I’m just back from a great conference, which I’ll be telling you more about. But first let me tell you about Jane Fonda’s keynote speech. Fonda brought many eating disorder professionals, including me, to tears with the story of her recovery from an eating disorder during her keynote presentation at the Renfrew Center Foundation Conference for Professionals last week in Philadelphia.
At times reading from her candid 2006 memoir My Life So Far, Fonda told us that as a school girl she had learned to binge/purge from a friend in boarding school. The reason she kept on bingeing and purging, she said, was the belief that she had to be perfect and thin to be loved by her father. She pointed out that she didn’t think her father meant to cause her harm but that generations of Fonda men had openly preferred really thin women. Jane’s open, non-apologetic description of how she fell into a life dominated by an eating disorder was heart wrenching.
Fonda ended up suffering for over 30 years with a “half-crippling” eating disorder that became a “real addiction.” She compared her periods of anorexia as being a “dry drunk,” meaning that she wasn’t bingeing or purging but she had all the other aspects of an eating disorder. She finally realized that she was either going to die — maybe not physically because she hadn’t needed to be hospitalized, but spiritually– if she did not stop her eating disordered behaviors cold turkey. She later did counseling, noting that it is much harder for adults to recover from eating disorders than teenagers. She reminded her audience that as hard as recovery is to achieve, it is accompanied by profound growth.
When asked by an audience member about Hollywood’s contribution to eating disorder, Fonda said that she felt that the media’s scrutiny of the bodies of female celebrities contributes to eating disorders among women and young girls.
Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto, authors of The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders, 2007