List of anorexic celebrities, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which an individual essentially starves themselves in order to get thinner. Several famous actresses, actors, and musicians have struggled with anorexia. Many of these celebrities blame increased pressure to look perfect as a catalyst for their development of the condition.

Who is the most famous person who has anorexia? Kate Beckinsale tops this list. Beckinsale struggled with anorexia as a teenager. “Arrested Development” actress Portia de Rossi recalled her struggle with anorexia in her book, Unbearable Lightness.

Dennis Quaid struggled with anorexia after he dropped 40 pounds to play Doc Holiday in Wyatt Earp. He said he could not pull himself out of the thoughts that he was still too heavy. Actress Brittany Snow has battled anorexia as well. The Hairspray star says that she went through a nine-year struggle during which she starved and cut herself.

Do you think that the media plays a role in encouraging celebrities to develop anorexia? Share your thoughts in the comments section. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Top 15 Celebrities Who Battled Atrocious Eating Disorders. Get Inspired!

Posted on 02/25/2019 in General Eating Disorders

Most people often assume they are alone when suffering from an eating disorder. Lately, many celebrities have stepped in for treatment of their undiscovered eating disorders which proves that even those on the red carpet have image concerns and self-doubt. Approximately 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder, and this number includes several high profile recognized personalities. When it comes to eating disorders, we must understand that these disorders do not differentiate and influence people based on their age, gender, socioeconomic status or anything else. The harsh reality is that eating disorders comprise of critical psychiatric illnesses that are observed around the world as endless number of people seek out help and support.

We often think that only women fall prey to this trap and men somehow manage to keep themselves away from iniquities, the truth however is quite opposite. Eating disorders snare both men and women equally in their trap. In particular focus on the entertainment world, where desirability goes hand in hand with hassle, many celebrities have gone through eating disorders. Also, many have successfully overcome such issues. Let’s walk through the inspiring stories of superstars who have opened up their battle with eating disorders.

1. Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato is an unofficial spokesperson for women suffering from eating disorders from 2010. It was that time when she was treated for bulimia. While suffering from this eating disorder, she always thought of dying young before reaching her 21st birthday. The opinionated role model emphasized on her health and fitness as a crucial part of her recovery process. She always gets help for her everyday fitness routine and manages her bipolar disorder. According to her “My body-image awareness started way before that, but I do attribute a little of my insecurities to being onstage and judged for my beauty.”

2. Lady Gaga

In the year 2012, Lady Gaga posted on her website about the ‘Little Monsters’ that she had struggled with, anorexia and bulimia from a very young age of 15. She talked about her cycles of weight gain and loss and shared photos. Her famous “Born This Way Foundation” provide young people a platform and resources to combat body image issues, bullying, drug and alcohol problems and a lot more. This nonprofit organization aims to create a more compassionate environment for all those youngsters who are dealing with these issues. She keeps on motivating everyone with such concerns that it might be very hard but all you need right now is to express yourself to someone.

3. Caleb Followill

The popular man of Kings of Leon had a long struggling journey with anorexia when he was a teenager. He always had a feeling that he is inferior which eventually led to low self-esteem. He compelled himself into a consistent regime of heavy workout on extremely hot days with a tracksuit on. As soon as he realized that he is harming himself and becoming a prominent part of disordered eating, he managed his uncontrolled eating and work out routines.

4. Alanis Morissette

A well-known singer Alanis Morissette talked about her fight with anorexia when she was trying to step in the music industry. She was challenged with extreme pressure as a young woman among the public. Eventually, she decided to meet a therapist since eating disorder recovery became her foremost priority. Morissette started doing yoga, journals and meditates to live a balanced lifestyle. The ultimate outcomes were very satisfactory.

5. Princess Diana

In 1994, Princess Diana spoke openly about her issues with bulimia and self-mutilation. According to her, many individuals suffering from a similar situation might be looking up to several questions, though the ultimate solution lies within them. She also talked about how professional, friends, and family care can make a significant difference in their lives to cope with these disorders. Her courageous speech about her eating disorder and personal struggles has motivated a lot of people who also started talking about their disordered eating. The Princess’ fight to increase understanding about bulimia has massively contributed to public awareness.

6. Russel Brand

Russell Brand is known for his outrageous statements. Though the popular actor and comedian has frequently spoken about his struggles with bulimia and substance abuse when he was a teenager. Eating disorders are more common in women compared to men but approximately 10 million men are suffering from various types of eating disorders in the United States alone. According to him, in those times, it was quite embarrassing to discuss such issues especially if you are male. Today, Brand openly talks about temperance and veganism. He has raised money for many drug addiction recovery programs and has become a prominent figure in the fight with eating disorders.

