Did America’s next top model girls have eating disorders?

On this page, we will answer the question “did America’s top model girls have eating disorders?” and look at what eating disorders are and their different types. We shall also look at different models on the show who had/ were speculated of having eating disorders. Finally, we shall look at the impact of modelling on the development of eating disorders.

Did America’s next top model girls have eating disorders?

Yes, some of the models from America’s top model show confirmed that they had eating disorders. Others displayed signs and symptoms of eating disorders even if they denied it. The show received mixed reactions, with many people feeling that the show had a negative influence on young girls.

The models were very skinny and many felt that these body standards set would make many teenage girls develop disordered eating so as to emulate their idols.

What was America’s next top model about?

America’s next top model (ANTM) was a TV series and game show where women from all over the US competed for the honour of being America’s next “it girl” in the modelling world. The show was hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks. The show was released in 2003 and consisted of both female and male models.

The models had to do a photoshoot every week and the model with the worst photo could get eliminated. She and a small panel of judges could make a decision on who to be sent home. The show had 24 seasons before being cancelled in 2015.

On top of its entertainment bit, the show received a lot of scrutiny on the health of the girls. Many concluded that most of the girls were developing disordered eating so as to maintain their body shapes and stay on the show. Many argued that the show enforced the fashion and entertainment’s worst traits, perpetuated toxicity, and unhealthy body image. 

Before we look at instances of models who had eating disorders on the show and the negative role modelling plays in the development of eating disorders, let us look at the most common eating disorders.

What are eating disorders? 

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits, and complex and damaging relationships between food, exercise and body image that impairs physical and mental health. Many models, like those on the show, are prone to developing eating disorders due to the unrealistic expectations set on how they should look.

Eating disorders are also known to cause death. In fact, about one person dies every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016)

Types of eating disorders

According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM-5), there are six types of eating disorders. Obesity is no longer included as an eating disorder since it results from long-term excess energy intake relative to energy expenditure. 

A range of genetics, physiological, behavioural, and environmental factors that vary across individuals contribute to the development of obesity; thus, obesity is not a mental disorder. (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition 2013).

The six eating disorders are;


Pica is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by eating non-nutritive non-food substances such as ice, clay, soil, paper and stones. Can be caused by nutrition deficiencies, pregnancy, stress and cultural factors.


Rumination is an eating disorder characterized by spitting up digested or partially digested food from the stomach, re-chewing the food and either re-swallowing or spitting it out. It tends to occur within 30 minutes of every meal. The causes of rumination remain unknown.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

Formally referred to as selective eating disorder, is an eating disorder characterized by intense restriction or selection of food consumed. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with this eating disorder are not interested in their body image, shape or size.

Anorexia nervosa

Is a severe eating disorder characterized by abnormal body weight, distorted body image, and unwarranted fear of gaining weight. In order to prevent weight gain, anorexic people try to control their body weight by vomiting food, using laxatives, diet aids, and excessive exercise.

Common symptoms include extreme low body weight, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, hair that easily falls off, preoccupation with food, skipping meals, refusing to eat, denying hunger, complaints of being overweight, measuring weight often and lying about the quantity of food taken.

Causes include; biological factors such as genes, psychological factors such as temperaments and environmental factors such as societal demands.


Usually begins during the teenage and early adulthood years. It is more common in women than in men.

Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. One study found that people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016).

Bulimia nervosa

Is a mental disorder characterized by binge eating (consuming large quantities of food over a short period of time) followed by calorie reducing strategies such as purging (induced vomiting), fasting or excessive exercises. 

Bulimia is a severe, life-threatening eating disorder. Symptoms include; binge eating, vomiting, self-harm, fatigue, dehydration, avoiding food, irregular and absence of menstruation, constipation, heartburn and guilt.

Causes include genetic factors, psychological factors such as personality, dieting and societal pressure.

Binge eating disorder.

Binge eating is an eating disorder characterized by consuming large amounts of food over a short period of time, and feelings of being unable to stop eating even when full. It is the most common eating disorder with a prevalence of  5.5%.

Symptoms include; eating large amounts of food over a short period of time, eating even when not hungry, feeling that your eating behaviour is out of control, eating until you are uncomfortably full, eating in secret, eating alone and feelings of depression and guilt.

