'Real Housewives of New York City' 's Jules Wainstein Opens Up About Struggling with Anorexia That Got Her Down to Just 80 Lbs.: 'It Consumed My Entire Life'

"It's a part of me. It makes me who I am today," Wainstein tells PEOPLE of her eating disorder

Photo: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC/Getty

Julianne “Jules” Wainstein thinks “secrets keep you sick,” which is why she didn’t hold back when discussing her eating disorder on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City last week.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the Hong Korn-born socialite and RHONY newbie opens up about her battle with anorexia, which began in high school.

“I was swimming competitively in Florida, two-hour practices before school and after school, six days a week,” says Weinstein, now 35. “I loved the discipline, I loved the schedule. I was comfortable that way.”

When she quit the sport at around 17, she began to feel “out of control” and that’s when the calorie-counting started as she restricted her intake to between 800-1000 a day.

“I remember keeping a journal, counting my calories, what I ate,” she says. “I would make like a list of things that I would eat and add up every meal, every calorie.”

“I knew I had a problem from the beginning,” Wainstein says. “I thought I could fix it myself, but it just got worse.”

Anorexia transitioned to bulimia in college and at one point, her weight dropped to 80 lbs.

“It just consumed my entire life,” she says, admitting that it affected her ability to focus.

“I had no energy, I was always tired,” she says. “I was depressed, I slept a lot. I was not very social.”

Finally, when she was 23, she entered a treatment center for a three-month intensive program.

“They make you hit rock bottom there,” she explains. “It wasn’t like: ‘Look at this raisin, how does the raisin make you feel?’ It was like: ‘This is what you did to your family, this is how you made your family feel, this is what you’re doing to your body.’ I mean, I cried every day in the beginning.”

The program then had her do outpatient recovery, where she was tasked with getting her own place and job, living the life of an independent adult.

“I realized I was making my body childlike because I couldn’t face the responsibilities of the real world,” she says. After months in recovery, “you start to appreciate life and your body and you realize what you have – and then you build yourself up from there.”

“Slowly my body started to change – I gained weight. My body formed into an adult figure,” she says. “It was really incredible.”

For more about Jules Wainstein’s struggle with her eating disorder and recovery, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

The reality star now lives in New York City with her husband Michael, an investment banker, and their son Jagger, 5, and daughter Rio, 3. She also runs a successful juice company, Modern Alkeme (available at Whole Foods).

“I wanted to do something that I’m passionate about, and it gives you confidence to be financially independent and feel empowered,” she says. “It’s great for my recovery too, to feel capable.”

As for her kids, the star says she “would never hide” what she’s been through, but in the meantime she’s happy to have to “healthy children who eat great, like normal healthy kids.”

And while Wainstein admits she’s “always going to be in recovery,” she’s grateful for what the eating disorder taught her.

“It’s a part of me. It makes me who I am today,” she says. “It makes me grateful for what I have. I take care of my body.”

The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.

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