7. Ella Mai

In the year 2018, Mai struggled with disordered eating. Though later she was able to gain 20 lbs. In one of her interviews, she talked about her condition and being aware of abusing herself. It was a time when being skinny was the most appealing thing for her. From her popular season “The Real” she was always 100 lbs. Though later she started working very hard and made sure not to gain any more weight and stay on a standard size. Mai was very much distressed looking at her photos and realizing that her knees and shoulders have become really pointy or you may say very weak, she approached one of her friends who helped her with a healthy nutrition plan including healthy fats, grains, and whole foods. Also, she started hitting the gym. The entire recovery process not only helped her gain a healthy body but incorporated a new and more positive perspective in her life. The distorted body image has gone forever!

8. Ireland Baldwin

Ireland Baldwin is a 22-year old daughter of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger who expressed her past struggles with anorexia on one of her Instagram stories. She shared an old photo of herself with the caption “Anorexia throwback” and it got the attention of millions of people around the world. Also, she posted a photo of her very young age wearing a bikini and writing “Nope”. She battled with her body image from a very tender age. It took her a long time to find acceptance and satisfaction for herself. The popular model wrote that all suffering and destruction she did on herself wasn’t worth it.

9. Whitney Cummings

Cummings from a very young age of 14-18 insisted on having a certain diet so she don’t get fat by keenly observing her mother. She was extremely terrified of getting fat and consequently she had a very thin figure. She was unable to get away from her obsession with being skinny which far ahead started upsetting her. Finally, the comedian turned a corner with the support of her friends which gave her an important realization that she could really happy and healthy with proper nutrition.

10. Zayn Malik

The very famous singer spoke out his struggle with an eating disorder in his book. He openly talked about his jam-packed schedule with the immense popularity of One Direction that led him to skip several meals in a row and at times for multiple days. He never said anything about his physical and psychological health ever in public until leaving the band. Although he didn’t have cared much about losing weight but sometimes he had to skip meals for straight two to three days without even realizing it. Later, he acknowledged the fact that how disordered eating has affected his health.

11. Lily Collins

The actress who has won the hearts of millions shared a very intimate connection with her character in ‘To the Bone’. Collins started suffering from an eating disorder as a teenager. She opened up about her disorder while speaking to IMDB Studio about her movie. As per her statement, it was a very dramatic role for her since she has suffered from eating disorder when she was just a teenager. Collins also wrote a book where she has talked about her experiences she always used to fear to express. Moreover, she has also explained there are many taboos connected to eating disorders and the reason why many people going through this phase are unable to speak up.

12. Hilary Duff

Similar to many other young celebrities, Duff admits that she has suffered from an eating disorder back in her teenage years. She stepped into an unhealthy territory when it comes to eating. In one of her interviews, she talked about how the world seemed to be cruel to her and she was very much unhappy at the time. She still remembers her hands cramping because she wasn’t getting enough nutrients.

13. Nicole Scherzinger

It’s not all about song and dance from the Pussycat Doll and former X Factor judge. She combated bulimia for around eight years while she was at the peak of Pussycat Dolls fame. She told Cosmopolitan UK that it was always a horrible and dark time for her. She felt ashamed since none of his friend or family member had ever gone through the same situation. She realized that it was not something normal and she was doing nothing but hurting herself both emotionally and physically. Though today she is committed to do things differently and make sure that it never happens again.

14. Elton John

Elton John had an unrepressed history of heavy drinking, drug abuse, and bulimia. He undertook a treatment course for his drug obsession and bulimia. For several years, it was very hard for him to realize that he even had an issue. According to his conversation with Larry King, he knew he would get better because he was determined to do so. He also spoke how much it helped him when he came to know that his dear friend Princess Diana fought with bulimia as well. He now gives more attention to his family and charitable work through the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

15. Bianca Belair

In NXT, Bianca Belair is among the most confident celebrities on television. Her struggle with bulimia and depression almost cost her life. In one of her interviews, she revealed her journey of disordered eating. To win a scholarship, she was consistently told to lose weight which resulted in her skipping meals. She won the scholarship and decided not to throw up her food though later once again she needed to lose weight and instead of seeking a professional help, she skipped her meals. Her struggle with bulimia caused her serious depression. Though she was prescribed medication, she didn’t want to take it devotedly. This led to her emotional breakdown which resulted in her keeping herself isolated. According to her, she thought no one was listening nor she tried to talk. She stopped taking pills that was no less than a life threat when she was taken to emergency. After one week of therapy, she decided to go back home with the hope she will get better with her support system. However, it failed and she attempted suicide. Though today she admits that if she would be in a group of friends or with her family speaking about her condition, the situation wouldn’t be as worse as it turned out.

