Teresa Palmer reveals battle with orthorexia: ‘It was exhausting to log every calorie’

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I know Teresa Palmer from the underrated movie Warm Bodies, with Nicholas Hoult, which I own. We need more zombie love stories. She was also in Lights Out, which was a middling to decent horror movie and Hacksaw Ridge, which I couldn’t stand. She’s 34 and she’s actually Australian, which I had no idea about. She does a great American accent. Teresa, 34, has been married to American actor Mark Webber, 40, since 2013 and they have three children together: son Bodhi, six, Forest, three and a half, and Poet, one. Those are some hippie kids’ names, but they’re not that bad compared to other celebrity baby names.

Teresa was on an Australian mom’s podcast called Mama Mia where she revealed that she had orthorexia, an unhealthy preoccupation with the nutritional content of food. Orthorexia is not an official diagnosis, but there’s a growing awareness of it. She explained that it developed after she was criticized by a female agent over her body, which she wasn’t as self conscious about before then.

So I had orthorexia. Not many people have heard of it but it is an eating disorder. I just diagnosed myself with it. From 2009 to 2012 I was in this very unhealthy relationship with food. I was incredibly clean with my eating. I didn’t have anorexia or bulimia, but I had something different, which is when you become so obsessed with the amount of calories you’re putting into your body, everything had to be of the highest quality. I wouldn’t eat anything stripped of its nutritional value. It was utterly exhausting to log every calorie and just to be to just be so overly conscious of the food I was putting into my body.

I always saw to Mark [her husband] that having kids healed me. I met him at the tail end of that. I got pregnant about four or five months after I started regaining a more healthy relationship with food. And then my body just blossomed and I had this big belly and I could feel life within me. It was just incredible seeing what my body could do. I was getting stretch marks on my boobs and cellulite all over my bum and on the backs of my thighs.

I remember seeing these paparazzi photos of me in little gym shorts. I was like ‘look at that cellulite.’ I didn’t care. I was finally liberated from these judgments I had surrounding my body which have existed since I was a teenager. I would always compare my bodies to my friends’ bodies.

It came to a head after a female agent told me in 2008 after she saw a paparazzi photo of me in bikinis, she said ‘You know what you should start working out because that’s a part of your job. You need to make sure that you look really good.’

I was like ‘I thought I did look good.’ The scary thing is I’ve always been such a small person and I look back on the photos that she’s talking about and I was just so little still. Yes I wasn’t perfectly sculpted, but that really set off this huge wellwind of unhealthy obsession surrounding food. Since being a mom I’ve embraced it all. The lumps and the bumps and the stretchmarks, it’s a map of bringing my babies into the world.

[From Mama Mia via People]

That just sounds awful and it makes me wonder how much it affected her career choices after that. Women in Hollywood deal with such sexism, which includes mean comments from other women like this. It’s harmful and can be dangerous when they internalize that. I

I’m also a calorie counter, it helped me lose and keep weight off for years. I know many people consider that disordered but I think of it like keeping a budget. It works for the most part despite the pandemic weight. Some days I can really be tough on myself though, so I could definitely relate to what she’s saying. You feel unworthy when you demand perfection from your body and focus on comparing yourself to others. I have the opposite problem to her though, I eat junk and think that if I’m counting it doesn’t matter. I’m trying to eat more whole foods and to cook more, and it helps.

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28 Responses to “Teresa Palmer reveals battle with orthorexia: ‘It was exhausting to log every calorie’”

  1. CROOKSNNANNIES says:

    I’m so glad she’s happy and healthy! I am a little wary of these issues that don’t have official diagnoses, but if it helped her to give it that name, that’s awesome! My concern for things like orthorexia and “sex addiction” is that they don’t get to the root of the problem and are kind of a catch all term. I guess I hope more research goes into this.

