Diane Keaton on Suffering from Bulimia in Her '20s: 'I Became a Master at Hiding'

"I had a problem -- it was sick and creepy," Keaton tells PEOPLE. 

Roasting his frequent costar and former girlfriend Diane Keaton at the American Film Awards gala on June 9, Woody Allen joked about the eating disorder she hid from him when they were dating.

“I didn’t know many things until I read her books,” Allen told the star-studded crowd at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, where the 71-year-old actress was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. “I didn’t know she was bulimic … I would be taking her to these high-end restaurants. $400 for dinner. If I knew she was throwing them up, I could have taken her to Pizza Hut.”

Keaton cracked up along with the rest of the audience. But at the time, her eating disorder was no laughing matter. It began in 1968, when the director of Hair on Broadway offered her the lead role if she would lose weight. Following his suggestion “was my decision, it had nothing to do with him,” says Keaton, who looks back at her life in pictures in the new issue of PEOPLE. “Believe me, it had to do with an overabundant need for more. Too much. It was a mental illness.”

Courtesy Everett Collection

For more on Diane Keaton’s extraordinary life and loves, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

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She lost “a lot of weight,” she says, “and continued to keep my weight off for more than a year. I became a master at hiding. Hiding any evidence — how do you make sure no one knows? You live a lifestyle that is very strange. You’re living a lie.”

Psychoanalysis helped her recover, but the disorder colors her memories of her time on Broadway. “People were nice enough, but I felt like an outsider,” she says. “I had a problem — it was sick and creepy. Bulimia takes a lot of time out of your day.”

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