Eating disorders develop for multiple reasons such as stress, self-image distortion, low self-esteem etc. However, neither it’s something to be ashamed of nor it needs to be kept a secret. The first and foremost thing is to get out of denial and seek help. We often follow celebrities for their fashion and lifestyle so why not get inspired by their battles of eating disorders. By being honest about their struggles, a number of celebrities are building awareness and helping to promote a healthy body image. There might be a certain feeling that you need to get perfect, but our most favorite superstars such as Demi Lovato and Nicole Scherzinger are proving that being healthy is trendy in Hollywood as well. These long-struggling stories are breaking many stigmas surrounding mental illness. Asking for help is a must for long-term recovery and looking up at professional interventions can be truly lifesaving. Speak up because staying silent won’t heal you!

9 Celebrities with Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can affect anybody, from adolescent girls to middle-aged men. Around 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder, and this number includes many celebrities. Keep reading to learn about celebrities who have spoken up to let others with eating disorders know they’re not alone and to encourage them to seek help.

1. Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato has become an unofficial spokesperson for young women with eating disorders since being treated for bulimia and anorexia in 2010. She once said in an interview, “I lived fast and I was going to die young. I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” The outspoken role model is focusing on her overall health and fitness as part of her recovery process. She also uses her fitness routine to help manage her bipolar disorder.

2. Paula Abdul

When Paula Abdul began dancing at age 7, she began to feel insecure about her muscular frame. She began binging, purging, and over-exercising. She’s explained, “Whether I was sticking my head in the toilet or exercising for hours a day, I was spitting out the food — and the feelings.” She finally checked herself into a mental health clinic in 1994. She still relies on the help of nutritionists and therapists. Abdul has worked with the National Eating Disorders Association to encourage young women to seek help.

3. Russell Brand

Russell Brand might be better known for his outrageous statements, but the actor and comedian has spoken about his struggles with bulimia and substance abuse as a teenager. Eating disorders are more commonly found in women than in men, but around 10 million men are thought to have eating disorders in the United States alone. In an interview, Brand said, “It was really unusual in boys, quite embarrassing. But I found it euphoric.” Brand now talks about his sobriety and veganism and has helped raise money for drug addiction recovery programs.

4. Lady Gaga

In 2012, Lady Gaga revealed on her site Little Monsters that she’s struggled with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 15. She posted about her cycles of weight gain and loss and shared photos. Her Born This Way Foundation connects young people with resources to help with body image, bullying, drug and alcohol issues, and more. The nonprofit exists to let struggling teens know that they’re not alone and to help create a more compassionate world. She continues to encourage anyone struggling with body image, saying, “It’s really hard, but … you’ve got to talk to somebody about it.”

5. Alanis Morissette

Singer Alanis Morissette struggled with anorexia when she was first trying to break into the music industry. She faced extreme pressure as a young woman in the public eye. Morissette overcame her eating disorder by seeing a therapist and now talks about her practice of mindfulness. She’s noted, “The big question for me around eating-disorder recovery is, ‘What is sobriety with food?’” She does yoga, journals, and meditates in order to lead a balanced lifestyle.

6. Jordan Younger

Popular blogger and Instagrammer Jordan Younger, also known as The Balanced Blonde, opened up in 2015 about her struggles with maintaining balance as a vegan. This type of eating disorder has a name: orthorexia. Orthorexia is a pattern of disordered eating with a focus on foods we may think of as healthy and “pure.” Orthorexia isn’t currently recognized as a clinical disorder by psychologists, but this type of disordered eating is increasingly common.

In an article published by Refinery29, Younger wrote, “Rather than admit my food phobia, I could just claim it was too hard to eat out as a vegan. Meanwhile, the cycle continued: I cleansed, got too hungry, broke down and ate solid food, felt terribly guilty, and rededicated myself to another cleanse — usually a longer one.”

Younger changed the name of her blog and Instagram account from The Blonde Vegan to The Balanced Blonde to reflect her new pursuit of balance. She has also published a book and posts regularly about her ongoing recovery.

