Lucy Davis, star of The Office, star of Ugly Betty and Shaun of the Dead and all sorts of other things, has written an astonishingly honest open letter for readers of the Sun, detailing her troubled relationship with food, with particular focus on her bulimia.
It’s a great, if harrowing read:
“Dear Sun reader,
ALL my life I’ve had an obsession with food and weight.
I am fortunate to have had a lovely, healthy childhood — but somewhere along the way I believed I wouldn’t be wanted anywhere or by anyone if I wasn’t thin.
I cannot tell you why I thought it. My parents never made me feel this way — we were given a mixture of very healthy food and treats. But I can tell you what I ate with every event I attended as a child.
A group of us would love to go ice-skating on a Saturday morning. But it was the Drifter bar and doughnut I’d have at the rink that got me out of bed to do it. When we went horse-riding, the pate on toast and chips were what made it fun for me.
In my teens I was slim, but always putting myself on diets. I had odd eating patterns — I would often pick a food and only eat that for a while. I would eat things on my plate in a certain order and prefer to eat alone. My weight gain started after I had a kidney transplant in 1997. I was on high doses of steroids and the craving to eat was insatiable.
But I can’t blame my weight gain on the steroids — I ate for England.
Once the steroids stopped, I was faced with getting the weight off and tried every diet under the sun. Some worked and the weight would drop. But then it returned. I kept thinking I’d chosen the wrong diet, so would try another.
In my 30s, I started to notice other people didn’t eat like me. Most people seemed to eat, get full and then lose interest in food.
I had never known the emotion “losing interest in food.” A friend might say to me: “Let’s treat ourselves to a big pig-out.”
After consuming what I thought to be a paltry amount of food, my friend would clutch her stomach in agony, grunt, and have a lie down. When they left, I’d eat “properly” in the comfort of solitude.
Eventually, I began to “diet” by starving myself for several days and then binge for a day afterwards. I could go five or six days with no food, or just an apple. On the seventh, I would eat a week’s worth in one sitting. I got a huge high from losing weight and felt alive.
By the start of 2011, I started bingeing more and more. I couldn’t get through a day — even half a day — without bingeing.
Then, one day in February 2011, I was in a London hotel room and binged on a huge amount of food.
I started crying, fell to the floor and let out a sort of scream. I was desperate — and I thought I was truly insane.
I couldn’t believe food had me in its grip like this. The idea of bringing it back up came into my head. I’d never done it before, but all I could think of was getting this food out of me.
I was unprepared for the high that came with it. I knew it would be hard not to do again. So I decided it would be my “London thing”, planning to only to do it there. I went back to LA and couldn’t believe what a hold it already had on me. It seemed to give me so much — the feeling I was finally in control and safe.
It was a powerful addiction. And I told no one.
A few months later, I woke with burst blood vessels in my eyes after purging the day before. My brother came round and asked if I had been bringing my food up. It was non-judgmental kindness that made me want to stop. I couldn’t put someone I loved through pain and worry.
I knew then about Overeaters Anonymous and the 12-Step Programme many addicts get help from. But I was frightened to go, so I stopped bingeing. A few months later I realised my life had not changed. The obsession with food was still there.
I went to an OA meeting and got a sponsor, someone who has had an eating disorder and helps with the 12 Steps. I went to five meetings a week – and still do.
I admitted to myself and others I was anorexic and bulimic. I stopped foolishly believing I was in control of my life and arrogantly thinking I was unique. I started to feel less ashamed and guilty. I was lucky to have unquestioned support from my family and friends.
My recovery does not make my life perfect but it has given me a different set of eyes with which to see everything. I don’t know what I weigh now. I just ask my doctor to let me know if he is happy with what I weigh. I rarely eat big meals unless I go out to dinner but I eat about five or six times a day. I’m now OK knowing I will never look like Jennifer Aniston.
The peace I am starting to feel gives me more relief than bingeing and purging ever did. I am so much better at dealing with negative comments on how I look. I am powerless over what others think of me, but not over how I choose to react. The phrase “an eating disorder” has a stigma attached to it and often a great deal of shame.
I hope others who suffer with this illness know there is a life away from it and that they are not alone.
It’s a relief to not have to hide any more.
I thank you for letting me share my story with you.
Lucy Davis, x “