A number of highly talented people have suffered from eating disorders such as anorexia.
Psychotherapist Jenn Berman outlines some of the possible reasons in her article Child Performers and Eating Disorders, noting that “experts have found that many of the personality traits which make children great athletes or performers are the very same characteristics which make them more susceptible to eating disorders.”
She continues: “the most common being: perfectionism; the desire to please; the ability to ignore pain and exhaustion; obsessiveness and the burning desire to reach their goals.”
Portia De Rossi
Actress Portia De Rossi says she developed anorexia while starring in Ally McBeal, using as role models costar Calista Flockhart and other thin women on the show. In 1999 she starved herself to a life-threatening 82 pounds.
She says in the April 2006 issue of Vogue magazine, “I didn’t really know at that point what it was like to be a celebrity, and the only people I knew at the time who had a similar experience were these women whom I worked with.
“They became my role models. I’m not proud of this struggle. (While anorexic) it just seemed like I literally wanted to disappear. And now I would like to reappear.”
Actor Dennis Quaid has called his disorder “manorexia.” About a decade ago he lost 40 pounds to play the role of a tubercular Doc Holliday in “Wyatt Earp” and has recalled, “My arms were so skinny that I couldn’t pull myself out of a pool. I wasn’t bulimic, but I could understand what people go through with that. I’d look in the mirror and still see a 180-pound guy, even though I was 138 pounds.”
Writer Kathryn Harrison
Writer Kathryn Harrison says that by the time she was in college she’d had an eating disorder “for years, not with the level of self-awareness I might have had today.
“In the seventies, no one was talking about young women starving themselves.. Anorexia had become a surrogate mother, a consuming if not embracing one, a set of exacting standards that I could, with effort, satisfy, as I could not satisfy my real mother…. It was the religion I chose, the one I thought I’d invented, with my own doctrine of self-deprivation.”
Felicity Huffman [of “Desperate Housewives” etc.] has revealed she suffered from eating disorders throughout her late teens.
She says, “I was bulimic and anorexic for a while, just hating my body. As an actress, I was never thin enough, never pretty enough.
“My boobs weren’t big enough… The self-loathing that goes along with bulimia or anorexia helped me understand (my character) Bree’s internal journey [in “Transamerica].”
Disliking our bodies has become normal
Anorexia and bulimia affect nearly 10 million women and 1 million men in the US.
Psychologist Dina Zeckhausen, founder of the nonprofit Eating Disorders Information Network, said on a “Today” show that it has become “normal” for us to dislike our bodies.
“Hollywood actresses are thinner than ever, plastic-surgery ads remind us of our imperfections, and an obesity epidemic places many of us into the unhealthy category.”
But even if we don’t have a clinical disorder, it is worth paying attention to how we see ourselves and think of our bodies, as an indicator of the quality of our self concept, which can impact how well we can access and express our talents.