Eating disorders can affect anybody, from adolescent girls to middle-aged men. Around 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder, and this number includes many celebrities. Keep reading to learn about celebrities who have spoken up to let others with eating disorders know they’re not alone and to encourage them to seek help.
Demi Lovato has become an unofficial spokesperson for young women with eating disorders since being treated for bulimia and anorexia in 2010. She once said in an interview, “I lived fast and I was going to die young. I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” The outspoken role model is focusing on her overall health and fitness as part of her recovery process. She also uses her fitness routine to help manage her bipolar disorder.
When Paula Abdul began dancing at age 7, she began to feel insecure about her muscular frame. She began binging, purging, and over-exercising. She’s explained, “Whether I was sticking my head in the toilet or exercising for hours a day, I was spitting out the food — and the feelings.” She finally checked herself into a mental health clinic in 1994. She still relies on the help of nutritionists and therapists. Abdul has worked with the National Eating Disorders Association to encourage young women to seek help.
Russell Brand might be better known for his outrageous statements, but the actor and comedian has spoken about his struggles with bulimia and substance abuse as a teenager. Eating disorders are more commonly found in women than in men, but around 10 million men are thought to have eating disorders in the United States alone. In an interview, Brand said, “It was really unusual in boys, quite embarrassing. But I found it euphoric.” Brand now talks about his sobriety and veganism and has helped raise money for drug addiction recovery programs.
In 2012, Lady Gaga revealed on her site Little Monsters that she’s struggled with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 15. She posted about her cycles of weight gain and loss and shared photos. Her Born This Way Foundation connects young people with resources to help with body image, bullying, drug and alcohol issues, and more. The nonprofit exists to let struggling teens know that they’re not alone and to help create a more compassionate world. She continues to encourage anyone struggling with body image, saying, “It’s really hard, but … you’ve got to talk to somebody about it.”
Singer Alanis Morissette struggled with anorexia when she was first trying to break into the music industry. She faced extreme pressure as a young woman in the public eye. Morissette overcame her eating disorder by seeing a therapist and now talks about her practice of mindfulness. She’s noted, “The big question for me around eating-disorder recovery is, ‘What is sobriety with food?’” She does yoga, journals, and meditates in order to lead a balanced lifestyle.
Popular blogger and Instagrammer Jordan Younger, also known as The Balanced Blonde, opened up in 2015 about her struggles with maintaining balance as a vegan. This type of eating disorder has a name: orthorexia. Orthorexia is a pattern of disordered eating with a focus on foods we may think of as healthy and “pure.” Orthorexia isn’t currently recognized as a clinical disorder by psychologists, but this type of disordered eating is increasingly common.
In an article published by Refinery29, Younger wrote, “Rather than admit my food phobia, I could just claim it was too hard to eat out as a vegan. Meanwhile, the cycle continued: I cleansed, got too hungry, broke down and ate solid food, felt terribly guilty, and rededicated myself to another cleanse — usually a longer one.”
Younger changed the name of her blog and Instagram account from The Blonde Vegan to The Balanced Blonde to reflect her new pursuit of balance. She has also published a book and posts regularly about her ongoing recovery.
Princess Diana spoke publicly about her issues with bulimia and self-mutilation in 1994. In her public speech, she said, “I am certain the ultimate solution lies within the individual. But, with the help and patient nurturing given by professionals, family and friends, people suffering eating disorders can find a better way of coping with their lives.” Her brave speech regarding her eating disorder and personal struggles gave many people the courage to start talking about their own eating disorders. Princess Diana fought to increase understanding about bulimia and helped bring public awareness to eating disorders.
Elton John has had a tumultuous history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia. He underwent a treatment program for drug addiction and bulimia. For many years, it was difficult for him to acknowledge that he even had a problem, but as he told Larry King, “As soon as I said those words [‘I need help’], I knew that I was going to get better, and I was determined to get better.” He has also spoken about how much it helped to know that his close friend Princess Diana struggled with bulimia as well. Since then, he has embraced his body, sexual identity, and life. He now focuses his attention on his family and humanitarian work through the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Jane Fonda was one of the first famous women to speak openly about eating disorders. She revealed that she had struggled with bulimia since age 12, with cycles of binging, purging, and restricting. Fonda partly blames how she was raised for her eating disorder, saying, “I was taught to think if I wanted to be loved, I had to be thin and pretty. That leads to a lot of trouble.” She’s campaigned to raise awareness about anorexia and bulimia. By speaking openly about her 30-year battle with eating disorders, she’s become a role model for women of all ages.
Eating disorders weren’t always so openly addressed, but thanks to these vocal celebrities, they’re increasingly discussed and better understood. It’s important to seek help if you or someone you know may be struggling. Recognizing the disorder is the first step in finding help.