29 Stars Who Battled Eating Disorders — and Came Out Stronger
The "Too Little Too Late" singer revealed in an interview with Uproxx that she was put on a 500-calorie diet as a teenager.
“I was like, ‘Let me see how skinny I can get, because maybe then they’ll put out an album. Maybe I’m just so disgusting that no one wants to see me in a video and they can’t even look at me,' ” JoJo recalled thinking after being told to lose weight by her previous label, Blackground. “That’s really what I thought.”
The “Too Little, Too Late” singer was finally released from her contract with Blackground Records in 2014.
The Good Place actress developed anorexia and body dysmorphia at age 14 after a class project required her to be weighed in front of her entire class.
Jamil told PEOPLE of her disorder, "I was really unhappy and I think it contributed to my ability to have an eating disorder for so long, because there was no one kind of monitoring me and I had no one to turn to with my sadness and bad feelings, so I just had a really rough time as a teenager."
The actress reflected on her disorder in December 2019, when she posted a photo of herself at the height of her disorder.
“Eating disorders/dysmorphia are so wild,” she said. “I missed my teens/20s.”
Jamil added that she was able to recover from her disorders with EDMR therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, where people think back to a traumatic event and then use their eyes to track a therapist’s hand movements, which helps patients reprocess their trauma.
“The therapy I used to help me was called EMDR, it works faster so it was much cheaper,” she said. “CBT [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy] didn’t work for me personally. So if it doesn’t work for you, try EMDR. It’s free in some countries.”
Now, the actress is outspoken about diet culture and the celebrities who endorse it, and even created I WEIGH, a community that encourages inclusivity and body positivity.
Swift said in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana that she struggled with an eating disorder throughout her very successful career.
"My relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life: If I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad," Swift said. This mentality, paired with public scrutiny, lead her to restrict food.
Swift didn't realize at the time that she was not meant to feel fatigued after performing: "I thought that I was supposed to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it. Now I realize, no, if you eat food, have energy, get stronger, you can do all these shows."
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star told PEOPLE about her struggle with anorexia in November 2018.
“I couldn’t stop,” she told PEOPLE. “I would do hardcore cardio no matter what, even if I was sick with the flu. I weighed every single thing that I would eat — down to a piece of gum — because I had to know I had the right amount of calories. I learned really creative ways to satisfy hunger without eating. I got very, very, thin and I became so scared of putting and weight back on. I got myself caught up in it all, in these habits that were incredibly unhealthy. And they stuck with me for the next 10 years.”
She detailed her decision to get treatment after stepping on a scale and thinking, "I'm going to die if I don't stop."
“I’m really proud of coming out of the other side because it was so hard,” she says. “It’s really not a way to live. It’s horrible. It was absolutely horrible. And I’m hoping that I can help people out there like me, who usually just suffer in silence. Because I wish I knew that one day, I’d get through it. That was always a fear of mine that I would never stop doing this.”
The former child star opened up to PEOPLE in 2019 about the dark side of her fame — which included anxiety and eating disorders.
At one point, Stoner says she got so thin that casting directors wouldn’t even let her read lines when she went on auditions.
“They would just tell me that I need help and [need] to go home and take care of my health because my eyes were sunken in and I was tired and lifeless,” she says. “The scary part is I wasn’t even the smallest person on set.”
In 2011, Stoner was hospitalized and admitted herself to rehab for further treatment of her eating disorders. At the time, she was 17 years old and a few months away from her 18th birthday.
“I chose to keep the process private in order to put legitimate healing first,” she said. “Before treatment, the dietician estimated my caloric intake to be less than 700 calories with an average of two to eight hours of intense exercise a day. I have entire journals breaking down the grams of polyunsaturated fat and added sugar in every bite I ate.”
She added: “I still have my hospital gown, binder and letters from other patients tucked in a drawer as a reminder of one of the best choices I’ve made for my health.”
“I was low-key abusing myself,” said The Real co-anchor on the debut episode of her web series on Kin Network, Hello Hunnay. “The idea of being skinny became something that was most appealing to me. Even if you watch The Real, from season 1 to season 4, I was always 100 lbs. I started to really work hard to stay petite and to not gain weight and to stay sample size.”
It took seeing an unflattering photo of herself to make a change. “I didn’t realize that until I saw a picture of myself where my knees were really pointy and my shoulders were pointy,” Mai said. “I looked weak.”
A friend helped Mai establish a healthy nutrition plan, which included grains, whole foods and healthy fats. The TV personality also started hitting the gym.
