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Trailer for the ICONIC Book Club starring Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton

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The Hollywood star bravely opened up about her battle with bulimia in 2014, describing it as “the lowest point in [her] life”. As the actress ages, testosterone cypionate self administration sites many look at her with wonder, asking how she keeps in such good health and deals with the effects of ageing like a true champion. Yet, behind closed doors, the star has heartbreakingly battled with her image and mental health since her 20s.

During an episode of The Dr Oz Show, Keaton confessed that she would binge on 20,000 calories a day while in the height of dealing with her bulimia.

Talking through a typical meal at dinner, the star explained that it would consist of “a bucket of fried chicken, several orders of fries with blue cheese and ketchup, a couple of TV dinners, a quarter of soda, pounds of candy, a whole cake, and three banana cream pies”.

According to People, the star’s eating disorder was triggered after the director of the Broadway musical Hair offered Keaton the lead role on the condition that she would lose weight.

“I was a fat person, I was an obese person, who had somehow tricked myself and managed to hide it,” Keaton detailed.

“So when you’re living with a lie for four years, think about what that does to you. All I did was feed my hunger, and I am an addict. It’s true. I’m an addict in recovery, I’ll always be an addict. I have an addictive nature to me.”

After losing a lot of weight and keeping it off for over a year, the star admitted that she became a “master” at hiding her secret battle with the condition.

“I had a problem – it was sick and creepy. Bulimia takes a lot of time out of your day,” she told People.

Although overcoming her bulimia, in a 2020 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, the star revealed that even in her older age she doesn’t feel “secure” in herself.

On the topic of getting older, she rather sadly said: “I don’t think it gets easier as you get older. I think it gets more pressing, just because it’s really
about death. It’s really like approaching it, and how do you approach that part of your life? Nobody wants that.”

The NHS explains that bulimia is both an eating disorder and mental health condition. Individuals will go through periods where they eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binge eating) and then make themselves sick or use other methods to stop themselves gaining weight.

Due to the nature of the condition, symptoms typically include making yourself vomit, using laxatives or doing extreme exercise after a binge – this is known as purging.

Individuals often experience mood changes as well, feeling anxious or tense, which can sometimes lead to other health complications.

Possible complications include:

  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Dental problems – stomach acid from persistent vomiting can damage tooth enamel
  • Bad breath, a sore throat, or even tears in the lining of the throat – also caused by stomach acid
  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Brittle fingernails
  • Swollen glands
  • Fits and muscle spasms
  • Heart, kidney or bowel problems, including permanent constipation
  • Bone problems – you may be more likely to develop problems such as osteoporosis, particularly if you have had symptoms of both bulimia and anorexia.

The NHS goes on to say that individuals are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder if:

  • You or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug addiction
  • You have been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
  • You’re overly concerned with being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job
  • You have anxiety, low self-esteem or an obsessive personality
  • You have been sexually abused.

Keaton suffered with the disorder for five years in total, crediting psychotherapy as a “talking cure” to help her overcome her demons.

Talking to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres about her experience with therapy, Keaton said: “Because I talked. I spoke it out. I said my thoughts and feelings. And I feel like, once you do that, you own it as opposed to, if you don’t talk about it, it becomes very abstract. To keep secrets doesn’t help you at all.

“I think I’m a sister to all the rest of the women — and I’m sure men as well — who have had some kind of eating disorder, and I’m a part of the team.”

McCallum Place, a centre supporting those with eating disorders commented on the process of psychotherapy. It said: “From a clinical perspective, the effectiveness of psychotherapy resides in its process – that of unveiling and making sense of motives, thoughts, behaviours, emotions, experiences and perceptions via talking with a psychotherapist.

“This is what Keaton refers to as the ‘talking cure’. The ‘cure’ comes in part through awareness, but also through using newfound awareness to change old patterns and explore healthy ways of expressing oneself and getting one’s needs met.”

In addition to therapy, the NHS suggests that individuals often find that a self-help programme as a first step in treating bulimia is useful.

These programmes help you to do the following:

  • Monitor what you are eating – this can help you notice and try to change patterns in your behaviour.
  • Make realistic meal plans – planning what and when you intend to eat throughout the day can help you regulate your eating, prevent hunger and reduce binge eating.
  • Learn about your triggers – this can help you to recognise the signs, intervene and prevent a binge-purge cycle.
  • Identify the underlying causes of your disorder – this means you can work on those issues in a healthier way.
  • Find other ways of coping with your feelings.

For help and support, visit: beateatingdisorder.org.uk 

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