Jane Fonda opens up how she got over her eating disorder, thanks to her famous aerobic workout.
In 1982, when Jane Fonda launched her workout video empire at age 45, she had recently overcome an eating disorder that began when she was in her teens—and says the workouts were instrumental in helping her finally get over the disease.
“I was doing the workout before I started the business, and it gave me back a sense of control over my body,” she told PEOPLE’s editor-in-chief Jess Cagle, in the most recent episode of the Jess Cagle Interview.
“The longer space you put between yourself and the addiction, the easier it gets,” she says of recovering from both bulimia and anorexia. “I started the workout, and that kind of cemented my ability to eat normal, which I can do now. Some people say you can never get over it, but you can.”
As for how she finally stopped the cycle of bingeing and purging—or simply avoiding food altogether—she says the reality was, she was getting too old to handle it.
“There was a pint in my mid-forties where I realized if I continued to be controlled by these addictions, that I was going to…I don’t know if I was going to die, but my life would fall apart,” she says.
“As you get older, with each binge, the fatigue and the hostility and self-loathing lasts longer,” she says. “I had a husband and children and a career, and I was politically active. I couldn’t keep doing it all and allow this addiction to ruin my life. So I stopped cold turkey.”
She adds that it wasn’t easy: “Oh it was so hard,” she admits.
Fonda says she’d like others to understand that eating disorders are never actually about food. “It has to do with filling a hole,” she says. “We’re vessels that need to be full in spirits…but there are other ways to fill it.”