Drew Barrymore Illustrates Our Issues with Food and Weight

Drew BarrymoreLet’s start with the fact that I’m a fan of Drew Barrymore – I recently went on a kick and watched a bunch of her movies (the song from the end of The Wedding Singer is still in my head.)

I also want to acknowledge that she is not typically “Hollywood thin” and her weight has fluctuated throughout her career, which means that she’s had to deal with all kinds of body shaming nonsense, and that’s total bullshit. Based on a recent People Magazine interview, it seems that she may have bought into diet culture in a way that illustrates the problems that many of us have, or have had that I think are worth acknowledging. Discussing her eating habits around her show Santa Clarita Diet she says:

“Let’s face it, I hate it, I would much rather eat fettuccine alfredo all day long…When I first started the show [Santa Clarita Diet], I was 145 lbs. and my life was kind of falling apart,” she said. “And I said, ‘Victor [Fresco, the show’s executive producer], can I lose 20 lbs. over the course of the show, and change my eyebrows and the height of my shoes and the body language and attitude and go from someone who’s kind of naïve and unhappy to someone who’s empowered and alive?’ And he said yes, and so I got to make that transformation.”

We have to let go of this idea that becoming thinner is the same as becoming more empowered and alive. For that matter, we should let go of the ideas that performing femininity in a way that brings us closer to a stereotype of beauty that reinforces things like racism, sizeism, ableism, healthism, cissexism, and heteronormaitivity, is the same thing as being empowered and alive.

She continued:

“When I’m doing the show I’m a vegan and I barely eat anything, and I workout every day, and it’s so healthy,” she said. “It gets to be euphoric, and then it’s like food poisoning, you feel like you’ll never eat again, and then before you know it you’re pigging out with the feed bag strapped to your face. And I’m a foodie, and love food and I travel the world for food, so I get heavy again between the show.”

“I heard Denzel Washington does this and I don’t know because I just want to believe it, I don’t want to know it’s not true. But he just enjoys his life and then pulls himself back together when he’s doing movies and looks amazing,” Barrymore said. “So I’m giving it the full ‘Denzel,’ even if that exists or not, and I let myself go.”

Holy shitballs. I’ve never heard anything that so clearly and accurately described disordered eating. Of course Drew Barrymore is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body, but let’s be clear that any competent healthcare provider would see this as red flag behavior for an eating disorder. This doesn’t have to be what’s normal. We can have a relationship with food that takes into account hunger, satiety, enjoyment, the social aspect of food etc. and does not involve severe restriction of food types and amount. Talented actors should not have to put their bodies through this kind of dangerous starvation cycle just to do their jobs.

If we would stop equating thinness with attractiveness, talent, morality, and being empowered and alive, then we could choose our actors based on their ability to act rather than their ability to approximate an impossible standard of beauty, and the characters they play could be whatever size the actor happens to be (including if they are a zombie on a high protein diet, since there are fat people on high protein diets in real life.)

For now I hope that Drew Barrymore’s disordered eating doesn’t escalate, and I hope that her casual discussion of it doesn’t lead anyone else to try it. And I continue to be a fan of a very talented woman who, it would seem, has been deeply affected by an extremely toxic diet culture.

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9 thoughts on “Drew Barrymore Illustrates Our Issues with Food and Weight

    1. I have also felt the euphoria when the scale reached a certain number. I would swear that I would never again be “fat and unhealthy.” But I wasn’t healthy. I was obsessed with food, and I was constantly hungry. Inevitably, I would “slip” and end up binge eating for a time, and would spiral into self-loathing. That isn’t healthy.

  1. TW: disordered eating, illness, hospitalization

    I have autoimmune diseases and the worst has been my Crohn’s disease. In the beginning and for years afterwards, I was perilously thin. I looked like a skeleton even to myself. Food is the enemy to gastric issues. I recognize that “euphoric feeling” and it was during a time when I was so sick and thin that I was hospitalized for failure to thrive. I am sure it can be explained medically but for me, I felt like it was my body’s/ brains way of tricking me into feeling good so I didn’t realize how very close I was to starvation and death. That euphoria is the most dangerous feeling when it comes to disordered eating no matter the reason. When you’re on the other side of that stage, you realize how truly terrifying it is to feel that.

  2. As bad as it is for anonymous fat people, I think the pressure to meet impossible “ideal” body standards must be 10 times worse for actors and others in the public sphere. It makes me sad that so many of them succumb or buy into this bullshit.

    But the more I think on it, the less I understand this intense FEAR of fat that has gripped our country. Even if you personally don’t think fat people are attractive, who cares? How does that have anything to do with anything, really? Yet it’s like we’re radioactive. Why?

    I don’t find tattoos attractive, but I don’t feel the need to stereotype or go on a crusade against people who have them. Why can’t people mind their own business?

  3. Her relationship with food is not a healthy one.
    Many people have this unhealthy relationship with food.
    Most of you think I’m single. Nope, I’m married for life to ED.
    I don’t like being married to ED. ED is an abusive asshole.
    I want to divorce ED, but no mater how hard I try, I am never able to completely cut myself off from him.
    ED stands for Eating Disorder.
    We need to get rid of this horrible idea that thin always equates with healthy.
    Drew Barrymore’s method of staying thin is not healthy.
    Her beliefs about food are not healthy.
    Thin is not always healthy.

  4. @Mary Bricker: Because we’re easy targets.

    Don’t talk about the culture of rich people’s greed and entitlement and contempt for the poor, and middle-class delusion that they’ll someday be rich, that has led to the U.S. having some of the worst health in the developed world. Don’t talk about how the rich get richer and the poor get sicker. Blame fatness instead. It must be fatness making people sick.

    Don’t talk about how we all, every last one of us, will get old and saggy and slow. Don’t talk about our national fear of age and death, about the delusion that we can somehow live forever and how it destroys our ability to let people age with some dignity. We must all be “healthy.” If we just all pretend really really hard, then we’ll all be forever 21 and also look like members of the high school sports team. And if anybody can’t perform Hello There I Am Forever in the Three Months after My Last Growth Spurt When I Looked Adult but Had Very Little Body Fat? Blame them for letting down their duty to the group.

    1. I had the same attitude until I was in my mid-forties. It becomes so ingrained. This blog was one of the tools that helped me break free from it and from the self-loathing and self-deprecation.

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