Unlike people with bulimia, binge eaters are not concerned with weight reduction through vomiting, using laxatives or excessive exercise and can thus suffer from other physical conditions such as obesity.

It is more common in women than in men and usually begins during early adulthood. Causes include dieting and psychological issues such as depression and low self-esteem.

Causes and risk factors of eating disorders

  • Genetic factors. If an immediate member of a family has an eating disorder, chances are that others are predisposed to suffering from the same or another type of eating disorder.
  • Psychological factors. Factors such as demanding personality types that seek perfection can trigger eating disorders later in life. Factors such as low self-esteem, depression, and self-respect can also cause eating disorders.
  • Social factors. Social factors such as poor relationships, bullying, societal demands and views on body image, size, weight and shape are often attributed as one of the major causes of eating disorders.

Models of ANTM with eating disorders 

Elyse Sewell

In episode five of cycle 1, rumours were spreading in the house that she had an eating disorder. This was because she was getting very thin and going to the bathroom a lot after meals. She was rarely filmed having any meals and at one time, another contestant swore ‌she heard Elyse throwing up.

She was also rarely filmed having meals together with others and when shown in a sports bra or bra, viewers noticed how thin she was. Even if she denied having any disordered eating, many were concerned about her general wellbeing.

Cassie Grisham

During cycle 3, Cassie admitted that she practised self-induced vomiting after eating as she believed that is the only way she could have her dream career. She denied the word bulimic but not the behaviour. She acknowledged that an obsession with her weight propelled her to throw up sometimes. 

She also noted that she worried about food 24-7. “If it makes me happy to do this, then they shouldn’t have a problem… I’ve grown up dreaming of being a model… And great, there are plus-sized models; that’s not for me.” the show judges made her situation worse by commenting that her hips were too big and she wasn’t fit. She was eliminated.

Anchal Joseph

Her symptoms could not be classified as bulimia or anorexia, but it could have been an unspecified eating disorder with body dysmorphia. Whenever the model would look at herself in the mirror, she would get dissatisfied with what she saw. She then used food to relieve stress, but then feel anxious about eating more than her fellow contestants.

She then started hating food and blaming it for her problems. Her self-esteem and self-confidence were affected, and it was so bad that she got eliminated for her low self-confidence.

Tyra Banks’s contribution to the development of the models of eating disorders

Although she talked very passionately about being against eating disorders, her behaviour in the show portrayed very different views. Never was she seen approaching any of the models accused of having eating disorders to ‌talk to them or encourage them to seek treatment. 

As the host of the show, and executive producer, she could bring to attention the compulsive behaviours or cut out some sensitive parts that could promote disordered eating, but she went along with it. In fact, most of the girls who seemed to have issues with eating disorders were eliminated. 

She stood by and watched the girls get into unhealthy routines of disordered eating ‌to maintain the beauty standards and, worse still, face ridicule from the judges and still be called ‘not good enough.’


In this article, we answered the question of America’s next top model girls having eating disorders. Besides this, we covered types of eating disorders, causes and risk factors. Finally, we looked at the role of modelling in developing eating disorders and gave evidence for this topic.

We hope this information was useful.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment sections.

Frequently asked questions: Did America’s next top model girls have eating disorders? 

Did Cassie from ANTM have an eating disorder?

In episode seven, Cassie told Tyra about her eating disorder and how she refused to get help until she lost enough weight.

Was Tyra Banks anorexic?

Image result for America’s next top model eating disorder

Tyra did not have an eating disorder

How much weight did London gain in ANTM?

She gained ten pounds.


Charaipotra S. (September 16, 2010). ‘America’s Next Top Model’ Recap: Someone Has an Eating Disorder & It Ain’t Pretty. Retrieved from https://cafemom.com/lifestyle/109582-americas_next_top_model_recap 

American Psychiatric Association, (2013). Eating disorders in Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (5th edition). American Psychiatric Association.

Single care team. (February, 15, 2022). Eating disorder statistics 2022. The check up by single care. Retrieved from https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/eating-disorder-statistics/

Pozner, L.J. (December 11, 2015). The Anorexic Anatomy Of ‘America’s Next Top Model’. The Establishment. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/the-establishment/the-anorexic-anatomy-of-americas-next-top-model-ec966cdb5a6a

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