The Empire star said her bulimia was an attempt at “controlling” her emotions to distract from her depression

By Julie Mazziotta
January 21, 2021 03:00 PM
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Gabourey Sidibe's struggles with mental health started when she was growing up, and through the years became an avalanche, coming one on top of the other.

The Empire star, 37, first developed depression as a child, which snowballed into anxiety and eventually an eating disorder as she tried to find "control" in her life, she said during an appearance on Taraji P. Henson's Facebook Watch show Peace of Mind with Taraji.

Speaking with Henson and co-host Tracie Jenkins, Sidibe said that she would spend her days uncontrollably crying as she struggled with depression.

"I was so embarrassed, and I hated crying so much, I hated it," Sidibe said in this exclusive clip from Monday's episode.

Then in college, she developed bulimia. Sidibe stopped eating for days at a time, and what she would eat she would then throw up. She says her bulimia was a "button" that would stop her from crying.

"And on top of that, people were like, 'You're looking good.' So I'm like, why would I stop? Like, this is dope, in a way," she said, calling it a "self-defense mechanism."

"That's what bulimia was for me. It wasn't about losing weight, it wasn't about controlling my appetite. It truly was about how it stopped me from crying," she adds.

But any control Sidibe thought she had was just a short-term mask for her problems, that soon fell away.

"It felt like I was controlling my emotions — I was not, I was out of control. I was getting worse," she said. "Being depressed is one thing, if you add an eating disorder on top of that, that's a whole other monster you have to fight."

RELATED VIDEO: Gabourey Sidibe Opens Up About Weight-Loss Surgery For The First Time: 'I Love My Body Now'

Sidibe wrote in her 2017 memoir that she was able to get her depression and bulimia under control after seeking treatment and starting therapy. She also revealed that she underwent weight loss surgery in 2016 out of concern about developing diabetes, but she emphasized to PEOPLE that her bulimia was not an attempt to lose weight, and is a separate issue that she works on daily.

"I have to eat every day. I have to eat several times a day, forever," she said in 2017. "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."

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.