From the moment I could speak, my parents said I was a performer (probably due to my intense dramatics). I began formally acting as a teenager and continued throughout adolescence. Play after play, I always received positive feedback and began to feel like a star.
To be quite honest though, I was a big fish in a small pond all the way through my late teens. The same week I found out I was accepted into the drama program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, I was cast as the title character in my high school production of ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie.’ Millie’s character resonated with me. As Millie sings in the opening number, "I studied all the pictures in magazines and books... Manhattan I prepared for you," and I did. Or at least I thought I had...
Growing up weight was always “my thing.” It was the one part of my life that I felt like I was losing in a constant battle. I have always been tall. I’m now 5'10" and until all the boys caught up to me in high school, I was the bigger girl who towered over everyone. However, it was not something I was conscious of until about 6th grade. Up until then I knew I liked food and I was aware I was chubbier than all my friends, but I didn't think of it as something “bad.” That is, until I came home from a vacation with my family, to a message on our home answering machine from a few immature 12-year old boys, telling my parents they should sign me up for heavy weights camp. This marks my internal calendar as the first time the word “fat” became relevant to me. That's when the true battle against myself officially started.
My eating disorder began as a desperate attempt to lose my unwanted belly freshman year of high school. All the “hot girls” in our class were toothpicks and if I was ever going to get a guy to notice me as something other than their “fat friend,” I had to lose weight and I had to lose it fast. I had no clue that I was doing anything to harm my mental and physical self. I thought I was “just cutting carbs.” I stopped eating them cold turkey and saw results. I thought I was being “healthy” and I thought I was solving the problem, when in reality, I was making it much, much worse.
I wasn't very active at that time aside from dancing in musicals. I noticed cutting carbohydrates paired really well with running and I started going for 30-minute jogs a couple times a week. As expected, the football boys paused on bullying me and started noticing me. I would be lying if I said that I didn't love the attention, but something wasn't quite right.
I couldn't understand why my stomach was shrinking but my confidence wasn't growing in tandem. 10, 20, 45 lbs later I looked in the mirror daily, hoping I'd love my new self, but I didn't. It wasn't enough and for the next 8 years, it was never going to be enough.
The battle with my weight continued and the fight was ruthless. The worst part of it all though was that I never looked sick, so no one ever said anything or intervened. Aside from my random food freak-outs, no one thought my intense weight loss was unhealthy because I fit society’s standards of “beautiful.” I was skinny, I was tall, and I knew how to hide behind one hell of a smile when I had to.
Externally positive things also continued to happen. I got the lead in the big school musical; I was accepted into my dream college and a prestigious drama program. I received very positive accolades from my peers and parents, so I slowly started believing I was “ok” and started to reintroduce carbohydrates and eat normally again. Then, off to New York I went, with 24 cardboard boxes, and a whole lot of baggage (literally and figuratively).
If anyone ever tells you that college is easy, they are lying. College is overwhelming and I did not know how to manage my anxieties. As if college requisites aren’t challenging enough, my acting teachers were constantly talking negatively about my body. I felt hopeless and looked for a solution. The idea of restricting food seemed impossible at this point in my life. I enjoyed it way too much again. So this time my disorder decided to wear a different costume- B.E.D., otherwise known as Binge Eating Disorder.
What many people don’t know is that B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder in the US, more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. I would get stressed out and I would eat. I would feel depressed and I would eat. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but afterwards I felt horrible and my self-hatred skyrocketed. The worst part of it all was that I was in New York trying to break into the most judgmental industry in the entire world. What do you get when you combine a young woman, plus low self-esteem, plus the entertainment industry? Let’s just say it doesn’t equal success.
I constantly felt run down and not only by my intense workload, but also by myself. I couldn’t go one full minute without thinking about how ugly I was, or how overweight I was and how I was never going to be successful because I didn’t look like the size 0’s on TV. I was so lost and by my senior year, I had completely fallen out of love with my passion for the arts. I stopped going to class. I began failing studio. I started wanting success for all the wrong reasons.
I thought if I became famous, I would suddenly not feel so alone. What I didn’t realize though was that if I didn’t believe in myself, no agent, manager, or casting director ever would. I knew I had to take a step back if I was ever going to come out of the battle with myself alive. Luckily, I have the most supportive family in the world and they encouraged me to find myself and take some time to figure out what inspired me again. I knew I couldn’t solve the problems in my head alone, so I had to ask for professional help.
When I first entered The Beacon, an eating disorder clinic in New York, I was at the point where I felt like I had tried everything. Every diet, every supplement, every type of exercise, but nothing ever worked. I was at the point where I wanted to stop the binging, stop the dieting, stop the self-hate but this time I wanted it to stay stopped and find a permanent solution. The entire staff supported me and held me accountable. I also got extremely into fitness in a healthy way. Between the support staff at Beacon and my exercise program, I felt like I finally found places that understood exactly what I was going through and supported me constantly. For the first time in my life, I saw the possibility of an end to the mental madness.