We often forget that celebrities are ordinary people that go through the same things everyone goes through. We forget that behind the superstardom personas are real people who also struggle with their physical and mental health. When it comes to appearances, celebrities are often under extreme pressure to look a certain way. They may go to great lengths to maintain a particular physique, often to the point where they develop an eating disorder. Today we’re sharing some celebrities with eating disorders to spread awareness concerning the need for eating disorder support.
Celebrities play a significant role in spreading awareness about mental illness. It’s useful to learn about the challenges of stars with eating disorders because it can open up an important conversation about these conditions, their dangers, and their impact on society. Below is a list of 8 celebrities who have eating disorders and their stories on how they’ve dealt with their conditions.
At an “It’s Our Turn” conference in the Brentwood School in Los Angeles, Lady Gaga revealed that she had bulimia nervosa as a teenager, an eating disorder marked by binging on foods followed by harmful methods of losing weight, such as self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise.
During the conference, students at the high school asked the star a series of questions. The “Born This Way” star was honest when a student asked her how she deals with body image issues.
To this, Gaga replied, "I used to throw up all the time in high school. So I'm not that confident. I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina, but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. I used to come home and say, 'Dad, why do you always give us this food? I need to be thin.' And he'd say, 'Eat your spaghetti."
Fortunately, the star advised the student to seek help for her own issues with body image and warned against vomiting after expressing how it harmed her throat and ability to sing. Gaga also shared, "It's really hard, but ... you've got to talk to somebody about it. It made my voice bad, so I had to stop. The acid on your vocal cords ... it's very bad."1
England’s late Princess Diana also struggled with an eating disorder during her life, particularly bulimia nervosa. Just after her engagement in the early 1980s, Diana developed the condition.
In an interview with Princess Diana’s chef about her eating disorder in 2017, he respectfully described his confusion about her changeful food choices and his lack of knowledge regarding the condition at the time. The extent of Diana’s condition wasn’t confirmed until 1992 when Andrew Morton published his biography on the Princess of Wales, called Diana: Her True Story.
It contained details of the disorder from Diana herself, who, through an intermediary, sent tapes to the author. Some of what she revealed include, “The bulimia started the week after we got engaged and would take nearly a decade to overcome. My husband put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ and that triggered off something in me—and the Camilla thing.”
In later interviews, Diana’s wedding gown designer Elizabeth Emanuel shared that when they started dress fittings, Diana’s waist measured 26 to 27 inches and eventually whittled down to 23 inches by July 1981. In a 1995 interview with BBC interviewer Martin Bashir, the princess herself confirmed her struggles with bulimia nervosa, sharing, “I had bulimia for a number of years. And that's like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day—some do it more—and it gives you a feeling of comfort. It's like having a pair of arms around you, but it's temporarily, temporary. Then you're disgusted at the bloatedness of your stomach, and then you bring it all up again.”2
Princess Diana’s honesty about her bulimia nervosa opened a new discussion that wasn’t common among stars, and especially royals, at the time. , she remains an inspirational figure for many.
Singer, dancer, and TV personality Paula Abdul is best known for her 1990s hits and dance moves. She later took a seat as an American Idol judge, known for her kindness, honesty, and humor.
What many don’t know is that Abdul also battled bulimia nervosa for about 17 years. During an interview, Abdul revealed that she struggled with a severe eating disorder for 17 years.
She considered herself a perfectionist as a child, but despite her many achievements in high school, she struggled with feeling too short and overweight. The 5-foot-2 singer and dancer claimed that bulimia was a “violent punishment you put on yourself” and that having an eating disorder was like being at war with her body. Fortunately, after receiving bulimia nervosa treatment, Abdul was able to recover from her condition.3
Elton John is a legend in the music industry, known for hits like “Benny and The Jets” and “Rocketman.” In addition to his music, John has also spent many years bravely speaking out about his challenges with mental health, addiction, and an eating disorder.
