Jane Fonda is opening up about the “terrible addiction” her eating disorder has become after years of suffering.
The 85-year-old actress recounted Call her dad host Alex Cooper who was “miserable” as a young actress, especially as she was forced to play the “girl next door” archetype in many of her roles. Paying attention to her appearance has been particularly difficult, Fonda explained, due to her issues with body image.
“I was anorexic bulimic and so, all of a sudden I’m becoming a starlet and there’s so much emphasis on how you look and it’s been a trigger — a constant, constant trigger for me,” she said. “In my 20s, I was starting to be a film actor. I had bulimia very, very badly. I was leading a secret life. I was very, very unhappy. I thought I wasn’t going to live past 30.”
Fonda explained that her eating disorder seemed “innocent at first,” as she began binging on food and purging. “Why can’t I have this ice cream and cake and then throw it up?” she remembered thinking. “What you don’t realize is that it becomes a terrible addiction that takes over your life.”
In addition to damaging “your appearance,” the award-winning actress and activist shared that the disease has also made it “impossible to have a genuine relationship” due to its secretive nature.
“Your day organizes itself around getting food and then eating it, which requires that you’re by yourself and no one knows what you’re doing,” she explained. “It’s a very lonely thing and you’re addicted. I mean, if you put food in you, you want to get rid of it.”
And while she pointed to “inauthenticity” in her life, relationships, and career as one of the causes of her eating disorder, Fonda also pointed out that it can start with “being told you’re fat” — something that was subjected to by the public. and even within his own home.
“I’ve worked most of my life on overcoming judgment and objectification and judgement, subconsciously making myself feel like I’m not lovable if I’m not really thin, stuff like that,” Fonda shared. “It was a generational issue for a lot of men my father’s age. The objectification of women, and it took me a long time to get over that.”
It took Fonda decades to also figure out the impact her eating disorder was actually having on her body and quality of life as she aged.
“You can think you’re getting away with it when you’re young because your body is so young. As you get older, the price tag on you gets worse and worse. It takes days and then at least a week to get over a single binge. And it’s not just the struggle, is that you get angry, you become hostile. All the problems I’ve had have been because of that anger and that hostility. And then it came to a point in my 40s when I just thought, if I keep this up, I’m going to die.” he recalled. “I was living a very full life. I had kids, I had a husband, I had two husbands by then, I was doing political work, I was doing all these things. And my life mattered. But I was becoming less and less able to continue , so I went cold turkey.”
Fonda was also alone during the healing process.
“I didn’t realize there were groups you could join, I didn’t know anything about it yet. And nobody was talking about it. I didn’t even know there was a word for it and so I just went cold and it was really hard,” he said. “But the thing is, the more distance you can put between yourself and the last binge, the better. It gets easier and easier.”
Fonda said that dealing with her anxiety and taking medications also helped stop the cycle of bingeing and purging. And though the topic is being discussed more openly now, she the actress said she’s “scared” for young people whose mental health is now impacted by the prevalence of social media.
“I think it makes it a lot worse and it’s really hard,” she said. “I don’t know what the cure is.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Association for Eating Disorders hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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