The shame, guilt and misunderstanding of eating disorders makes it hard for anyone to come forward to get help, but it is so much harder for a public figure to do so. Celebrities may put their fame, career and acting opportunities on the line and open themselves to, ridicule and criticism if they disclose they have an eating disorder. Some will die as a result.
The Actor has many more challenges than someone who is not in the public eye. They have to cope with magazines that shows them airbrushed instead of being accepted as they are. What would that tell you if your picture had to be airbrushed? Another problem results from having to gain or loss weight for different roles. This upsets the body’s metabolism and neurochemistry and can result in creating eating disorders biologically.
In 2012 Demi Moore opened up about her fears and body image issues in an interview with US Harper's Bazaar. I have watched her extreme body changes, diets, and exercise over the years. Demi’s role in Striptease, GI Jane and Charlie’s Angles: Full Throttle required over-exercise and extreme dietary restrictions. These changes combined with emotional upheavals can make a person more susceptible to eating disorders. Most people are not aware of eating disorders symptoms, especially, exercise bulimia.
It is extremely hard to come forward if you are a male actor. There are even more myths about having an eating disorder if you are male, especially the myth that they must be gay. I applaud the men who are paving the way for others to seek help. Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thorton, Elton John, Richard Simmons, and many male athletes have opened up about their struggles with eating disorders.
Ashley Hamilton, actor and 38-year-old son of George Hamilton has recovery from alcohol and drugs but still struggles with his eating disorder. He told People Magazine, “I suffered from bulimia and anorexia since I was a teenager. I believe it was my problem before I got into drugs and alcohol. I used the drugs and alcohol to control the food addiction.”
At Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs we have heard a similar quote from so many of our patients. Many people with addictions will come forward about their alcohol or drug abuse but will not admit to having an eating disorder, even if that is the primary problem. Just like Ashley, many find that when they look at their timeline, the eating disorder actually came before the other addictions. Alcohol and drugs are often started as a way to control the uncontrollable obsession with food.
Eating disorders can be the hardest disease to recover from because you must continue to eat. A common saying is “You have to pet the tiger three times a day”. Many people find that once they get clean and sober the eating disorder rears its ugly head. They may have had years without the eating disorder because of using other addictions. Many people in recovery relapse due to this secret eating disorder or because of the extra weight brought on my replacing the addiction with food.
Eating Disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder) occur in all populations, not just celebrities. But celebrities have a special advantage. If they choose to disclose that they have or had an eating disorder they can reach thousands of people who need to know about eating disorders and that 100% recovery is possible!