In this blog post, we shall answer the question “did Jamie Lynn Sigler have an eating disorder?” and look at the reasons why many girls are prone to developing eating disorders as compared to men. We will also look at the most common eating disorders and their symptoms.
Did Jamie Lynn Sigler have an eating disorder?
Yes, Jamie Lynn Sigler had an eating disorder. In 2002, she wrote a book, Wise girl: what I’ve learnt about life, love and loss, where she talks about her struggle with exercise bulimia which almost cost her her job.
Before we discuss what exercise bulimia is, let us familiarize ourselves with who Jamie Lynn Sigler is.
Who is Jamie Lynn Sigler?
Jamie Lynn is an American actress born on May 15, 1981. She started singing and acting at the age of 7 and starred as Meadow Soprano in the acclaimed HBO original series, ‘the sopranos’. She received 1999, and 2000 young star awards for best young actress and 2001 and 2002 ALMA nominations.
During the production of ‘the sopranos’, she struggled with an eating disorder and did not talk about it for a while. Her fellow cast members described her as a shadow of her former self. In the book that she wrote later about her struggles, she disclosed how the producer called her mother about her health and said that she could get replaced.
She took a whole year to be able to open up to the TV family and the public that she had exercise bulimia. After realising that Sigler had gone public about her condition, her producer told her,” You know, I think it’s really great what you’re doing, talking out about what you went through because it’s hard to put yourself out there to help other girls.”
Which eating disorder did Jamie Lynn Sigler have?
Jamie Lynn Sigler opened up about her struggle with exercise bulimia. It is a form of obsessive or compulsive exercise as a way of purging. People with exercise bulimia use exercise as a way to cut calories from binge eating or even regular eating. Exercises are done as a way of controlling weight.
This disease mostly goes unnoticed as onlookers may interpret excessive exercise as a way of being focused on health and fitness. The weight of a person with exercise bulimia may not be necessarily low as the body compensates for the extreme exercises by slowing down metabolism.
Warning signs of exercise bulimia
The major warning sign that Jamie Lynn Sigler had was that her simple workout routine to shed of a few pounds escalated to many hours of exercising after classes and it also included counting calories. Other warning signs of exercise bulimia include:
- Missing work or social engagements so as to focus on exercising
- Working out even when you are feeling tired or sick or injured
- Being irritable, depressed or irrational when you don’t find time to work out
- Prioritizing exercises over relationships
- Never feeling satisfied with your workout achievements or level of fitness
- Experiencing guilt and anxiety when you are unable to work out
- Valuing yourself in terms of your physical fitness, appearance and workout achievements instead of your inner strengths
- Closely tracking how many calories you lose when working out
- Seeing your body differently than others do
- Becoming angry, aggressive, or defensive when people comment that you are working out too much
- Women can experience amenorrhea (lack of menstrual periods) due to over-exercising
Effects of exercise bulimia
Studies have shown that exercising too much can cause abnormal remodelling of the heart and put patients at risk of developing arrhythmias. For Jamie Lynn Sigler, she started to develop hair loss, sunken eyes, and her bones started to show. Other negative effects include:
The physical effects of exercise bulimia include:
- Increased risk of joint, ligaments and tendons injuries
- Heart problems
- Reproductive and hormonal disturbances,i.e. Low libido, irregular or lack of menstruation
- Poor physical and mental health
- You become prone to respiratory and other infections
The psychological effects of exercise bulimia include:
- Black and white thinking
- Low self-esteem
- Social withdrawal
- Avoidance and withdrawal from relationships
- Inability to enjoy eating or exercising
Relationship between excessive exercise and eating disorders
Excessive exercise can be a consequence of the following eating disorders:
Excessive exercise works as compensation for binge eating in patients with bulimia nervosa. Other methods of compensation include self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics and intermittent fasting. This is what Jamie was ailing from as she opened up in an interview and said, “I have something called exercise bulimia, which is where you rid of your calories by over-exercising. I ended up starting at a routine which was, you know, 20 minutes in the morning and cutting back a little on my calories. And it snowballed into six or seven hours a day of exercise,”.
A study done showed that people with anorexia are hyperactive and have an increased aptitude for movement. This is because the patient feels very light and active and uses over-exercising as a way to maintain their lean figures. Many patients with anorexia describe exercise as being compulsive and they ignore physical fatigue so as to continue training.
This illness mostly affects bodybuilders. It is also called reverse anorexia. People with muscle dysmorphia have a belief that they are not muscular enough. They use over-exercising as a way to increase musculature and use steroids and supplements.
