15 Celebrities Who Overcame Eating Disorders

Remember back in the good ol’ days, before the internet, when the only access we had to celebrity scandals (like who wore what, or who was caught cheating with so-and-so) were those incredibly educational magazines that lined the grocery store checkouts? Back then, celebrities obviously still felt intense pressure under this constant scrutiny, but when compared to the 24-hour coverage and star-obsessed culture we have now, it likely pales in comparison.

Some could argue stars bring it upon themselves, as many allow continuous access to their daily lives through social media and planned paparazzi photoshoots, but no one can argue the standards set for beauty in the world of the rich and famous aren’t infinitely more intense than for us regular folk. Heck, many a celebrity’s success (and livelihood!) is based solely on their appearance — and unfortunately, this can create conditions that encourage unhealthy attitudes about weight and even the development of full-blown eating disorders.

Jane Fonda

Some of you may have noticed that Jane Fonda is in incredible shape, and has been known as an exercise maven for decades. While the amazing physique she now maintains can be attributed to her hard work in the gym, she hasn’t always been this healthy. Fonda has been open with her decades-long struggles with bulimia stemming from family pressures and Hollywood scrutiny.

It wasn’t until she hit her 40’s that she realized she had to make the decision to either live or die and confront her disease, as it had begun to overshadow so many of the successes she had achieved by that point in her life. Thankfully, she decided to change her relationship with food and now devotes her energy to helping others live a healthier lifestyle.

Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com
Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com

Diana, Princess of Wales

A woman whose fame eclipsed many a Hollywood star’s during her time in the public eye, Princess Diana also suffered from bulimia. Diana couldn’t move one step without paparazzi hounding her relentlessly and her appearance was continuously under a microscope.

She entered treatment in the late ‘80s and her bravely going public about her suffering created what was known as the “Diana Effect,” wherein people – including a male celebrity who appears later on this list — were inspired to confront their own problems and seek help.

Public Domain
Public Domain

Geri Halliwell

This famous Brit, who suffered from bulimia and binge eating, belonged to the most famous female singing group of all time: The Spice Girls. Geri admitted to struggling with her appearance and her worth as a performer, and turned to severely restricting her diet as a way to cope and “fit in.”

She has been very open about the fact that another famous British singer, Robbie Williams, helped her realise what harm she was causing herself and supported her while she sought treatment.

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Melanie Chisholm

If you’re unfamiliar with this name, “Mel C” might ring a bell. Or “Sporty Spice” would likely do the trick. It’s true: Ginger wasn’t the only Spice Girl to struggle with disordered eating.

One would assume that Melanie’s exercise-driven group persona would have meant she was strong and healthy, but she has admitted that during her time in the group (and after) she suffered from anorexia nervosa and depression. At one point, her health became so precarious that she even developed secondary amenorrhea (the loss of her monthly menstrual cycle) because she became so thin.

Thankfully, the birth of her daughter in 2009 inspired her to fully confront her illness and she now has a much healthier approach to her appearance and wellbeing.

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Kesha and Demi Lovato

The Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in Chicago has had more than one famous face visit for rehabilitation.

Both Demi Lovato and Kesha have been very open about using the center to treat their eating disorders. They’ve also both been outspoken about the ways in which women in the music industry are pressured to conform to rigid — if not impossible — body standards.

Since receiving treatment, both have gone on to try and help other young women by setting the example of loving and accepting themselves just the way they are.

s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

Lady Gaga

Another star who has strongly promoted the self-love movement is the controversial Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga. Gaga started a “Body Revolution” on her Instagram account, writing to her millions of followers, “[I’m] Proud at any size, because the inside is what really counts.”

Stefani came to this powerful place after years of suffering from anorexia, bulimia and depression. She has shared that during their time working on their 2014 album Cheek to Cheek, Tony Bennett was the one who “saved her” by helping to positively shift her outlook and perspective on life.

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Tracey Gold

Another star who suffered in the spotlight was Tracey Gold, the childhood star of the ‘80s and ‘90s program Growing Pains. For the last three years of the show’s run (which ended in 1992) Tracey suffered from anorexia nervosa and slowly shrank to 79lbs before the viewing public’s eyes.

