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Celebrities With Eating Disorders

Eating Disorder News
Elisa Donovan

Elisa Donovan

Actress Elisa Donovan (Sabrina – The Teenage Witch, Clueless) suffered from an an eating disorder in the past. She also plays fashion victim Amber in the TV series Clueless, crossed over the line in 1992 to battle anorexia, an eating disorder marked by an intense fear of gaining weight or getting fat. “At first, I’d eat no fat,” Elisa says. “Then, I’d just eat breakfast–cereal and toast–and not eat again until night.” Within a couple of years, the 5-ft, 6-in. actress weighed only 90 pounds.

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato recently wrote a blog to reach out to people struggling with eating disorders, Hollywood news has learned. And her most important piece of advice is: “speak up and seek professional help.”

Fresh from waging war against the Disney Channel for making a joke about eating disorders in one of its shows, Demi came out with a blog on Seventeen magazine’s website entitled “My Battle With Eating Disorders,” in which she talks about her own struggles with the disease and offers sound advice to others who are going through it as well.

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Danielle Fishel

Danielle Fishel

Danielle Fishel, former star of “Boy Meets World,” said she used to be obsessed with her weight as a teen. Focused on achieving a perfect 24-inch waist, Danielle said she took laxatives, would eat only lettuce and threw up. The 5’1” host of the “The Dish” on the Style Network weighed got down to a mere 89 pounds. Danielle said she decided to rethink her extreme diet after she collapsed on the set of “Boy Meets World.”

Daniel Johns

Daniel Johns

Men tend to be reluctant to admit they have an eating disorder, but in the late ’90s, Silverchair front man Daniel Johns publicly discussed his battle with anorexia. The band’s 1999 single, “Ana’s Song,” is about his fight with the disorder.

He’s a much loved rock’n’roller who’s married to one of the world’s most beautiful women. But singer Daniel Johns has finally revealed the horror behind his teenage anorexia – a condition which nearly left him dead.

Johns has admitted he was close to suicide a number of times as he battled the eating disorder in his late teens. It is the first time the singer has spoken at length about his anorexia, a problem which is affecting increasing numbers of teenage boys in Australia.

Speaking about his hatred for food during the worst stages of his illness, Johns told ABC interviewer Andrew Denton: “I could somehow convince myself that apples contained razorblades and wouldn’t go to restaurants because I thought every chef in the world wanted to poison me.
“It [food] was just the enemy. I just hated the look of it, the smell of it. If anyone talked about it, I’d leave the room.”

In an interview which airs on Enough Rope tomorrow night, Johns gives blow-by-blow details of his psychological suffering, which prompted doctors to warn him repeatedly he was going to die. At his lowest weight, the singer was just 50 kilograms.

“Kinda when I stopped eating was on our second album, just as it felt like everything was so out of control,” he told Denton in the pretaped interview. “The reason I think [I did it] was just to gain control.
“I have a theory because I was being beaten up a lot by people outside of school, it was almost like if I could make myself sick enough they’d take sympathy on me.”

Johns became so seriously ill he was treated for anorexia nervosa, but it took him some time to take doctors’ warnings seriously. “I don’t know how I pulled myself out of it,” he told Denton. “I think I definitely got scared by the second or third time a doctor told me I was dying.”
Johns said he wrote the songs for Silverchair’s Neon Ballroom (released in 1999) in the midst of his anorexia battle. “I wrote . . . Neon Ballroom in that time where I hated music, really everything about it, I hated it. But I couldn’t stop doing it and I felt like a slave to it.”

The singer admitted he had considered suicide. “There was three or four years of my life where I hated myself and you know, would have quite happily ended it. But I’m just not like that anymore . . . like [I’ve] got this amazing life, amazing wife.”

These days Johns, now 26, is happily married to singer Natalie Imbruglia and preparing for a tour with his new band the Dissociatives, formed with Paul Mac.

He is the picture of good health, which is remarkable given his private battle with anorexia and his relatively public battle against reactive arthritis only a few years later.
“The arthritis just went from bad to worse and went through all the bones in my body, through my spine, up into my neck,” he told Denton. “I just couldn’t move . . . I couldn’t have a shower because it felt like I was cracking my spine.”

After more than 12 months of rehabilitation treatment, Johns made a full recovery. He married Imbruglia at a ceremony near Port Douglas earlier this year and credits her with providing emotional support.
“It just makes everything more pleasurable when you’ve got someone that emotionally is there to rely on,” he told Denton.

Johns, who said he is likely to record another album with Silverchair, will start his first tour with the Dissociatives this week, with shows starting in Tasmania on Tuesday night. He will be back on stage in Sydney on June 19 and 20.