7. Diana, Princess of Wales

Princess Diana spoke publicly about her issues with bulimia and self-mutilation in 1994. In her public speech, she said, “I am certain the ultimate solution lies within the individual. But, with the help and patient nurturing given by professionals, family and friends, people suffering eating disorders can find a better way of coping with their lives.” Her brave speech regarding her eating disorder and personal struggles gave many people the courage to start talking about their own eating disorders. Princess Diana fought to increase understanding about bulimia and helped bring public awareness to eating disorders.

8. Elton John

Elton John has had a tumultuous history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia. He underwent a treatment program for drug addiction and bulimia. For many years, it was difficult for him to acknowledge that he even had a problem, but as he told Larry King, “As soon as I said those words , I knew that I was going to get better, and I was determined to get better.” He has also spoken about how much it helped to know that his close friend Princess Diana struggled with bulimia as well. Since then, he has embraced his body, sexual identity, and life. He now focuses his attention on his family and humanitarian work through the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

9. Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda was one of the first famous women to speak openly about eating disorders. She revealed that she had struggled with bulimia since age 12, with cycles of binging, purging, and restricting. Fonda partly blames how she was raised for her eating disorder, saying, “I was taught to think if I wanted to be loved, I had to be thin and pretty. That leads to a lot of trouble.” She’s campaigned to raise awareness about anorexia and bulimia. By speaking openly about her 30-year battle with eating disorders, she’s become a role model for women of all ages.

Seeking help

Eating disorders weren’t always so openly addressed, but thanks to these vocal celebrities, they’re increasingly discussed and better understood. It’s important to seek help if you or someone you know may be struggling. Recognizing the disorder is the first step in finding help.

Eating Disorders Like Bulimia Can Occur In Anyone

Eating disorders don’t care who you are, where you live, or how much money you make. They don’t care about your job or your marital status. They don’t respect class, social station, or pecking order. Celebrities with eating disorders are as common and anyone else.

The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating. They exist alone and, in some people, in combination. And, those with eating disorders often have mood, anxiety, impulse-control, or substance use disorders as well.

Anyone, from a princess to a pauper, can fall victim to these life-altering—and life-threatening—mental illnesses. Friends, relatives, lovers, acquaintances—even celebrities, the people we admire as stars, the most powerful, or the most beautiful among us, are or have been afflicted.

Karen Carpenter

Perhaps the most famous celebrity with an eating disorder was singer and drummer Karen Carpenter, who with her brother Richard formed half of the hugely popular 1970s singing group The Carpenters.

Heartbreakingly, anorexia nervosa silenced her lovely voice forever.

After years of growing thinner and thinner—and denying a problem—she died suddenly in 1983, the victim of an irregular heartbeat caused by chemical imbalances associated with anorexia nervosa.

Carpenter’s tragic and untimely death brought public attention—for the first time—to anorexia and other eating disorders.

Princess Diana

Great Britain’s Princess Diana was one of the most beloved and admired women in the world during the 1980s and 90s.

Yet she struggled with bulimia for many years following her fairy-tale wedding.

Her battle began in 1981 and continued until late in the decade when she finally sought treatment.

She made her struggle with binging and purging—and the personal insecurity and stress that caused it—public in the 1990s, using her own example as a way to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.

Her courage continues to inspire others to confront their mental health issues, including low-self-esteem, and get professional treatment.

Jane Fonda

Actress Jane Fonda fought a long battle with chronic perfectionism, one that started when she was 12 years old.

“All of the culture is telling us we’re supposed to be this way or that way,” Fonda states in an article on the Forbes website.

“We’re supposed to look like this; we’re supposed to behave this way.”

Eventually, Fonda became bulimic, binging and purging to keep her body and weight under tight control and “perfect.”

She was in her 40s when she finally realized the damage she was doing to herself, confronted her addiction, and stopped cold turkey.

Elton John

We don’t hear very often about men with eating disorders, but they aren’t exclusive to women and girls.

A quarter of those with anorexia and bulimia are men, and 40 percent of binge eaters are men as well.

The legendary singer, songwriter, and pianist Elton John said he had bulimia for 16 years before he sought treatment for it and a cocaine addiction in 1990.

He said he was in denial, and he thought it was something he could fix on his own.

During an interview with Larry King in 2002, John said as soon as he said the words “I need help” he knew he was going to get better.

His personal battle with bulimia—and his openness about it—have helped inspire more public awareness about how eating disorders can affect men, too.

Other Celebrities with Eating Disorders who’ve had bulimia anorexia include:

  • The late Margaux Hemingway
  • Paula Abdul
  • Dennis Quaid
  • Lady GaGa
  • Calista Lockhart
  • Frank Bruni
  • Sally Field
  • Susan Dey
  • Katie Couric

About the Author: Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California where she writes for Healthline.

