Former Disney Star Alyson Stoner Talks About Their Eating Disorder: 'Its Grip Was Wrapped Around My Core Identity'

“The 6-year-old who was at ease in their skin was eclipsed by a pre-teen who was already in a chokehold of perfectionism," Alyson Stoner said on their podcast

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty</p> Alyson Stoner

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Alyson Stoner

Alyson Stoner is opening up about their eating disorder.

Last week the former Disney channel star disclosed their struggles on an episode of their podcast Dear Hollywood: “Becoming a Product: Eating Disorders and Body Image.”

Stoner, 30, started the episode by talking about growing up in Ohio until age 6, noting that their early concept of self was “pretty positive.”

But things changed a few years later when the actress and singer was thrust into the spotlight at age 9. Appearing as the pig-tailed dancing kid in Missy Elliot's "Work It" music video, plus Cheaper by the Dozen, Step Up and the Disney Channel original Camp Rock, Stoner was considered a showbiz veteran by their early teens.

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“I was acutely aware that my body had become a topic of discussion….my body was celebrated by some, scorned by others. Gorgeous to some, atrocious to others,” Stoner explained.

Stoner went on to discuss how puberty affected their body image. Laser hair removal, braces, and layering bras to mimic the appearance of breasts were just some of the measures Stoner underwent to “increase her chances of being desirable and hirable.”

“The 6-year-old who was at ease in their skin was eclipsed by a pre-teen who was already in a chokehold of perfectionism.”

Related: Alyson Stoner Reveals She Sought Treatment for Eating Disorders: It Was 'One of the Best Choices'

Although Stoner’s career was skyrocketing, things weren't going well at home. Their stepfather was “grossly abusive” and their mother had a severe drinking problem. To deal with the issues at home, they turned to faith. And when that didn’t work, they resorted to “extremely obsessive behaviors” around food and exercise.

<p>Rich Fury/Getty</p> Alyson Stoner

Rich Fury/Getty

Alyson Stoner

Stoner noted that what originally began as orthorexia, an obsession with healthy eating, evolved into severe restriction, exercise bulimia, and binge eating. They went on to discuss how these behaviors were partially in response to industry pressures, but also a product of feeling out of control of their chaotic home life.

By age 13, Stoner was calculating every morsel of food they ate, compulsively recording what they consumed up to 12 times a day. Soon the severe health effects caught up with them.

Stoner started losing clumps of hair, and instead was growing lanugo, fine hair follicles that indicate malnourishment and a lack of body fat. Other symptoms they experienced included low bone density, anemia, lack of sexual desire, body acne, eye circles, and the loss of their menstrual cycle. They also noted that they couldn’t sit or lie down without getting bruises where bones were protruding.

“I was already estranged from normal kids my age but these health issues exacerbated my sense of isolation," Stoner said.

After acknowledging they had a problem, Stoner started visiting online recovery forums. But meeting with dietitians, creating meal plans, and challenging body dysmorphia wasn’t enough to help them heal.

“Its grip was wrapped around my core identity. My sense of purpose and belonging. It was my strategy for survival.”

<p>David Livingston/Getty</p> Alyson Stoner

David Livingston/Getty

Alyson Stoner

Stoner began to increase portion sizes and incorporate “bad foods” back into their diet, but still felt a lack of self-control. So, they swung to the other side of the spectrum and started binge eating.

Stoner explained that once they were old enough to drive, they would drive to the store and buy cakes, ice cream, sandwiches, and chips and eat until they felt “full or numb.”

On the set of Camp Rock, Stoner would steal food from set, binge eat, and then go to the gym at 2 a.m. to work off the calories.

In 2011, Stoner, who was 17 at the time, was hospitalized and admitted to rehab for further treatment of their eating disorders.

The treatment focused on not just their disordered eating but also on their mental health.

Now, Stoner says, they have recovered from the experience. After five years of balanced eating, they have transitioned to a plant-based diet. They don't own a scale, and they are focused now on individualized wellness from the inside out.

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