“Now I’ve totally got a new perspective on body,” she said. “I love how it feels to go into the gym, crank all my favorite music and literally sweat out all of the things that stress me out.”
The Riverdale star talked to SHAPE about struggling with bulimia when she was in high school, college and starting out in Hollywood. "I was so scared of carbs that I wouldn't let myself eat bread or rice ever. I'd go a week without eating them, then I would binge on them, and that would make me want to purge," Mendes says. "If I ate a sweet, I would be like, 'Oh my God, I'm not going to eat for five hours now.' I was always punishing myself. I was even anxious about healthy food: Did I eat too much of the avocado? Did I have too many fats for one day? I was consumed with the details of what I was eating, and I always felt as if I was doing something wrong."
Mendes worked with a therapist and a nutritionist to address her disordered eating, and is now open about her experiences with her social media following. "I realized that I have this platform, and young women and men who look up to me, and there is a tremendous power to do something positive with it," she said. "It was definitely a very vulnerable thing to put that out there to almost 12 million people on social media. But that's who I am."
The 24-year-old daughter of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger opened up about her past struggles with anorexia on Instagram Story when she shared an old photo of herself along with the caption, "Anorexia throwback." Ireland also posted a photo of her younger self posing in a bikini, writing, "Nope."
"I battled with many eating disorders and body issues as a younger girl and it took me a long time to find self love and acceptance! Trust me, all of that pain and destruction I inflicted on myself wasn’t worth it. Turning down so. Many. Sides. Of. Fries. Wasn’t worth it!!" the model wrote.
The mother of four shared an unretouched bikini photo of herself and newborn son Romeo on Instagram along with a message of celebrating all body types and empowering women to embrace their true selves — while revealing her own struggles. "I opened up about growing up with an eating disorder. I turned to yoga, health and wellness to heal my body and my mind," Baldwin said, referencing to her 2016 book The Living Clearly Method.
"I think back to my old self and how much I would have struggled with gaining weight during pregnancy and being patient with healthfully losing it. I'm so happy I can be a strong and happy mommy now, completely accepting of my body," she added.
Watching both her mother and stepmother diet when she was a child, Cummings insists that from age 14 to 18, she ate a diet consisting of primarily rice cakes, apples and nonfat yogurt. "I became irrationally terrified of fat," she writes in her memoir, I'm Fine ... And Other Lies.
Despite becoming “alarmingly thin … I looked like the shadow of Jared Leto” and her hair falling out, Cummings could not shake her obsession with being skinny and admits her own perception of her body was very skewed. "It was as if I were looking in a funhouse mirror that makes your hips comically large," she writes. "I literally could not see myself how others did."
The comedian finally turned a corner with the support of her friends and realized how much happier and healthier she could be with proper nutrition. "And even crazier… my hairbrush no longer looked like Chewbacca."
The Duck Dynasty star and working model got personal about a secret eating disorder she battled for nearly a year in a candid post on her blog, speaking out for the first time about the private pain she experienced.
“I struggled with an eating problem connected to a negative body image,” Robertson said, adding that she kept the disorder from everyone in her life including her mother. “It was dark. It was ugly. It was insanely difficult. It was done in secret. It was hidden. … My self-worth was demolished, and I began to lose sight of my true identity.” Now, Robertson said she’s 15 pounds heavier than she was after competing on Dancing with the Stars in 2014. “I am feeling good,” she said. “If it means being ‘less beautiful’ in the world’s eyes, that’s okay with me. As long as I still get to seek out real beauty – the kind that is found in God’s word, and is painted out in the world before me.”
“Do these old thoughts come back from time to time? Absolutely, but it is my job to take authority over them,” she continued.
The Pretty Little Liars star has long been open about her battle with anorexia as a teenager, first in an interview with Seventeen in 2013, and then in a PSA in November 2016. “With anorexia, a lot of it is presenting a front of ‘everything is okay’ as you’re slowly killing yourself,” she says in the voting PSA for ATTN. “Gone were the days when I was just a happy, carefree kid who was running around, and suddenly I felt this inability to interact with people and to nourish myself.”
Bellisario decided to face those dark days head on by writing and starring in her upcoming film, Feed, which tackles the issue of eating disorders. “It was not easy; it was like engaging with an addiction,” Bellisario told Interview Magazine of working on the film based on her personal experiences. “One of the things I really wanted the film to explore was that once you have this relationship, once you have this mental illness or this disease, it never really goes away. It was amazing for me to realize, ‘Oh god, this is still all just lying under the surface. I’ve just gotten really good at either ignoring it or choosing to not engage with it,’ ” she revealed. “But it’s amazing that you can have this huge, life-threatening thing be a part of you and still live inside of you, and almost tame it in a weird way.”