She had first developed the disorder when she was 12, but recovered after four months of psychiatric treatment. Unfortunately, Tracey relapsed during her time on the show after a casting agent commented on her weight, and she was placed on a doctor-recommended 500 calorie-a-day diet!

Thankfully, Tracey sought treatment towards the end of Growing Pains’ run, but has admitted to this day she still must continue to manage her disease.

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Portia de Rossi and Mary-Kate Olsen

Two other women who publicly dealt with disordered eating are Portia de Rossi and Mary-Kate Olsen.

Portia had used binging and purging as a way to manage her weight since the age of 12, and later laxatives at the age of 15. She found the disease fully manifested itself during her time on Ally McBeal, where her weight dropped to a frightening 82lbs. Interestingly, she’s claimed it was the horrific events of 9/11 that forced her to look at her choices and make the commitment to live a healthier lifestyle.

Mary-Kate Olsen, who has been famous basically since birth, didn’t develop anorexia until her late teens. It was at this time that her friends and family noticed the naturally thin star had become increasingly gaunt. Her parents decided to stage an intervention as soon as she finished high school, i.e. before she turned 18, as they still had legal rights to seek treatment for her. The intensely private star admitted that in 2004 she sought help for an eating disorder, but has said little else since then about the matter.

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Male Celebrities

It isn’t just famous women who feel pressure to look a certain way; men also feel the need to conform. Unfortunately, due to stigma and society’s assumption that body issues and disordered eating are a “women’s issue,” it isn’t as widely recognized, often leaving men feeling ashamed to admit they are struggling. This might reflect why, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, only 10% to 15% of people diagnosed in the US with bulimia and anorexia are male.

Here are several male celebrities who have been open about their struggles with body image and disordered eating:

Caleb Followill

The struggles lead singer of the band Kings of Leon has had with alcohol abuse have been widely publicised, but a lesser-known fact is that Caleb suffered from an eating disorder as a child and teen. He expressed that he rarely felt “good enough” and would exercise excessively as a way of coping and controlling his weight.

Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com
Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

Elton John

Another male musician who struggled with addiction and disordered eating was Elton John. Thankfully, after 16 years of suffering, Elton checked himself into rehab in 1990 for cocaine addiction and bulimia.

It is said that Diana, Princess of Wales, confided in him about her trials with the disease, and like Diana, Elton’s public admission of going to rehab supported others, especially men, in seeking help themselves.

JStone / Shutterstock.com
JStone / Shutterstock.com

Russell Brand

Russell Brand, the candid actor and comedian, has been very public about the struggles he has faced. In addition to drug and sex addictions, Russel suffered from depression and bulimia at the age of 11, and faced many other personal challenges while growing up. He took responsibility for his health by admitting himself to rehab twice, once in 2002 and then again in 2005.

Dooley Productions / Shutterstock.com
Dooley Productions / Shutterstock.com

Dennis Quaid

In 2006, Dennis Quaid shocked the public by explaining to Best Life Magazine that losing 42lbs for his role of Doc Holliday in the 1994 movie Wyatt Earp caused him to become fixated with food, calories and exercise. Like others with body dysmorphia, he was unable to see how thin he had become, and his weight dipped to a dangerous 138lbs.

Many have said that Quaid, known for typically playing smart, alpha male-type roles, was an inspiration to other men to seek assistance when he went public with his challenges.

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Eminem

Due to the autobiographical nature of his movie 8 Mile, many feel that they know a lot about Eminem and the struggles he faced as a young man. What is less commonly known is that he struggled with his health later on in his life.

In a 2015 interview with Men’s Journal, he shared that in 2007 his weight hit 230lbs. At this same time, he overdosed on pills, and upon leaving rehab he decided to start running as a way to lose weight. He found that the runner’s endorphin “high” replaced the one he would get from drugs, and began to exercise excessively. He also developed an obsession both with his food intake and how many calories he burned in a day (2000 was his goal).

Eventually, he developed too many injuries from the extreme amount of exercise and was forced to stop running and switch to a healthier routine.

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Lauren Brown MSc. WWHP, is a certified Health & Wellness Coach who loves teaching about all facets of health and wellbeing. Much of her time is spent in workplaces, helping empower employees to get healthy through the wellness programming initiatives and educational sessions she delivers. Please see www.inspiringhealth.ca for more information.