Among men with muscle dysmorphia, 71% lift weight excessively, while 64% exercise excessively.
You can administer a Compulsive Exercise Test on yourself or a loved one to determine if you are suffering from exercise bulimia. Alternatively, if one or more of the following statements are true, then you should consider finding professional help:
- My exercise interferes with important work or socializing
- I experience guilt or stress when I do not exercise
- I exceed three hours of exercise per day
- I continue to exercise despite feeling fatigued or when I am injured or ill
- I exercise at inappropriate times and places and I am not able to suppress the behaviour
Relationship between body image and exercise bulimia
As Jamie Lynn explained in a panel discussion with Abby Gardner, beauty director for YM magazine, and Rachel Simmons, author of “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls”, mentioned that she hated how she looked. Her breakup with her boyfriend in junior high school triggered exercise bulimia which started off innocently as wanting to lose weight.
Jamie Lynn also explained the struggle of being under pressure of how she looked when acting. She became famous at a very young age and this exposed her to the scrutiny and unrealistic beauty standards placed on female actors and models. During that Harvard Eating Disorders Center’s annual public forum, there was a discussion on how eating disorders were triggered as young girls tried to meet the unrealistic beauty standards of the community.
Rachael Simmon’s research for her book, showed that many girls who were asked to describe the ideal girl used the words skinny,pretty and nice. She also mentioned that the current society is pushing girls to do everything possible to attain slim figures to look beautiful.
People with body image issues view their body in a different way from how it really is. This mainly starts from childhood as many start to form opinions about how they look and what others will say/think about them. Other girls start comparing their bodies to other people, especially those that they feel have perfect bodies.
Just like Jamie Lynn, when the obsession with body image starts, it becomes difficult to draw the line between healthy and skinny. Many start to restrict their food and start to obsessively count calories and restrict their meals. Like Jamie, some become obsessed with exercising to shed off the perceived excess weight and this causes health problems as time goes by.
Having an unhealthy relationship with food and body image issues, are therefore,major triggers of eating disorders like exercise bulimia, anorexia nervosa and purging disorders. It can affect the rest of your life and recovering from it is never easy. Years later, Jamie Lynn still feels that she is not over her eating disorder. She says that it is a scar that will always be with her.
Treatment of exercise bulimia
The first step in recovering from exercise bulimia, or any other illness, is acceptance. Until Jamie accepted and was able to talk openly about her illness, that is when her journey of recovery started.
You can then speak to your doctor about your eating and exercise habits and they will be able to direct you to helpful resources that will help in recovery. You can also reach out to your therapist or psychiatrist to help in the treatment of the psychological aspect.
Your therapist will use cognitive behavioural therapy to help with negative body image and how to overcome negative views about yourself. s/he will also guide you on how to keep track of your eating habits, identify triggers and how to develop healthy workout plans.
In this blog post, we have looked at who Jamie Lynn is, and her struggle with exercise bulimia. We have also defined exercise bulimia, warning signs of exercise bulimia, physical and psychological symptoms and the relationship between excessive exercise and eating disorders, finally, we have looked at the treatment options for exercise bulimia.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.
Frequently asked questions: Did Jamie Lynn Sigler have an eating disorder?
What disease does Jamie Lynn Sigler have?
She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, which is characterized by symptom flare-ups and periods of recovery. She mentioned that she struggled with the diagnosis and lived in a fantasy where she could pretend she didn’t have the disease.
Why does Jamie Lynn Sigler walk with a limp?
The actress said that she suffers from spasticity where her body freezes and gets stiff when she sits for a long time. She also has bladder control issues and says that this has made her walking impairments become more visible.
Why did Meadow Soprano gain weight?
When she returned to shoot the first season of ‘the sopranos’, her weight was a little bit more than her lowest weight. She admitted that she was sick, ad on the road to recovery.
Potier B. (February 27, 2003). ‘Sopranos’ actress shares eating disorder recovery. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2003/02/sopranos-actress-shares-eating-disorder-recovery/
Neal R. (August 19, 2002). ‘Sopranos’ Star Tells Of Anorexia Battle. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sopranos-star-tells-of-anorexia-battle/
Radloff J. (October 31, 2016). Jamie-Lynn Sigler Opens Up About Living with MS, Her Sex Life and Marriage, and What’s Next. retrieved from https://www.glamour.com/story/jamie-lynn-sigler-opens-up-about-living-with-ms