In this blog post, we shall answer the question, “does pretty little liars’ main cast have eating disorders?” and look at which characters in the show have eating disorders. We shall use the show to understand the effect media has on the development of eating disorders and explore some of the common eating disorders.
Does pretty little liars’ main cast have eating disorders?
Yes, some of the main cast in pretty little liars have openly talked about their struggles with eating disorders. We will discuss each one of them and the eating disorder they are suffering from but before we do that, let us look at what the show, pretty little liars was about.
Pretty little liars
It is an American teen drama mystery-thriller television series developed by Marlene King. The series is loosely based on the novel pretty little liars by Sara Shepard which follows the lives of a clique of five best friends that falls apart after their leader, Alison, disappears. The four remaining friends are receiving messages from a mysterious person, figure A, who threatens to expose their deepest secrets.
It premiered on June 8, 2010, and ended on June 27, 2017. Though the series remained a relative success from Freeform, it received mixed reactions and criticism from the audience and critics. Some people felt like the show depicted unrealistic standards of beauty that could influence young people negatively. The series portrays teenage girls and boys who are gorgeous and beautiful by their perfect bodies and thin statues.
The series also touches on eating disorders where some characters are acting and struggling with eating disorders. Some of these characters had gone through struggles with eating disorders in real life. People feel the series tried to bring into awareness the issues faced by young people but still affected young minds negatively by how they should look to be attractive and romantically interesting.
The show is narrated in the first person, Hanna, who disappeared first. Her voice is the one telling the story. We will now focus on individual characters and the eating disorders they struggled with.
Pretty little liars’ characters with eating disorders
She is a fictional character played by Ashley Benson. She is also the storyteller in the series. The character depicts unhealthy eating patterns which pinpoint as being bulimic. She is even given the nickname ‘hefty Hanna’ due to her physical appearance. Instead of Hanna’s problem being treated as a disease, she is ridiculed for being weak and socially inept.
She gained confidence by losing weight, dressing stylishly, purging and becoming rude and brute so as to be ‘noticed’. Hanna is rude and standoffish to almost everyone she meets, perhaps because she became so used to seeing the worst in people when she was overweight. She could not merit to be called a ‘pretty little liar’ as she needed to be thin to be considered beautiful.
Although she introduces herself as being anorexic, it is clear that her disordered eating originated from being called hefty Hanna by binging and purging. She is constantly depicted as eating when no one else is and at one point, her friends shame her by asking her ‘are you really going to eat that.’ in one episode she admits to being obsessed with counting calories and losing weight.
The actress playing Hanna, Ashley Benson, also came out to talk about the unrealistic beauty standards on them. She was denied a role for being a size two and was considered ‘too fat’. She confessed that she cried for thirty minutes but learnt how to overcome it as she knew it could cause the development of an eating disorder.
She also pointed out how their pictures would be edited to portray perfection when that is not how they really looked like. Thankfully, she is comfortable in her own skin and did not let the negative comments affect her self-esteem.
She starred as Spencer Hastings in the series. She opened up about her bad her eating disorder was and being diagnosed with anorexia when she was a teenager. At one point she starved herself to near death and had to be admitted to the hospital for three weeks.
In her latest edition of Lenny Letter, she wrote, “There is a part of my brain that defies logic… Once, it completely convinced me I should live off 300 calories a day, and at some point, it told me even that was too much. That part of my brain is my disease, and there was a time when it had absolute authority over me.”
She continued, “It almost killed me, and you can see that even though I have lived in recovery for ten years now, it still finds loads of fun, insidious ways to thwart me to this day… It was a difficult journey finding my way back to health. Through hard introspection, intense medical and mental care, a supportive family, friends, and a patient and loving partner, I survived, which is rare.”
When asked about keeping the disorder in check in an interview with Glamour, she said, “It’s consistent therapy… choosing to consistently return to health…because you have so much to live for.”
Her character, Spencer Hastings, also suffers from disordered eating. She is obsessed with food that at one point, she even becomes a nutritionist. She’s obsessed with her appearance. She’s constantly dieting and trying new workout regimes. But as the show reveals, being obsessed with your weight and appearance isn’t healthy, and it’s not a phase.
