11 Celebrities With Eating Disorders: Paula Abdul to Elton John

Famous Faces of Eating Disorders

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  • Celebrities with Eating Disorders

    Celebrities with Eating Disorders

    In today’s society, the expectation to be thin places pressure on everyone from adolescent girls to middle aged men. Concerns about body weight cause many celebrities to severely regiment and modify their eating behaviors.  These disturbances in eating habits often include eating less, extreme overeating, purging, abuse of laxatives, and over-exercise. The following celebrities have struggled with eating disorders, whether anorexia, binging, or bulimia. 

  • Nicole Richie

    Photo courtesy of Srami (CC A-SA 3.0)

    Nicole Richie

    Nicole Richie grew up in the limelight and featured her daily life on reality television, causing her to crumble under Hollywood’s pressures to be thin. Although she denies rumors of anorexia, it is clear that Nicole suffered for years from the debilitating disease, coupled with drug and alcohol abuse. Her weight plummeted fatally low, but she now credits her daughter for motivating her to gain weight and save her life.

  • Paula Abdul

    Paula Abdul

    When Paula Abdul began dancing at age seven, her poor body image emerged. Surrounded by petite ballerinas, Paula felt insecure about her more muscular frame, and began binging, purging, and over-exercising.  She finally checked herself into a mental health clinic in 1994 to seek help, and still relies on the help of nutritionists and therapists.  Paula is now a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorder Association and encourages young women to seek help.

  • Anne Sexton

    Anne Sexton

    American poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974), was sexually abused in childhood and lived a troubled life.  She suffered from depression and anorexia, and attempted suicide nine times before succeeding at the age of 46. Anne would cope with her feelings of hopelessness by not eating, and put into her poetry these feelings of starvation and futility.

  • Alanis Morissette

    Alanis Morissette

    Singer Alanis Morissette struggled with anorexia when she was first trying to break into the music industry. As a young woman in the public eye, she faced extreme pressure, and blames much of her disorder on overbearing men asserting control over her and her career. Alanis overcame these issues by seeing a therapist and becoming a women’s rights activist. She now finds solace in exercise, completing her first marathon in 2009.

  • Victoria Beckham

    Victoria Beckham

    Victoria previously denied rumors of anorexia but now admits that she struggled during the early days of the Spice Girls. In the high-pressure world of pop-stardom, Victoria became obsessed with calories, fat, and exercise.  Spice Girls management encouraged the women to stay slim, causing an obsession with dieting, exercise, and consumption of liquid meal substitutes.  The fixation on her appearance became too much for Victoria, who eventually began binge eating.

  • Elton John

    Elton John

    Elton John has had a tumultuous history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia.  He underwent a treatment program for drug addiction and bulimia, and has since embraced his body, sexual identity, and life.  He is one of the few men to openly admit to his struggle with an eating disorder, which he experienced for 14 years before seeking treatment.  In 1991, he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation and works to help others deal with the many struggles he has faced.

  • Sandra Dee

    Sandra Dee

    Sandra Dee, actress and cultural icon, admits that she was anorexic for many years, before the disease even had a name. Because no one was aware of the disease and its gravity, she went untreated for most of her life. Today, Sandra still feels the affects of years of starvation and substance abuse on her body, and is constantly under doctors’ supervision.

  • Diana, Princess of Wales

    Diana, Princess of Wales

    Princess Diana publicly confessed to battling bulimia and self-mutilation in 1994.  Her brave speech regarding her eating disorder and personal struggles gave courage to many young women to admit to their own eating disorders. Princess Diana fought to help others deal with bulimia and helped the world realize the true nature of eating disorders. Her experiences illuminate the unreasonable pressures put on women in our society to attain perfection.

  • Jane Fonda

    Jane Fonda

    Jane Fonda was one of the first famous women to speak openly about eating disorders and campaigned to raise awareness about anorexia and bulimia. She revealed that she had been bulimic since age 12 and struggled her whole life with cycles of binging, purging, and restricting. By speaking openly about her 30-year battle with eating disorders, she has become a role model for young women, and a figure of strength, determination, and honesty.

  • Mary-Kate Olsen

    Mary-Kate Olsen

    After years of speculation regarding her skeletal figure, actress Mary-Kate Olsen finally checked into an eating disorder treatment center. Like many child celebrities, Mary-Kate attributes her eating disorder to growing up in the public eye. Mary-Kate has overcome her eating disorder, and celebrated her triumph by donating thousands of dollars worth of clothes that no longer fit her.

  • More Information

    More Information

    Eating disorders were not always so openly addressed, but luckily, thanks to many of these vocal celebrities, they are increasingly discussed. It is important to seek help if you or someone you know may be struggling. Recognizing the disorder is the first step in seeking help, so learn how to identify some possible triggers.

    Get more information, and learn how to recognize the different types of eating disorders.

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