In addition to revealing that she underwent weight-loss surgery, the Empire star opens up about her bouts with depression and bulimia in This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare. "Often, when I was too sad to stop crying, I drank a glass of water and ate a slice of bread, and then I threw it up," Sidibe wrote in her memoir, explaining that her bulimia was a way to cope with her depression, not to lose weight. "After I did, I wasn’t as sad anymore; I finally relaxed. So I never ate anything, until I wanted to throw up — and only when I did could I distract myself from whatever thought was swirling around my head."
The actress is doing much better now, she revealed. As for dealing with the eating disorder, "I have to eat every day. I have to eat several times a day, forever,” added Sidibe. "I have a nutritionist that I really like. I haven’t felt like purposely going to throw up. For years, I have not felt that way. But if I ever do, I just have to remember to do the things that make me feel good as opposed to the things that make me feel bad.”
The actress recently shared a very intimate connection with her character in To the Bone — like Ellen in the movie, Collins suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager. While speaking to IMDb Studio about her film, she opened up about her illness for the first time. "This was definitely a more dramatic role for me, I suffered with eating disorders when I was a teenager as well," she said. "I wrote a book last year and I wrote my chapter on my experiences a week before I got Marti's script and it was like the universe putting these things in my sphere to help me face, kind of dead on, a fear that I used to have. And, a way to explain it as someone who's gone through it and to open up a topic that is considered quite taboo with young people nowadays, male, female, and to really start a conversation."
The former boy bander spoke out about his struggle with an eating disorder in his book, Zayn. Malik said the intensity of his jam-packed schedule at the height of One Direction's popularity led him to skip multiple meals in a row, sometimes for multiple days. "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. "It wasn't as though I had any concerns about my weight or anything like that, I'd just go for days — sometimes two or three days straight — without eating anything at all. It got quite serious, although at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was."
Lovato famously battled an eating disorder in the spotlight, entering a treatment facility for anorexia and bulimia at 18 years old. "I'd be lying if I said there weren't days where I just want to stay in bed all day because I'm ashamed of my body," she told PEOPLE shortly after leaving the facility. "It's a struggle I'll probably have to deal with for the rest of my life. But I have so much life to live; I don't want to waste it." During an interview with American Way, the singer candidly discussed growing up with a mother who suffered from an eating disorder and how an early introduction to the beauty pageant scene affected her self-image. "Even though I was 2 or 3 years old, being around somebody who was 80 lbs. and had an active eating disorder … it's hard not to grow up like that," she told the magazine. "I'm nowhere near having children, but already I ask myself questions. My grandma had bulimia, my mom had it, I had it, and hopefully my kids won't have it, but it's kind of like addiction. It's hereditary." As for beginning her pageant career at the age of 7, Lovato says, "My body-image awareness started way before that, but I do attribute a little of my insecurities to being onstage and judged for my beauty."
Zee struggled to find contentment with her body in her adolescence. On the semi-final night of Dancing with the Stars, she opened up about her battle with anorexia, which she says was at its worst from ages 10 to 14. "It's a moment in my life that I've not shared with a lot of people," she told PEOPLE. "It's not something I'm proud of because it's a disease that I chose." She credits her mother and step-father for helping her through. "My stepfather is a saint. He came into our lives and he taught me about nutrition and self love and once I started to learn about taking calories in and working calories off, then I got obsessed with working out," she said. "Everybody goes through those stages. He helped me to get out of that moment in my life."
Zee wasn't the only DWTS contestant to open up about an eating disorder on the show. After experiencing a childhood in the spotlight, PenaVega developed bulimia in response to a movie producer telling her she was too fat. For six years, she struggled to overcome the disease. "You read textbooks and it's just so, well, textbook. 'This is how you get over bulimia.' But it is so much deeper than that," she said. "I wish I'd had somebody who could have told me, 'It's scary.' You struggle giving it up. You want to get rid of it but you struggle because, in a strange way, you enjoy it."
Well before her legal troubles with her label and allegations of sexual assault against Dr. Luke, Kesha was struggling with another issue – her eating disorder. The star completed a rehab program for her disorders in 2014 and opened up to Vogue about her darkest times a year later. "There was a lot of not eating – and I started to think being hungry to the point of feeling almost faint was a positive thing," she said. "The worse it got, the more positive feedback I was getting. Inside I was really unhappy, but outside, people were like, 'Wow, you look great.'"
