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Ariana Madix on What It’s Like to Have an Eating Disorder on Reality TV

Today, Madix is back on air—serving sambas instead of palomas. Her all-black bartender’s ensemble has been swapped for the glittering, sequined leotards that little kids dream about wearing on stage. Some things are the same—Madix is acting on her own volition, in the driver’s seat with her foot on the gas—and some are different. She’s not where she was, but as she mentions more than once, she hasn’t entirely gotten to where she’s going yet either. So when Ariana Madix looks at herself on screen today, what does she see?

Here, in her own words, Madix shares more about being a reality television star, her ever-evolving experience with body dysmorphia and disordered eating, and how she takes care of her mental health while being in the public eye.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.

I don’t think I was aware of any of my mental health issues until well after the fact, because in the moment, I don’t think I knew what was happening. I’m an elder millennial, so when I was young and experiencing and feeling things like depression and body dysmorphia, I wouldn’t have even known what to look up on the internet, or how to. I mean, I wasn’t going to go to the library and check out a book about mental health. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Even later on, I didn’t realize what I was doing when I was restricting my eating, or that my thoughts in regard to my relationship with food and my body were dangerous. Growing up, my image of something like an eating disorder was very extreme. I didn’t know that disordered eating can take many forms, and isn’t necessarily, “Oh, you’re below a certain number of pounds.”

These extreme cases were the only things that I really understood at that time. And it wasn’t until I was on the other side of it that I realized, Oh, so when I was feeling bad about eating or when I was thinking that I should go all day without food, that’s actually what that was. And then I look back and I realize: Oh yeah, girl, this was bad.

I think about it and I’m like, yeah, that makes sense. I had no control. 

Back in 2012 and 2013, right around my first season of Vanderpump Rules, I wasn’t doing well in my career, and all these other areas of my life were in a chaotic or unstable state. That’s when my eating disorder was really able to get its claws in and take hold.

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