"Pretty Little Liars" actress Lucy Hale has revealed that like so many starlets before her, she's struggled with an eating disorder. In an interview in the September issue of Cosmopolitan, the 23-year-old who began her career on the short-lived reality TV competition "American Juniors" when she was 14, candidly explained her battle. "I've never really talked about this, but I would go days without eating," Hale told the magazine. "Or maybe I'd have some fruit and then go to the gym for three hours. I knew I had a problem ... It was a gradual process but I changed myself."
Unfortunately, this is a story we've heard too many times.
Women in Hollywood as far back as a teenage Judy Garland have suffered from eating disorders. In 1983, 32-year-old singer Karen Carpenter's death from anorexia — in which patients severely reduce their intake of food because of a distorted body image — made the term a household name. In the following decades, celebrities such as Tracey Gold of "Growing Pains," Candace Cameron of "Full House," Kelly Clarkson, Mary-Kate Olsen, Demi Lovato, and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi have opened up about their experiences with either anorexia or bulimia, in which a person binges then purges their food. Portia de Rossi detailed how both disorders affected her as a young model in her 2010 memoir, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. "Ever since I was 12 years old, I would starve myself daily and then binge after the job was over," she told "Good Morning America," adding that her goal was to eat 300 calories per day. "And that was just the diet I returned to every single time I needed to lose weight."
Not surprisingly, celebrities are more susceptible to these issues, says Dr. Jaime Schehr, a New York-based dietitian who has worked closely with patients with disordered eating and body image for the past eight years. "Someone who is constantly criticized is likely to feel a greater need to strive for perfection," Schehr tells omg!. "For celebrities who often have to endure mass criticism from the public eye, this can lead to a lower self esteem and distorted body image. Low self esteem and distorted body image are often triggers for eating disorders. "Miley Cyrus (PacificCoastNews.com)
And today's stars have it even tougher than their predecessors, notes Carla Lundblade, a Beverly Hills-based clinical therapist who works with people in the entertainment biz. "If you look at photos of 1950s celebrities, they all look very different in weight and [Body Mass Index] than our much more visually lean contemporary celebs," Lundblade tells omg!. The public also sees celebrities a lot more often than they used to, thanks to the paparazzi, who snap photos of them on the street or at the beach, not just on the red carpet. Then there's the Photoshop factor. "Many images appear real that are actually digitally manipulated," Lundblade says, adding that the results affect all of our standards of what a woman looks like. "Constant reinforcement of these images through the media makes an impact."
Jennie Garth (Splash News)
While there is obviously a lot of pressure for celebrities to stay slim, sometimes they're criticized for being too thin. Just this week, Jennie Garth stepped out looking slimmer than usual while promoting her reality show "A Little Bit Country." Let's just say it didn't go unnoticed. And how many people were wondering what was causing Demi Moore to get "scary skinny" last fall around the time of her split with Ashton Kutcher? Even Miley Cyrus has come under fire for being too gaunt. The 19-year-old responded to headlines about her shrinking waist with an angry Twitter message in April that explained she was no longer eating gluten, a protein found in wheat. "For everyone calling me anorexic, I have a gluten and lactose allergy," she wrote. "It's not about weight — it's about health. Gluten is crap anyway!" The future Mrs. Liam Hemsworth's weight loss had also been credited to daily Pilates classes.
So when it comes to their figures, female celebrities just can't win. Because we all know what happens when a star puts on a few pounds.