Kravitz experienced some bumps on the road to success – and a big one came in the form of her battle with anorexia and bulimia, which started as a teenager and followed her into adulthood. It was her star-studded upbringing, she says, that made her have a difficult time loving herself. "I think it was part of being a woman, and being surrounded by [fame]," she told Complex magazine. "I think it was definitely about being around that world, seeing that world. I felt pressured."
Decades after she became the first African-American to appear on the cover of Vogue, iconic supermodel Beverly Johnson opened up about the dangerous diets she employed to stay on top in the modeling world. "I was eating nothing, zero," she said in her book The Face That Changed It All. "I drank black coffee, a sip of broth if things got tough, and in the evening, a glass of champagne as a pick me up. We didn't even drink water. We thought it was fattening." This sort of behavior was encouraged: "The skinner you were, the more fabulous you were."
CANDACE CAMERON BURE
Though she shot to childhood stardom on Full House, Bure says that it wasn't until the show wrapped that she developed an eating disorder. She moved to Montreal – a city where she didn't know many people – for her husband's hockey career, and not working for the first time since she was five years old, Bure felt isolated and lost. "My husband would play away 41 games out of 82 during hockey season," she said. "I sat lonely so many nights not knowing what to do with myself. But there was always one friend that was always there, that was so readily available anytime I wanted, and that for me was food." She fell into a cycle of binging and purging that continued on-and-off for years. "It was never about the weight for me," she told PEOPLE. "It was an emotional issue."
Girls star Mamet opened up to Glamour about her eating disorder, which she said is something she's battled since childhood. The Girls actress was told she was fat for the first time when she was just eight years old. "I'm not fat; I've never been fat," she said. "But ever since then, there has been a monster in my brain that tells me I am." Mamet says that her mother's issues with eating shaped her own view of her body. "I know that my mother's treatment of me stemmed from her own issues with her body," she said. "She struggled, so I struggled."
Along with her chance at Olympic gold came monumental pressure for Johnson – starting at a young age. While training as an adolescent and teen, she severely restricted her diet, eating no carbs or as few as 700 calories a day. "I was always the very strong, powerful, muscley, bulky gymnast and I felt like people always wanted me to be thinner and lighter and leaner," she told PEOPLE. "And as a 12-year-old, the only way I really understood how to achieve that was to eat less and restrict myself. I remember kind of obsessing over it."
The former Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue model says that during her earlier days in the industry, she would do pretty much anything to stay at a size 0 – walking up to 14 miles a day to do so. “It was very difficult to stay the weight that you were supposed to stay," she told the Huffington Post. For me, I'm genetically blessed in certain ways, but in terms of having the weight be a certain size 0, it was very hard. I didn’t eat sometimes for a couple of days.”
PORTIA DE ROSSI
She's been working since her childhood, and De Rossi can date her struggles with eating back to the beginning of her career. "I didn't eat for 10 days before," de Rossi said of her childhood modeling days. "I'm up on this catwalk, and I'm a little kid and posing and trying to be sexy and strutting around and all the other models are making fun of my bushy eyebrows." She then continued to struggle with her eating disorder into adulthood, which she chronicled in her book, Unbearable Lightness.
Like many young stars, Duff admits that back in her teenage years, she definitely slipped into unhealthy territory when it came to eating. "I was too thin," Duff told PEOPLE. "That was not a healthy place for me. I was so unhappy. I remember my hands cramping because I wasn't getting enough nutrients."
At just 13 years old, Willis said a "switch flipped," and she started to hate herself. "I thought, I am a hideous, disgusting-looking person," she told Teen Vogue. "I might be nice and I might be kind, but I'm a really unattractive human being." That mindset continued throughout her teens, until eventually, her older sister Scout stepped in, and she started treatment. In January 2015, Willis said she was on the road to recovery. "I can say that I'm getting to that place where I'm starting to feel OK with myself, bit by bit."
It's not all song and dance for the former Pussycat Doll and X Factor judge. She battled bulimia for eight years, at the height of Pussycat Dolls fame. "It is such a horrible, paralyzing disease and it was such a dark time for me," she told Cosmopolitan UK. "I didn't think anyone knew in my group or in my family because I hid it that well, I was so ashamed. I knew it wasn't normal or healthy because I was hurting myself through this cycle of disordered eating. It was my drug, my addiction. It's an endless vicious cycle." Today, she's committed to doing things differently: "I’m never letting that happen again."