Eating disorders are increasingly common amongst young people. In America alone 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder. It is a group of diseases that does not discriminate by race, gender, socio-economic background etc. But there are certain factors which exacerbate and cause it. Education on the how, why and who is crucial when it comes to tacking eating disorders because getting the right treatment is the key to getting better.
Largely, it is still a very taboo and “secret” topic in our society, but with the spread of information via the internet, and with many using their social media platforms to share personal stories, more and more is being learned about why eating disorders cannot be tackled with just a one-size-fits-all approach.
Celebrities speaking up about having an eating disorder, such as Lady Gaga, have enabled many young men and women to speak up and ask for help as that first crucial step can be very daunting. It takes being empowered and having the right support community to help you find your way to health.
Another celebrity speaking about her ordeal with an eating disorder is actress and singer Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. She plays the tough Christina in the ‘Divergent’ and ‘Insurgent’ films alongside Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, but it’s her latest flick that is turning heads not just because of her character, but the subject matter.
In ‘The Road Within’ she plays a girl with an eating disorder who makes friends with two guys at a treatment facility, one who has OCD the other tourette’s syndrome, and goes on a road trip with them. She spoke to Nylon magazine about having to lose weight for the role and why she identifies with this role more than others she has played.
“I struggled with an eating disorder in high school and into my early 20s. That’s part of what actually attracted me to the role; I think it’s really important to talk about body image and the struggles a lot of women have with food—especially in the entertainment industry. I related to her in a lot of ways,” she said.
In another interview with Complex magazine where she talks about making music with her Electropop Indie band Lolawolf and having famous parents, Zoe expands on how growing up in the environment of fame affected her youth.
“I had a really hard time when I was 16, 17, 18. I started with the eating disorder in high school….Just [a hard time] loving myself,” she said before admitting she suffered with anorexia and bulimia which she describes as awful diseases.
“I think it was part of being a woman, and being surrounded by [fame]. I don’t think it was about the fame, but I think it was definitely about being around that world, seeing that world. I felt pressured.”
When she signed on to play Marie in ‘The Road Within’ in 2013, her parents were worried for her having to drudge up those experiences again for the role.
“My parents got really scared for me to go back down that road. It was fucked up, man. You could see my rib cage. I was just trying to lose more weight for the film but I couldn’t see: You’re there. Stop. It was scary,” she admits.
Her mother one burst into tears after seeing her 90 pound frame during filming. After she wrapped her health suffered from losing so much weight that she didn’t get her period regularly, her thyroid got messed up as well as her immune system. But like with some eating disorders, it was the mental toll that controlled how she felt so that even when she started gaining weight again, she wasn’t happy about it. It is the typical response from someone who has suffered with an eating disorder: the disdain towards weight gain.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to gain weight,’ as opposed to being like, ‘Good, I’m a normal human being.’” New Years Eve 2013 she describes as a turning moment for her to get her health back on track after losing so much weight for the film, and forming her band Lolawolf also helped.
She now has an objective view of how one’s environment can really affect your body image, self-esteem and self-perception. Growing up surrounded by celebrity and a systemic idea of what beauty is, perpetuated by particular industries, Zoe says women often grow up with the idea that it is not ok to think they are beautiful.
“It’s either: you’re conceited, or insecure, as opposed to just loving yourself,” she said.
Growing up with a mom known for her beauty, and a dad known for dating supermodels also didn’t help her self-esteem as a teen she said, which at times intimidated her. But looking back on her personal experience with eating disorders and filming ‘The Road Within’, Zoe is grateful for the lessons she has learned and the perspective she has been given about body image.
“It made me not only confront my demons, but also realize and accept an insecurity that’s still there, and [that it’s] easy to fall back into that pattern. I feel like something has left my body, like some part of me is gone now, something that was making me so insecure. And it feels amazing.”
We recognize that every journey with an eating disorder is different. But the more you are empowered to speak your truth without shame or judgment, the more you can help someone else who has not yet found their way to recovery yet. Recovery is a lifelong journey and it is important to have that support community around you.
We’re so thankful Zoe has spoken out about her experiences as it shows bravery despite societal taboos. If you are suffering with an eating disorder and don’t know where to turn, we suggest you find at least one person you can trust who is willing to help you find the right resources. You should also take a look at the information available on the National Eating Disorders Association and National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders websites which have many resources and suggestions to help you on your path to recovery.
Check out the trailer for ‘The Road Within’ below: