Scary Skinny: The Dark Side of Childhood Fame

ByABC News via via logo

April 4, 2007 — -- Many celebrities struggle with looking perfect, but perhaps none are as vulnerable as child actresses.

Recently, Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady on the "The Brady Bunch," came clean about her battle with bulimia.

The character of Marcia Brady was the envy of her younger sister and an entire generation of American girls, but McCormick says life after the sitcom was anything but that.

"I did drugs after the show and I had bulimia," McCormick told "Good Morning America." "Those were the things I was hiding."

McCormick is just the latest celebrity to open up about her struggles with body image as a young star.

"You're always out there, and that's really tough," she said. "And when you're growing up, it's even tougher when you're growing up in front of cameras," she said.

That lifestyle is a delicate and painful balancing act for young Hollywood. For some, eating disorders come with the territory.

Actress Tracy Gold has been open about her anorexia, which flared up when her weight gain became part of the script on "Growing Pains."

"I looked in the mirror and I didn't have any clothes on and I was scared," Gold said of the ordeal.

Mary Kate Olsen sought treatment after becoming dangerously thin.

Ashlee Simpson and Jamie-Lynn Sigler of "The Sopranos" have also admitted to eating disorders.

A slimmed-down Hillary Duff recently told People Magazine, "I definitely felt the pressure to be Hollywood thin."

McCormick sees that pressure even more now than when she was on "The Brady Bunch."

"It's a lot harder today than it was when I was growing up because I think first of all there is a lot more media," she said. "You've got a lot more paparazzi."

Actress Scarlett Pomers knows that pressure all too well. At 16, she was asked to leave the hit show "Reba" to get help for her anorexia.

"Even though I knew I had a problem and it was really serious and eventually I could have died, it's something that just grips you so hard in your mind you can't let go," Pomers said.

She eventually returned to the show and is now raising awareness through Arch Angels, a project with the National Eating Disorders Association that helps other girls, many of whom develop disorders trying to emulate thin stars.

"If you don't kind of step back and take a look at what you're doing right away when you hear the warning bells go off, it becomes harder and harder to recover," Pomers said. "You don't have to have an eating disorder to be happy or successful."

But psychologist Renee Zweig believes from early on, a star's weight is a measure of their success.

"There is this innate competition in Hollywood among celebrities, so as one person gets thinner everyone else has to match that bar and it becomes more and more unnatural," Zweig said. "Young girls are looking at celebrities thinking that's a normal figure, not realizing they don't eat."

McCormick wants to see an end to the vicious cycle of eating disorders in the entertainment world.

"Women come in all shapes and sizes and we need to celebrate that," she said.

The actress said it's been a long journey, but she just completed VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club." She said she's finally happy with her body.

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