Famous People with Eating Disorders. (n.d.) Eating Disorder Retrieved on August 18, 2014 from Anorexic Celebrities. (2014) Mirror, Mirror Eating Disorders. Retrieved on August 18, 2014 from Schmidt, R. Karen Carpenter’s Tragic Story. (23 October 2010) The Guardian. Retrieved on August 18, 2014 from Goudreau, J. (2011, September 15) Jane Fonda on Overcoming Chronic Perfectionism. Forbes. Retrieved on August 18, 2014 from Study Tracks Prevalence of Eating Disorders. (2007) National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved on August 22, 2014 from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 12, 2018
Published on

Although it is estimated that 25% of those with anorexia and bulimia are men, there is not a lot of public attention to males with eating disorders. However, it is so important to change the conversation around eating disorders and highlight men who are struggling with them. Here are six male celebrities who have opened up about their eating disorders:

1. Zayn Malik

Pop star Zayn Malik opened up about the eating disorder that he developed while touring with his former band, One Direction.

He says that his busy touring schedule often meant that he would deliberately go for days without eating, saying “It wasn’t as though I had any concerns about my weight or anything like that, I’d just go for days—sometimes two or three days straight—without eating anything at all. It got quite serious, although at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was.”

2. Dennis Quaid

In the 1990’s, actor Dennis Quaid lost 40 pounds for a movie role. Even though his weight loss for the film was temporary, Quaid admits that he still struggled with the mentality surrounding obsessive weight loss and his own body image, saying, “For many years, I was obsessed about what I was eating, how many calories it had, and how much exercise I’d have to do.”

3. Elton John

Singer and songwriter Elton John struggled with bulimia for 16 years before finally seeking treatment for his disorder in 1990. He told Larry King in an interview that he knew that he was going to get better once he finally admitted that he needed help to overcome his eating disorder.

4. Tyler Oakley

YouTube star Tyler Oakley opened up to Seventeen about his ongoing struggle with body image after having overcome an eating disorder.

“With videos, meet and greets, and a million pictures a day, it’s definitely a thing that I think about…Talking about it is really hard because it’s something I suppress and work through every day,” he revealed.

5. Eminem

Rapper Eminem revealed that he turned to obsessive exercise as a way to lose weight. He admits, “I would get up in the morning, and before I went to the studio, I would run eight and a half miles in about an hour. Then I’d come home and run another eight and a half.”

His obsession with weight loss and burning calories eventually began to cause him physical injury and luckily he was able to recover from his obsession.

6. Russell Brand

Comedian Russell Brand has admitted that he has struggled with binge-eating and purging since he was 11, and that his bulimia returned, briefly, when he was older which he attributes to issues with his self-esteem.

Celebrities have an incredible amount of influence over their fans, and so the more that celebrities open up about their battles, the more likely it is that someone will see their struggle and be willing to seek help for their own.

List of famous people with eating disorders, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Eating disorders are conditions that involve abnormal eating habits that range from eating very little to eating an excessive amount of food. The most common eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Bulimia involves eating an excessive amount of food and then vomiting to rid oneself of the food. Anorexia involves an individual restricting their food intake.

Who is the most famous person who has had an eating disorder? In an interview with Glamour, Jessica Alba states, “A lot of girls have eating disorders, and I did too – I got obsessed with it.” Actress Kate Beckinsale is formerly anorexic. She doesn’t blame the media for pressuring girls into eating disorders and instead claims that issues with food are more about what is going on in the home. Other actresses who have struggled with eating disorders include Kate Winslet, Christina Ricci, and Jane Fonda.

Musicians have also struggled with eating disorders. “Criminal” singer Fiona Apple turned to anorexia as an emotional response to being sexually assaulted. Silverchair front man Daniel Johns said that his struggle with anorexia was a result of his life spinning out of control at the height of his band’s success.

Do you think that the media puts too much pressure on people to be thin?

The Physical Effects of Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder with physical effects on the body which are serious, harmful and left untreated, can result in long-term problems. Although the physical effects of anorexia nervosa, including the condition’s mortality rate, are perhaps better recognised, the physical effects of bulimia are multiple and should not be under-estimated. Bulimia effects can, for some, become life-threatening and certainly for many, bulimia can have a long-term health impact.

There are multiple effects from the cycle of binging and purging that is characteristic of bulimia. Bulimia treatment is essential: the longer the condition persists without effective treatment, physical effects become increasingly serious and lasting.

