Until now, few outside Brittany Snow‘s inner circle knew that through her own teen years, Snow battled anorexia, depression and self-mutilation.
Now recovered and working with the Jed Foundation (jedfoundation.org) to encourage others to seek help, Snow, recounts her struggle, and her courageous path to recovery. Here’s the story in her own words.
I always had in my mind that being skinny was better, even as a little girl. But I was never chubby or overweight. At age 12 I was on Guiding Light, and I wanted to be accepted by these adults I was working with. I started with the Eat Right for Your Type diet. I was not eating anything it said not to. It was almost fun for me, like a little experiment.
Then I moved on to other diets. The cabbage diet, the salmon diet – I don’t even like salmon! – the Zone, Atkins, Slim Fast. When I started losing weight, I got compliments from people I looked up to on the show. Soon, I was addicted to getting results. That’s how it started, but it progressed rather quickly.
Within a month, Snow lost 10 lbs. from her then 5’3″ frame.
My parents knew that I was dieting. A misperception about anorexia is that you don’t eat. Not true. Maybe you eat just 500 calories a day. It would be easy for me to say, “Why didn’t my parents notice?” But I didn’t want them to. I made sure to eat half a sandwich around my parents.
But then came the sadness and thinking I was a terrible person for eating the sandwich. I wanted to be a good girl, so I’d stick to “good” foods: salad, grilled chicken, mustard. Splenda in everything. In the lunch room at school, everyone would be like, “I’m not eating fries today.” I thought, “I don’t eat fries at all.” My fear of fries made me realize I was different from my peers.
By age 14, she weighed 87 lbs. and Guiding Light‘s producers called her into their office to talk.
I was told that viewers were writing in, saying I had lost a lot of weight. The scary thing is, that made me happy. That people were worried meant this was going well. The producers told me not to go to the gym as much. But I would literally have an anxiety attack if I didn’t go to the gym, because I felt like I was such a bad person.
I kept thinking, “Once you get to a specific number, you’re going to be happy.” At age 13, my number was 97 lbs. I got to 97 and, of course, that wasn’t good enough. I got to 92. Not good enough. That’s the illness: You’ll never get there. I was 85 lbs. at my 2000 homecoming dance.
But I wanted my collarbones and hip bones to show more. I’d feel my hip bones to make sure they were out. If not, I had more weight to lose. I lost my period until I was 17. I loved that. It meant I wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t want to be healthy.
In 2002, Snow, 16, moved to LA. to star in American Dreams. She was 5 4′ and back to 100 lbs. Soon after, she began cutting herself.
You can starve for only so long. I started eating, and depression kicked in. I wasn’t getting “Gosh, you’ve lost so much weight!” And that wasn’t okay. I worked out up to three hours a day. I felt shame that I was 100 lbs. Anorexics are supposed to be 50 lbs. That’s where the cutting came in.
The more I couldn’t control my eating, the more I did it. I wanted to look at my wrist and be like, “See what you did? You are ___.” It wasn’t about the food. It was an emotional problem. I wanted it to bleed, but I didn’t want to kill myself. It was about hurting myself so I could feel bad, cry and let it out. When I was 16, I read an article in a magazine about a model who was anorexic and bulimic and cut herself.
I burst into tears. I saw myself. The talked about how she got help and has an amazing life – I carried around that article in my back pocket for a month, to feel like there was hope. That article saved my life. The therapist diagnosed me with anorexia, exercise bulimia – instead of throwing up you go to the gym for hours – depression and body dysmorphia. I was about 110 lbs. when I went in.
Being anorexic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the brink of death. It can mean that you were once at a dangerous weight and that mentality is still with you. They try to teach you how to eat normally. Gaining weight was scary. But I felt better. What helped was connecting with other people. After nearly a month of treatment, I left a few days early to go straight to the set of John Tucker Must Die.
I had gained about 10 lbs. I was 120, which isn’t big. But I can understand why the producers wanted me in shape for a scene in my underwear. They were nice about it. They hired a trainer and suggested a diet. Thank goodness for my costars, Sophia Bush and Arielle Kebbel. I told them, “You have to look out for me, because this is so hard.”
We would work out together and then they would pull me off the treadmill, and Sophia would be like, “Maybe you should eat this!” We had slumber parties. I started having fun, which was unheard of. Before, it was, “I can’t have fun. I can’t go eat a burger with my friends. How many calories are in that burger?”
Today, being able to have a conversation and not think about what I’m eating? Amazing. I still see a therapist, but I eat like a normal person. I don’t count calories – and I know the calories in every food. I go to the gym three times a week and do Pilates three times a week, but not for more than an hour. It’s not healthy.
This past April I found out two of my friends from the hospital had died of anorexia. They had kids, jobs, and were amazing women. I hope this is an article that someone will carry in her pocket, maybe a girl who doesn’t understand what’s going on when she looks at pictures of celebrities getting skinnier and skinnier. [via]
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