Jane Fonda has opened up about the “terrible addiction” that developed into her eating disorder after years of suffering.
The 85-year-old actor told Call her Daddy host Alex Cooper that she was “unfortunate” as a young actress, especially because she was forced to play the archetype “girl next door” in many of her roles. Paying attention to her appearance, Fonda explained, was especially difficult because of her body image issues.
“I was bulimic anorexic and so, suddenly I’m becoming a star and there’s so much emphasis on how you look and it’s been a trigger – a constant, a constant trigger for me,” she said. “In my 20s, I was I am starting to become a film actor. I suffered from very, very bad bulimia. I was leading a secret life. I was very, very unhappy. I accepted that I didn’t want to live past 30.”
Fonda explained that her eating disorder felt “innocent at first,” beginning with binge eating and purging. “Why can’t I have this ice cream and cake and then throw it up?” She remembered thinking. “What you don’t understand is a terrible addiction that you take with your life.”
In addition to damaging “the way you look,” the award-winning actor and activist said the disease made it “impossible to have an authentic relationship” because of its secretive nature.
“Your day is organized around getting food and then eating it, which requires you to be on your own and no one knows what you’re doing,” she explained. “It’s a very lonely thing and you’re addicted. I mean if you put any food in you, you want to get rid of it.”
And while she cited “inauthenticity” in her life, relationships and career as one of the reasons for her eating disorder, Fonda also revealed that “telling her you’re fat” – which she was – can start . according to the community and even within their own home.
“I’ve worked most of my life to overcome the judgement, the objectification and the judgement, the thing that unconsciously makes me feel that I’m not lovable if I’m not really thin, things like that,” a Fonda’s department. “It was a generational problem for a lot of men my father’s age. The objectification of women, and it took me a long time to get over that.”
It also took Fonda years to realize the impact her eating disorder was having on her body and quality of life as she aged.
“You can think you can get away with it when you’re young because your body is so young. As you get older, the toll it takes on you, it gets worse and worse. It takes six days and then at least a week. And it’s not the tiredness but the tiredness, you get angry, you get hostile. That anger and hostility was all the trouble I got into. I thought , if I continue like this I will die,” she said. “I had a very full life. I had children, I had a husband, I had two husbands by then, I was doing political work, I was doing all these things. And my life was important. But I was getting less and less able to continue with it so I went cold turkey.”
Fonda was also alone through the recovery process.
“I didn’t realize there were groups you could join, I didn’t know about that yet. And nobody talked about it. I didn’t even know there was a word for it so I just went after the cold turkey. and it was very difficult,” she said. “But the fact is, the more distance you can put between yourself and the last binge, the better. It gets easier and easier.”
Fonda mentioned that facing her anxiety and going on medication helped to stop the cycle of bingeing and purging. And although the subject is being talked about more openly now, the actress said that she is “scared” for young people whose mental health is now being affected by the prevalence of social media.
“I think it makes it a lot worse and it’s very difficult,” she said. “I don’t know what the cure is.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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