Here, we will break down this

  • Immediate physical signs of bulimia
  • Long-term physical effects of bulimia
  • Treatment and support

Immediate physical signs of bulimia

There are a range of immediate physical effects of bulimia. The effect on each individual will vary according to the pattern of their eating disorder and individual physiology. Physical signs can include:

  • Russell’s sign
  • Swollen face
  • Tooth decay
  • Sore throat
  • Dehydration

One of the most well-known bulimia effects is ‘Russell’s sign’: calluses on the knuckles and hands caused when inducing vomiting, as in doing so, this part of the hand scrapes against the teeth. Russell’s sign, however, is not present in all people with bulimia; many will purge without causing this bulimia effect and may depend on other types of purging (laxatives, over-exercising).

Tooth decay is closely linked to the binge vomit cycle because the contents of the stomach are highly acidic and repeated cycles of vomiting cause tooth enamel to break down through this acidic content. Bad breath is another bulimia effect.

Face swelling is one of the bulimia effects sufferers find most distressing: sometimes described as ‘bulimia face,’ the swelling can make people feel their face ‘looks fat’. What is taking place is the body’s reaction to self-induced vomiting and the dehydration it causes. The body reacts by trying to hold on to as much water as possible and this is most evident in the parotid glands (around the jawline and side of the face).

Long-term physical effects of bulimia

Bulimia has a devastating impact upon the whole body in the long term, causing multiple serious effects:

  • Electrolyte imbalance, particularly potassium
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss or disruption of menstrual cycle
  • Bone weakness

Electrolytes are electrically charged salts, or ions, used by the body to regulate hydration, together with nerve and muscle function. They are determined by hydration: how much water is present in the body.

A long-term pattern of purging leaves the body’s electrolytes in a persistent imbalance, with the risk of affects on heart and kidney function. Potassium is an electrolyte (and also classified as a mineral) which is often depleted by the binge purge cycle and is particularly important for heart function. People with bulimia should have a test of potassium levels and receive a supplement, if required because very low potassium levels can cause irregular heart rhythms and the breakdown of heart tissue fibres.

Other long-term physical effects of bulimia nervosa and potential risks include menstrual cycle disruption and associated fertility problems. Chronic fatigue caused by the constant depletion of nutrients during purges is also a risk, together with future problems with bone health, due to loss of calcium. Tooth decay caused by bulimia may be permanent and difficult to treat.

Treatment and support

Fortunately, there is good, established bulimia treatment, with strong evidence for its effectiveness. Bulimia treatment is based on a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) based approach, supporting individuals to consider the links between their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It is a practical, problem-solving approach and in bulimia treatment, the triggers for a binge are considered and how this could be overcome by changing the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Treatment is almost always provided in an outpatient setting (seeing a CBT therapist once a week), unless there are other problems which necessitate an inpatient admission. Group support may also be helpful.

Seeking treatment for bulimia as early as possible is very important, both in terms of reducing your risk of long term, enduring physical side-effects and because it is recognised with bulimia and other eating disorders, early treatment is linked to better outcomes. This is because the longer eating disorders persist, the more entrenched and difficult to treat they become.

John Prescott was praised by eating disorder experts yesterday for his “brave” admission that he had struggled with bulimia for two decades.

In his forthcoming autobiography, the former deputy prime minister and MP for Hull East reveals that the stress of political life led him to seek comfort in food and then force himself to throw up. Prescott says he began suffering from bulimia in the 1980s, when the pressure of being in the Labour shadow cabinet became overwhelming.

He battled the condition throughout his time in government, gorging on burgers, chocolate, crisps and fish and chips. But he says he has been free of the problem for more than a year.

“I’m sure it was to do with stress,” he wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times, which is to serialise his memoirs. “I wasn’t doing it all the time, and there would be gaps of weeks and months, but during those years when we first got into power, I let things get on top of me and took refuge in stuffing my face.”

He added: “I’ve never confessed it before. Out of shame, I suppose, or embarrassment – or just because it’s such a strange thing for someone like me to confess to. People normally associate it with young women – anorexic girls, models trying to keep their weight down, or women in stressful situations, like Princess Diana.”

He also revealed how he would turn to sweet things and Chinese food when things became stressful. “I could sup a whole tin of Carnation condensed milk, just for the taste, stupid things like that. Marks & Spencer trifles, I still love them, one of my favourites. I can eat them for ever. Whenever I go to Mr Chu’s in Hull, my favourite Chinese restaurant in the whole world … I could eat my way through the entire menu.”

Although Prescott tried to hide the illness from his wife, Pauline, she realised what was going on. “The signs in the toilet gave it away, and all the missing food.”