She opened up about her struggle with severe Nervosa and exercise bulimia. She revealed how she dealt with these disorders in her teen years and early 20s. She struggled with anorexia since she was 15 to midway through the series.
“Probably from like 15 to midway through Pretty Little Liars I had severe anorexia… And exercise bulimia. I would just work out for hours. It wasn’t really about how I physically looked, it was because I had moved across the country. I just felt so completely out of control. The easiest thing you can control is the food that goes into your mouth or how much you work out,” she explained.
She had no idea that she was suffering from anorexia until it became too late and her mother had to threaten to move homes if she did not get help. She confessed that she still has bad days but she learned to compartmentalize the negative thoughts.
She also said that starring on pretty little liars affected her body image and felt like she had to uphold some image “I gained a little bit of weight and seeing how people reacted to that really messed with my head… I started getting these stress-related, hormone-related breakouts.”
As the show got more popular, and Hale became more and more famous, the stress of trying to maintain that perfect image began showing on her skin.
In an interview with Self, she says, “I’d starve myself for a day, and the next day I was hungry, tired and miserable. When I felt so bad about not being able to fit into size 0 jeans, I realized I had to make a change… Being beautiful doesn’t mean being skinny. It’s about being healthy.”
She is not into fitness and exercises several times a week. She says exercises keep her active and happy. She also shares her recipes and diet with her followers and fans and looks like she is on a positive path.
Rhonda, in one of the episodes, was fat-shamed for her body size and shape. She was nicknamed ‘fat Rhonda’. Paige was also criticized by viewers of pretty little liars for ‘looking thinner’ in every episode though some people came to her rescue and dispelled the rumours. She did not address those claims.
She played the recurring role of Jenna Marshall as the younger step-sister to Toby Cavanaugh. In the series, she becomes blind after a prank goes wrong that was arranged by Alison. She later ended her contract with pretty little liars and admitted to not being in contact with the rest of the cast.
Tammin opened up about struggling with an eating disorder for eight years that she began when she starred in the movie home and away. She said that when she was the age of 15, she would eat very small portions of food so as to maintain a ‘perfect’ figure. She reminisced of how she was sad back then as she tried to match up to the unrealistic standards of beauty as portrayed in media.
She remembered when she was 15-23 years and called them 8 years of torture when she was battling an eating disorder. All this was a result of being bullied for being an overweight child, which is seen in a picture that she uploaded. After hitting rock bottom at 23, she started wanting to be well and started her recovery journey.
She now uses her social media presence to encourage other people going through the same not to isolate themselves, but to allow others to help them. She uses her personal experiences with being bullied to show how words can lead to the development of eating disorders.
In this blog post, we have looked at the show, pretty little liars, and what the show was about. We have delved deeper into looking at how the show brought into awareness eating disorders and how they affected people. We have also looked at characters in the show that had eating disorders while acting and also in real life.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.
Frequently asked questions: Does pretty little liars’ main cast have eating disorders?
Who has an eating disorder in pretty little liars (PLL)?
At the start of the season, Hanna had recovered from an eating disorder but as A started revealing their secrets, the feelings were brought to the surface again and she was forced to revisit her past bulimia.
What eating disorder did Hanna have?
She had binge eating disorder and was even given a nickname, “hefty Hanna.”
Why did Alison from pretty little liars gain so much weight?
She revealed that she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which made her gain 70 pounds in two years.
Gonzalez S. (July 18, 2017). ‘Pretty Little Liars’ actress opens up about eating disorder: ‘It almost killed me’ Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/18/entertainment/troian-bellisario-eating-disorder/index.html
Tsintziras A. (January 8, 2021). Pretty Little Liars: 10 Times The Show Tackled Deep Issues. Retrieved from https://screenrant.com/pll-dealt-serious-subject-matter/
Lansing C. (August 17, 2014). Pretty Little Liars’ lies about “pretty” Retrieved from https://about-face.org/pretty-little-liars-lies-about-pretty/