Tennis Great Monica Seles Opens Up About Binge-Eating Disorder

PHOTO: Monica Seles attends The 2013 International Tennis Hall Of Fame Legends Ball at Cipriani 42nd Street, Sept. 6, 2013, in New York City.Kris Connor/Getty Images
Monica Seles attends The 2013 International Tennis Hall Of Fame Legends Ball at Cipriani 42nd Street, Sept. 6, 2013, in New York City.

Monica Seles is known for her remarkable tennis career, but not many people knew that the tennis great struggled with binge eating disorder for nearly 10 years.

In an interview with “Good Morning America”’s Lara Spencer, Seles opened up about her experience in an effort to raise awareness about the disorder.

People with binge eating disorder (B.E.D.) frequently eat an unusually large amount of food but do not throw it up, according U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Women’s Health.

The binges may result in feelings of shame and embarrassment and may lead to obesity and other health problems. According to the Office of Women’s Health, as many as 4 million Americans suffer from the disorder, which tends to affect women more than men.

Seles is a paid spokesperson for Shire Pharmaceuticals, the drug company that make Vyvanse – the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of the disorder. Vyvanse is already approved for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Seles, 41, also appears in new public service campaign about the disorder, including a public service announcement that debuted on Tuesday.

“My binge-eating episodes will usually happen in the evenings when I would be back by myself after a long day at the tennis courts and would just eat large quantities of food," she says in the spot that’s a partnership with Shire Pharmaceuticals, the National Eating Disorder Association and the Binge Eating Disorder Association. "My eating was just uncontrollable. Once the binge was over I felt so upset with myself."

Seles told Spencer that she wants fellow binge eating disorder sufferers to know that they’re not alone.

“I look at my life and how many years I wasted by being shamed about it, hiding it from my family and friends and doing my binges in private … now there's help out there,” she said, mentioning the website, which has information and resources about B.E.D.

Seles told Spencer that stressful situations led to her binges.

“My trigger foods were pretzels, potato chips,” she said. “And I would do them alone because I was so ashamed that, here, I was a tennis player who was so controlling on the tennis court. I could direct. I'm very dedicated. Yet, in this one area of binge eating I was out of control.”

She said her turning point came when she was asked to be a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding.

“I wanted to be glamorous. I had my hair done, everything. And my friend had one of the most beautiful weddings. And I just wanted to feel like, you know, a beautiful girl and all that stuff,” she said. “And here I had to go in for countless different fittings because my weight would be fluctuating because of my binge eating. So for me that came a point where I said, ‘There's more to life than this. And I -- and I need to get help.’”

Seles said she decided to talk to her doctor and come up with a plan that worked for her, and had a message for others: “If you feel you're experiencing some of the symptoms of binge eating sort of go out there, talk to your health care provider. There's help out there. You don't have to suffer in silence like I did for so many years.”

Seles will return to the court on March 10 for a match against Gabriela Sabatini at Madison Square Garden in New York.