She urged him to see a doctor and a consultant eventually diagnosed him with bulimia. “I turned up and found his waiting room full of young women. I was the only man there. I felt a right twerp. Luckily none of them shopped me to the press.” In the book, he also reveals that despite preferring food to alcohol, he would occasionally drink to relieve the stress and to let people know how low he was feeling.

“Once or twice a year, when I was absolutely knackered, I did get out a bottle of vodka and place it on my desk. The office hated it when they saw what was happening. They knew I’d go at it full pelt, as I always do with anything, and empty the bottle. But that was very rare.”

Prescott, who resigned as deputy prime minister last June and will retire as an MP at the next election, is now supporting an NHS campaign to raise awareness of eating disorders.

The eating disorder support charity Beat said Prescott’s decision to speak out had shown considerable courage.

“It will help other people to firstly realise that men can be affected by eating disorders, and you can get help and treatment – even if you have been ill for a very long time,” said the charity’s chief executive, Susan Ringwood.

“It is a brave thing to do because people do feel ashamed of themselves and find it really hard even to tell close family members.”

Although girls and young women aged between 12 and 20 account for 80% of new cases of eating disorders, boys and men are also affected. “It is probably under-diagnosed – even a doctor doesn’t necessarily think it can affect a boy or a man,” said Ringwood.

“Anybody could have this condition, including people who are in the public eye,” she said. “People absolutely shouldn’t be ashamed. We need to get past that huge stigma that is associated with an eating disorder.”

Dr Ty Glover, a consultant psychiatrist and expert on eating disorders, described Prescott’s revelation as “a hugely brave and courageous thing”.

He added: “It’s hard enough for a young girl to confess to, but for a high-profile male politician approaching 70, it’s especially impressive.”

Glover said he had never before come across a man of Prescott’s age with bulimia. “It seriously makes me think that maybe we’re completely missing a whole audience of middle-aged men who are too scared to admit they have a problem.

“John’s bravery will hopefully encourage more men to stop suffering in silence and come forward to seek treatment.”

There are thought to be more than 1 million people in Britain with an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia, 90% of whom are women.

Men and bulimia

John Prescott is one of the few high-profile men to admit having problems with bulimia. In 1993, Elton John successfully sued the Sunday Mirror for £350,000 after it appeared to question his recovery from the disease by reporting that he had been seen spitting chewed food into a napkin at a party.

He told the high court that he was a drug addict and alcoholic for 16 years and a bulimic for six years until he was cured after six weeks of treatment at a Chicago hospital in 1990.

Psychic celebrity Uri Geller also battled the disease, which he said he eventually overcame through willpower. “One day my driver drove me to my apartment, and I couldn’t get out of the car, I was so weak,” he said. “So in the middle of the street I screamed out, ‘One, two, three STOP’ and I stopped it. I just summoned my willpower, instructed my psyche, my inner powers – whatever you want to call it, and that’s it, finished. I never vomited again.”

Sportsmen have also fallen victim to the illness. Former football star Paul Gascoigne would binge on ice cream and then throw up when he was at a low ebb.

In his autobiography, which was published last year, the formula one driver David Coulthard wrote about his struggle with the condition. “In my mind the only way I could keep my weight down was by making myself vomit … I stopped eating fattening food and, before I knew what had happened, I was bulimic.”

More male celebrities have admitted to having anorexia and other eating disorders.

They include the actor Dennis Quaid, the missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards, who penned the song 4st 7lbs, and Elvis Presley, whose problems with food are well-documented.

Rock, Paper, Scissors—Pica


Pica, a condition in which a person is compelled to eat non-food items such as dirt, paper, plaster, cigarette ashes, and other items, is increasing in prevalence in adults.1

The graphic illustrates a famous case from 1929, in which a patient was found to have a staggering 1446 nonfood items in his stomach. Want to get a closer look? These items are on display at the Glore Psychiatric Museum.

Individuals with pica usually crave a particular non-nutritional substance, most commonly clay, dirt, sand, or ice chips. Some will consume hairballs, chalk, soap, paint, or glue. In rare cases, dangerous objects, such as rocks, feces, pins, nails, or buttons are consumed.2

Although there are no clear answers to what would compel pica-type behaviors, it is typically found in young children, those with nutritional deficiencies (eg, iron and zinc), women who are pregnant, or in people with developmental delays or autism. Pica is often comorbid with other psychiatric disorders, especially anxiety and depression.