His struggles came to life in the 2019 biopic “Rocketman,” a film named after one of his hit songs, that depicts his childhood, rise to fame, and the challenges in between. One of these challenges included bulimia nervosa, which he thankfully received professional treatment for.
In a 2010 interview with Piers Morgan, John describes some of the behaviors as a chaotic period in his life during which he “lost complete touch with” reality.4 Fortunately, the legendary singer has been sober for over 30 years and remains a role model for many.
Known for her party-rocking debut single “TiK ToK,” Kesha’s one of the numerous famous people with eating disorders. In an interview with music magazine Rolling Stone, she spoke of her eating disorder, stating, "I really just thought I wasn't supposed to eat food. And then if I ever did, I felt very ashamed, and I would make myself throw up because I'd think, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe I actually did that horrible thing. I'm so ashamed of myself because I don't deserve to eat food.’"
Kesha’s eating disorder grew worse as her career advanced. It wasn’t until she was at a dinner party, anxious that people would notice she wasn’t eating, that she put her foot down and decided enough was enough.
Soon after, she called her mom, Pebe Sebert, who flew her to a rehab center where she met with a nutritionist. In the interview, she said she had “forgotten how to eat.” Fortunately, the singer has since recovered from her condition and recently released an album that she said: “has quite literally saved my life.”
Known for her role on the hit Disney show Lizzie McGuire, Hilary Duff fans always look forward to any new work of hers. She was just 15 years old when the show ended in 2014, so what’s happened since then?
Following the ending of a show that played a huge role in Duff’s life and career, she struggled with an eating disorder at the age of 17. When speaking about snapping back into her post-baby body after giving birth to her son, Luca, in 2012, Duff confessed to Health, “Oh my God, everyone was so hard on me because it took me a year and a half to get my body back! When I was 17, I weighed, like, 98 pounds."6
She stated that she became obsessed with everything that she would put into her mouth. She claimed that she didn’t feel healthy and that her hands would even cramp up from a lack of nutrients. Between the ages of 17 and 19, the star claims to have only eaten “steamed vegetables and broiled or grilled chicken, with nothing else” in an attempt to keep up her physique.6
Today, the mom of two prides herself on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, balancing her relationship, children, and career. At the age of 32 and just one year after giving birth to her daughter, Banks, Duff says she feels better than ever as her days with an eating disorder are long gone.
The Olsen twins started acting at the age of six months when they were hired to play the role of Michelle on the hit TV show Full House. Since then, the lovable twins thrived on the show and went on to create their own movies.
But stardom doesn’t mean invincibility, and one of the twins, Mary-Kate Olsen, developed anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. During a very uncomfortable and inappropriate interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2004, Winfrey asked the twins about the recent eating disorder rumors and even questioned them about their clothes size.7
Merely a few months after the interview, Mary Kate was checked into a rehab facility and underwent anorexia nervosa treatment for what she later revealed to be anorexia. The years since that interview have done nothing to cushion the blow of the outrageous interview.
Jessica Alba, known for her roles in movies like “Honey” and “Fantastic Four,” revealed on a panel event at Gwyneth Paltrow's "In Goop Health" wellness summit that she consciously tried to diminish her curves by reducing the amount of food she ate, mainly to avoid unwanted male attention. As one of the numerous celebrities with eating disorders, Alba stated, “I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men. Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention."8
She explained that she felt “preyed upon” by men in the early stages of her career, adding that her family warned her against wearing certain clothes to avoid showing her figure. Fortunately, the actress took this challenge in stride and continues to share her story to spread awareness.
If you or someone you care about has an eating disorder, don’t wait a moment longer to get help. With the highest mortality rates among mental health disorders, eating disorders can become life-threatening.
Our center for eating disorders offers various treatment programs for all kinds of conditions, including bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED), and more. Banyan Philadelphia offers a safe and comfortable environment where eating disorder patients can work with the finest experts in the eating disorder treatment field.