy and healthy, with a changed view of her body. “I think I have good curves, they’re womanly,” she said in the same interview. “I hate it when girls lose their curves.” (Photo via Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty)
11. Kelly Clarkson: Even prior to being thrust into the spotlight following her win on American Idol back in 2002, Clarkson says she had a hard time not comparing herself to others. In high school, she was devastated to lose a part in a musical to what she called a skinnier singer. “I thought if I came back and I was cuter and thinner — then I’d get the role,” she shared with Access Hollywood in 2007. A concerned friend made her realize that bulimia wasn’t the answer. “One of my guy friends caught onto it, and I just felt so ashamed and embarrassed. I literally went cold turkey and snapped out it.” It was an experience that helped her cope later down the road, as she told the outlet, “I’m definitely thicker than most people in the industry, but not in real life… I think it’s good for people to see normal. I love food far too much!” (Photo via Cindy Ord/Getty)
12. Brittany Snow: The Pitch Perfect 3 star had a nine-year-long battle with anorexia and exercise bulimia that she says began as early as age 12 with a fad diet. “A misperception about anorexia is that you don’t eat,” she told People back in 2007. “Not true. Maybe you eat just 500 calories a day.” Her illness progressed to cutting and excessive workouts before she finally reached her limit at age 19, seeking hospital treatment. “I wasn’t the person I wanted to be and I knew something was wrong,” she said. “Gaining weight was scary. But I felt better. What helped was connecting with other people. I wanted to be there for them. It was the most amazing feeling to get out of my head and listen to somebody else.” She also had supportive co-stars such as Sophia Bush and Arielle Kebbel while filming films such as John Tucker Must Die, who kept an eye on her, encouraging her to eat and making sure she didn’t overdo it on the workouts. While she says the disorder will always be a part of her life, Snow says that she continued to see a therapist and now “eats like a normal person” without counting calories. “Some days, I think I’d like to be a size 0, but realistically, I think, ‘Come on, Brit. You’re great.” (Photo via Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty)
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association for help.
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