What are the dangers?
Eating non-food items can have severe health consequences.3 These include

• toxic poisoning (eg, lead-based paint chips)
• internal damage caused by sharp items
• parasites
• internal blockages and constipation
• damage to teeth
• nutritional deprivation

It is vital for those suffering from pica to seek the care of a medical doctor or mental health professional.

Pica on the rise
Incidences of pica have increased in recent years among adults. From 1999 to 2009, the number of hospitalizations as a result from pica increased 93%.1 Meanwhile, the number of hospitalizations for the eating disorders most commonly thought of, anorexia and bulimia, rose 13% and declined 14%, respectively.1

Clearly, pica needs to be addressed in order to combat the health risks and dangers associated with it.

Order a full physical and screen for missing nutrients as well as other medical issues, eg, lead poisoning

Control for behavior and environmental factors. Mild aversion therapy has been effective in some cases

Seek to reduce impulse to eat abnormally with pharmacological interventions. “Medications may help reduce the abnormal eating behavior if pica is part of a developmental disorder, such as intellectual disability”4

Further reading:
An Update on Pica: Prevalence, Contributing Causes, and Treatment

Pica in Pregnancy

Diagnostic criteria:

  • Blake Lively

    It seems Lively’s cravings go hand-in-hand with her new website, Preserve. Uh-huh. She has reportedly been sending husband Ryan Reynolds out for “organic hand-churned pumpkin-flavoured ice cream and small-batch pickles. ” Because, of course. God forbid she opened up a jar of regular old Bick’s.Getty Images

  • Beyoncé

    If you want to be pregnant, just like Bey, then you better like ketchup because she put that sh*t on everything — including dipping bananas in it. She reportedly also liked ice cream with chili sauce and croissants with melted candy bars inside (OK, we’re on board with that last one).Getty Images

  • January Jones

    Since there is no DQ in L.A., whenever the actress visited her family in the Midwest, she stopped by the fast-food restaurant every day and would order anything from Blizzards to chili dogs to her favourite, cherry-dipped cones.Getty Images

  • Tina Fey

    An entire box of Entenmann’s chocolate doughnuts would disappear on a daily basis while she was expecting her daughter, Alice. Homer Simpson would be proud.Getty Images

  • Mila Kunis

    The actress admitted to Ellen DeGeneres that she could eat sauerkraut all day long. Hey, as long as she could get past its stench, then why not?Getty Images

  • Christina Applegate

    Prior to an interview with George Lopez, Applegate admitted that she had just scarfed down a cupcake and fried cheese, as well as pancakes and ketchup. We’re not sure if they were eaten together or noshed as separate snacks. Fingers crossed on the latter.Getty Images

  • Kourtney Kardashian

    It was just the one time but during her pregnancy with Mason, she had to have a relish-and-mayo sandwich. Soooo, tartar sauce then.Getty Images

  • Britney Spears

    Cheetos? Check. Fried chicken? Check. Dirt? Ch— whaaat? Yep, there’s a disorder called Pica that some pregnant women (and children) develop in which they have an appetite for things that are largely non-nutritive, such as ice, clay, chalk, soil, or sand.Getty Images

  • Halle Berry

    Like many pregnant women, Halle craved pickles. But that vinegar-y taste wasn’t enough and she satisfied her hankering by drinking pepperoncini juice. Lip-smacking good, we’re assuming.Getty Images

  • Elisabeth Hasselbeck

    Watermelon with salt and lime was Hasselbeck’s go-to snack. Nothing wrong with a little salty and sweet.Getty Images

  • Hilary Duff

    Rice Krispie treats and Red Hots. Hey, at least they’re not fried and covered in butter.Getty Images

  • Pink

    Forget the sweet stuff. While pregnant with daughter Willow, all the singer wanted was Sour Skittles, Sour Patch Kids and key lime pie.Getty Images

  • Claudia Schiffer

    The supermodel was hungry for doughnuts and had a penchant for non-alcoholic beer. Weird since no one ever has a thirst for the stuff.Getty Images

  • Jennifer Connelly

    The Oscar winner reportedly indulged in pretzels dipped in cream cheese to ease her morning sickness. We think it seems like it would only increase the nausea but to each her own.Getty Images

  • Nicole Richie

    The star ate a lot of wasabi during her second pregnancy (with son Sparrow) in 2009, something she admitted to normally hating. Um, don’t kids add enough spice to life.Getty Images

  • Jessica Simpson

    Where to begin. Girlfriend craved everything from KD, Cap’n Crunch cereal and buttered Pop Tarts to putting salt over cantaloupe and eating an entire one in one sitting. It’s fruit so it’s OK, right?Getty Images

Celebrities and eating disorders

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