At 84, Fonda has long been candid about her health struggles, including her cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In a recent interview on Paramount+’s The Checkup With Dr. David Agus, the veteran actress and environmental activist spoke openly about battling and overcoming bulimia and anorexia, two of the most of common types of eating disorders.
Fonda’s eating disorder symptoms began in the 1950s and ’60s. At the time, the Grace & Frankie star didn’t even know there were names for what she was experiencing, she told Dr. Agus.
“If I had it to do over and it was nowadays, I’d probably go to a 12-step program or something, but I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I didn’t know that you could go someplace [for in-patient treatment].”
Fonda finally sought help when her eating disorder began to negatively impact her career and personal life: “I was married, I had children, I was politically active, I was raising money, I was an actor, I was making movies. I couldn’t do it all because the older you get, the more toll it takes on you. If you binge and purge, it’s like three or four days to really recover. And I just couldn’t do the lifestyle that I wanted to do.”
Sadly, Fonda is not alone. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), anorexia nervosa affects between 0.3-0.4 percent of young women and 0.1 percent of young men, and bulimia impacts about 1 percent of young women and 0.1 percent of young men. Anorexia is characterized by obsessive food restriction, weight loss, and distorted body image, whereas bulimia involves cycles of binge-eating and compensatory behaviors, like self-induced vomiting.
Eating disorders are incredibly serious and can cause lifelong physical complications. In fact, they have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness after opioid addiction.
It is possible to recover from an eating disorder with proper treatment, according to NEDA. This usually involves a team of healthcare professionals from different disciplines, including psychology, nutritional counseling, and general medical monitoring.
Ultimately, Fonda’s recovery journey began when she decided she was ready to make a change. “It was really, really, really, really hard,” she admitted, “[but] the good news is that you can recover from eating disorders. One hundred percent.”
The actress joins a growing contingent of celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with eating disorders to raise awareness. Many of these courageous public figures are women, which speaks to the prominent gender disparity among people with eating disorders.
Just last week, Disney Channel alum Hilary Duff spoke out about the “terrifying” eating disorder she also battled as a teen. “Because of my career path, I can’t help but be like, ‘I am on camera and actresses are skinny,’” the 35-year-old actress told Women’s Health Australia. “It was horrifying.”
If you’re suffering from eating disorder, you are not alone. Consider seeking professional help or contacting NEDA’s Eating Disorder Helpline at (800) 931-2237.
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