The spotlight forced the pop star to focus on her weight in a controlling, dangerous way
When you think of the pop music scene of the '90s, there is no greater force than the Spice Girls. These five talented and outspoken women took over the world with their catchy songs (don't even try to deny that "Wannabe" is still in heavy rotation on your iPod), over-the-top personalities, and in-your-face messages of girl power and confidence. But it turns out that some of the girls were harboring darker secrets: Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell (now Horner) opened up on an episode of OWN's Where Are They Now (airing Saturday) to reveal a private struggle during a time when the rest of the world thought she "had it all."
Halliwell candidly revealed how the pressure of being in the spotlight deeply affected her state of mind and overall health. "I felt much more conscious of myself, my body weight," said Halliwell. "We all used different tools to get by, coping mechanisms. For me [it] was controlling my body weight." That obsession and desire to control showed itself in strict dieting and exercise, emotional eating, and issues with bulimia. And even worse, it was a battle Halliwell's fellow Spice Girls were completely unaware of. "I started being bulimic and no one would notice it because your body weight stays pretty much the same. It's bloody dangerous," she explained. "I was worried I'd get fat. I would binge and then felt fatter and would make myself sick. It was awful."
Thankfully, she got the support she needed to recover thanks to friends like fellow British pop singer Robbie Williams and the aid of a 12-step program, and today Halliwell says she has a healthy relationship with food—she even showed off her passion for baking when she won the U.K.'s Sports Relief Bake Off this year. But her eating disorder story is a common one. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), about 80 percent of people who have bulimia nervosa are female, and about 1 to 2 percent of all adolescent and young adult women will have issues with binging and purging. While many people who suffer from the eating disorder will not see noticeable changes in their weight, NEDA shares some telltale signs you can look out for:
- Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food
- Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen—despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the compulsive need to "burn off" calories consumed
- Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
- Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
- Discoloration or staining of the teeth
- Creation of lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
If you or someone you know is suffering, don't go through it alone. You can find immediate help available on the NEDA website.