Comedian Nikki Glaser on Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia at Age 35: 'I Didn't Know How to Stop'

"There was so much shame and hiding," Glaser said of her 18 years of dealing with eating disorders

In this image released on May 17, Nikki Glaser speaks onstage during the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: UNSCRIPTED in Los Angeles, California.
Nikki Glaser. Photo: Kevin Mazur/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards/Getty

Nikki Glaser has worked to get to a place where her life "isn't consumed by food." But it took years — 18 — to get there and overcome her anorexia and bulimia.

In an essay for The Cut, the 37-year-old comedian explained that her issues with food began early, as a fifth grader who wanted to emulate the women she saw on TV who rejected food and her mom, who she said "was always on a diet."

"I'd learned what women do: They complain about their bodies and don't let themselves have things they want," Glaser said.

Her anorexia started as a senior in high school, when she found that people would shower her in compliments after she went a day without eating.

"They were, like, 'You look great. You look like you've lost weight.' It felt like getting an A on a test I didn't study for. It was the best feeling," the Welcome Home Nikki Glaser star said. "… I quickly became addicted to the results and positive feedback."

Glaser said that's when she "caught" anorexia: "I say 'caught' because it was not in my control; it's not a choice," she explained. The podcast host largely stopped eating and lost a significant amount of weight, but she also started losing her hair, fainting and developed mouth sores from the malnutrition.

Glaser was hospitalized and was able to improve enough to "convince people" she was okay and could handle going away to college, where she continued to starve herself. Discovering stand-up helped — doing it gave her "the same feeling of validation and attention and acceptance that being skinny did." That pushed Glaser to find therapists to help her through her eating disorder, and she started eating, "but then I couldn't stop."

"My anorexia turned into bingeing, which turned into bulimia," Glaser said, and through her twenties, she "would starve all day, wait to eat until nightfall and then eat all night long. I obsessed about calories and worked out incessantly. That led to stress fractures and broken bones and then I wouldn't be able to work out, so I would go back to starving myself."

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Glaser said the diet trends that popped up over the last few years, when she was in her early 30s, like intermittent fasting and cleansing, gave her an excuse to keep up her eating disorders.

"Suddenly I didn't have to hide it anymore. I was, like, 'Yes! Finally, I can have an excuse and no one's gonna judge me.' "

Every day, Glaser would skip meals and chew gum to control her cravings, then binge on "12 to 17 protein bars" through the night, waking up surrounded by the wrappers.

Then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was the shift that she needed. Glaser moved to her parents' home and realized she "couldn't do this anymore." She started on a 12-step program and started, finally, eating three meals a day and listening to her hunger cues.

"I used to get really high off the feeling of hunger, and I do a lot of work to combat that now," she said. "There are days where I really struggle with gaining a couple pounds or my jeans' fitting too tight. But I try to keep in mind the best thing I've learned: When you stop fighting it, when you stop trying to control it, your body will just be what it needs to be. It will find a balance. I never thought that giving up was the solution, but it really was for me."

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Nikki Glaser. Getty Images

Glaser has talked openly about her eating disorders over the last few years — she notably spoke out about it in Jan. 2020, after old comments she made about Taylor Swift, calling her "too skinny," came up in the singer's documentary Miss Americana.

"This quote should be used as an example of 'projection' in PSYCH101 textbooks," Glaser said at the time. "If you're familiar with my 'work' at all, you know I talk openly about battling some kind of eating disorder for the past 17 years. I was probably 'feeling fat' that day and was jealous."

Glaser apologized to Swift, saying that she hoped "this somehow gets to her so she knows I'm sorry for any pain I caused her," — and it did, with Swift sharing her own apologies and "sending a massive hug."

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