Courtney Thorne-Smith

Courtney Thorne-Smith

Her name is Courtney Thorne-Smith, and she has an eating disorder. The former star of Ally McBeal tells US Weekly that the pressure to be thin ultimately led her to quit the Fox dramedy. “I started undereating, overexercising, pushing myself too hard and brutalizing my immune system,” the 33-year-old actress says. “The amount of time I spent thinking about food and being upset about my body was insane.”

Christine Alt

Christine Alt

Model Christine Alt (Carol Alt’s sister) developed an eating disorder under the pressure to slim down from modeling agencies and clients. “I think that half the women in this world who are plus-size would not be if they never went on a diet.”

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Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci

Actress Christina Ricci admits to suffering from anorexia, depression and self-mutilation as a teen. As the Addams Family star told the press in 2007: “I was a teenager going through adolescence and at one point I had a little anorexia phase and then I kind of ballooned. I feel my body now is the adult Christina and it’s what I should have come to a long time ago if I hadn’t been screwing around with my body so much.”

Ultimately, Christina decided that this obsession with her appearance was talking too much of a toll on her life. “I was too busy thinking about my skin or my weight or the clothes I was wearing instead of just enjoying it and saying, ‘I can’t believe I get to be here. This is awesome and I’m going to experience it.’ “

Cathy Rigby

Cathy Rigby

In the 1968 Summer Olympics at Mexico City, a blond, pigtailed 15-year-old girl earned the highest U.S. scores in gymnastics. She captured the hearts of millions of people around the world and changed the course of women’s gymnastics in the United States. That teenage athlete was Cathy Rigby, the first American woman to win a medal in World Gymnastics competition. She holds 12 international medals, eight of which are gold. While Cathy excelled in the Olympics, she also suffered from an eating disorder.

“We didn’t know very much about nutrition. Neither did the coaches,” Cathy said, recalling how her eating disorder started. The coaches would tell the athletes what their weight should be, somewhat arbitrarily. Cathy weighed about 94 pounds at the time and was eating one meal a day to maintain her weight at the prescribed 90 pounds. One night, near the end of training camp, the team went out for pizza to celebrate. “I had three pieces and panicked, knowing I would be weighed-in the next day.” Cathy knew one girl on the team was taking laxatives but had no idea it was her way of maintaining her weight. Another girl said she threw up everything she ate. That night Cathy tried the latter method, but it didn’t work. “When I hit puberty and went up to about 104 pounds two or three months later, I worked a little harder at either starving myself or becoming bulimic.”

Cathy’s recovery began in the early ’80s after she went through a divorce. “I tried to get professional help before that. Even the psychologists and psychiatrists back then, I think, had to look it up.” Her early experiences with treatment met with little success. It wasn’t until she remarried that a break came. Her desire not to repeat her past failed marriage, along with the persistent encouragement of the man who is now her husband, Tom McCoy, eventually led to a treatment situation that worked. “The two of us got help for it – him to understand it and deal with me and not try to feed me scrambled eggs.”

Today, a successful actress and mother of four, Cathy is free of her eating disorder. In her appearances at colleges and universities, she talks about her experiences in a positive way. “What I try to do is to lure people into the story,” she said. Gymnastics is “a sport that demands absolute control, both emotionally and physically.” It can be difficult to tell when the quest for excellence crosses over into obsession – when the passion for the sport becomes overshadowed by greed or abusive control. Cathy echoes the thoughts of other experts when she points out “the very thing that makes anybody a great athlete many times predisposes them to become affective-compulsive people.” The powerful emotions, interaction with the coach and parents and the strain of reaching for an almost unattainable goal can be more difficult to balance than any part of a gymnastic routine. “Even in the best of situations, it’s a little dysfunctional. It’s a lot of pressure,” she said.

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes
by David M. Edwards and Mary Allen

Catherine Hickland

Catherine Hickland

Catherine Hickland observes: “For actresses our looks are like our instruments; we are hyperaware of appearance, weight, and beauty. And so we learn of obsessive dieting, and obsessive exercise, and of the delusion that one is always ‘fat’ even though one’s bones stick out, and of the rediscovery of the ancient Roman trick of vomiting, and of the ruinous consequences of that method for the teeth, and much else that is hidden from the eyes of those who are uninitiated into eating disorders.”

Catherine Oxenberg

Catherine Oxenberg

Actress Catherine Oxenberg (daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and a distant relative of Britain’s royal family; she played Princess Di in ‘The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana’ in 1982, and also 1992 in ‘Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After’), who was also sexually abused within the family as a child, struggled with an eating disorder for 20 years and finally found the strength to beat bulimia and successfully won this battle. “I really thought I would never get through it. I’d put myself in rehab and I would be fine for nine months and then I’d blow it again.” Catherine also said that her bulimia had massive physical repercussions on her body. “I destroyed my teeth because you’re vomiting hydrochloric acid so that acid eats away at the enamel in your teeth, so I’ve had horrendous problems with my teeth.”


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