It was not the way they imagined living their lives. They had big dreams, but those dreams did not include obsessing over the calories in a stick of gum or exercising up to eight hours a day. Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, supermodel Crystal Renn and former Olympic hopeful Ashley Dalton all lived with the dangerous eating disorder anorexia nervosa, and now all three talk candidly about their recoveries and new lives.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler fought a very public battle with her eating disorder, as viewers witnessed the drastic changes in her physical appearance on the HBO hit show "The Sopranos."
"My life was consumed with worrying about burning every single calorie," Sigler explained. "Like, if I had a piece of gum, I would sit in my class panicking and think, 'Oh my God. I have to ask to go to the bathroom because if I walk down the hall and I go the long way to the bathroom, then when I walk back I'll burn the calories that I had in my gum.'"
Almost a year after shooting the pilot for the show, she returned to the set 30 pounds lighter. It was a change that put her role as mob princess Meadow Soprano in jeopardy.
"I wasn't the same girl that they casted anymore," she said in 2000, in her first public appearance to discuss her struggle on ABC's "The View."
Almost losing the role of a lifetime prompted Sigler to start eating again. But then she had to face scathing attacks on "Sopranos" message boards about her weight gain.
"People just wrote the most horrible things," Sigler said, "like, 'how did she get so fat' and 'what happened to her' and … it hurt so bad."
Sigler ultimately came to terms with the criticism, and with her body.
"You know what? Everything that you've said and written about me … has gotten through to me. And you've done what you set out to do," she said on "The View," describing a letter she wrote to viewers on the show's Web site.
"You've given me countless days of tears and hurt and regret about my disease. But now I want to thank you because you've pushed me to come and talk about this."
Models, perhaps, face even more pressure to be thin than actresses do. At 14, Crystal Renn was an ambitious Mississippi teenager planning to become a lawyer until a modeling scout spotted her at a local etiquette class. She was 5 feet 8 and weighed 170 pounds, but not for long.
"He told me, 'You have so much potential to become a model,'" Renn said. "He showed me some pictures in Vogue and said, 'You absolutely have this potential.'" The only catch? Renn would have to lose 10 inches off her hips.
Excited about the possibility of becoming a high-fashion model, Renn immediately embarked on what would become a dangerous diet and exercise regimen. What began as healthy eating soon turned into an uncontrollable obsession.
"I started exercising two hours a day, at the very least, and then on Saturdays, eight hours a day," Renn said. She added that she was, "Not eating more than … I'd probably say, 800 calories, never more than a thousand."
Renn reached her target weight, dropping 70 pounds and the 10 inches off her hips, but it came with a price.
"My muscles [felt] like they [were] breaking inside … just falling apart," she said. "My hair [was] falling out. I [had] a gray tint to my skin."