    • AmyB says:

      I too am glad she was able to find her way out of this. While this might not have an official diagnosis as an eating disorder, when it becomes the center of your life, to the neglect of other things, that to me is the hallmark of an eating disorder. I suffered from anorexia for about 10 years, and did extensive therapy, and eventual inpatient rehab for it, so I am fairly versed on the subject. There are certainly grey areas in this, and different forms an eating disorder can take. But it is usually some form of control over food/your weight/your body to prevent you from addressing other difficult psychological issues. That is why it is literally useless to tell someone who is rail thin to simply eat a burger. That will do nothing, if you don’t address the underlying issues that led to the disorder in the first place. Seems to me, becoming a mother and seeing the power in that allowed her to heal – what was perhaps a destructive relationship with her own body. I know for me too, becoming pregnant with my daughter at age 29 after my struggle with anorexia for almost a decade turned out to be healing as well. So I can relate a lot to her statements here. But yes, I do think this disorder of obsessively counting calories and being consumed with what you are eating can def be classified as some type of eating disorder. Just my two cents.

  2. Laalaa says:

    I think it’s good to have a certain idea about how many calories there are in most foods, because some of them are surprisingly unhealthy!
    But eating disorders and disordered eating are really devastating and I am glad she managed to pull herself out of it.
    Tbh, I feel social media makes for a good platform – many millenials share their struggles and it helps. Not everybody recognizes or has the money to get help (because therapy can be extremely expensive!)

  3. TheOriginalMia says:

    I loved Warm Bodies. It is a really cute movie.

    People suck. She has no reason to be concerned about her body. I’m glad she’s doing better.

  4. candy says:

    She was great in a Discovery of Witches.

  5. Lisa V says:

    I appreciate her talking about this, but during her orthorexia time she had a website devoted to “healthy eating” called Mind Body Green (I think?) which perpetuated a lot of her unhealthy ideas about food. I have struggled with disordered eating for years and I am sure many of us do. But I never give diet tips or talk about “how I lost the weight” because it’s actually crazy. I always lie and say oh I cut out bread which I hate that I’m lying, but I also don’t want to perpetuate the fucked up things I do to lose weight. I’m not going to tell someone oh I did the Master Cleanser for 10 days followed by a 2 day juice cleanse, works like a charm. What I’m trying to say is if you have a disordered relationship with food, please don’t profess to tell other people how to eat and what is healthy.

    • Valerie says:

      Agreed, but does she still have that site? Taking into consideration her mindset at the time, I’d be inclined to judge her a little less harshly. You think you’ve got it all figured out, and that at least some of what you do is normal; it’s everyone else who has it wrong.

    • Kristen says:

      It’s possible she didn’t recognize the disorder for what it was, at the time. She probably believed she was being very healthy and in a good position to teach others how to be healthy, too.

  6. Angie says:

    A major part of my weight loss/health overhaul has been counting calories. That’s the keystone for my having lost 140 pounds in a year. The rest is daily exercise and understanding how to better manage my stress (not reaching for a donut).

    People should absolutely be taught how to read labels on food and to understand the general caloric content of non-labeled foods, and should have a basic understanding of how the body uses energy and how easy it is to get a surplus of daily calories in the typical American diet. It became very obvious to me only once I studied what I ate how I ended up at over 300 pounds by age 34.

    It sounds like she took it to an extreme and I’m so happy she’s since recovered and now better understands how to nourish her body to function, not JUST for show biz.

  7. JaneDoesWerk says:

    Ugh I really like Teresa and this makes me sad. She made “The Choice” bearable to watch, and I’ve always loved how close and respectful she is to her husband’s ex.

  8. Dazed and Confused says:

    This is easy to believe. In the early 90s, I was in Los Angeles and going on auditions. I looked young, so I was auditioning for teen roles, even though I was in my early 20s. I was only 103 lbs and every audition I went on, the female casting director would suggest I lose 10 lbs and consider breast augmentations. It is a very destructive place.

  9. Fanny says:

    Just wanted to point out, since there’s a discussion of the pros and cons of counting calories, that orthorexia isn’t just about calories – it also tends to include obsessive/excessive exercise, so it often obscured as “healthy” living and eating “pure”. It also tends to affect all genders more or less equally, unlike other eating disorders that are overrepresented in women.

  10. CooCooCatchoo says:

    She and Kristen Stewart look soooo alike! I think it every time I see a photo of Teresa.

  11. detritus says:

    I think Orthorexia is still considered an EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), but I can see that changing.

    The diet industry has swung from overtly plugging losing weight to doing this sleight of hand so the same push is now labelled ‘wellness’.

    The end goal is still the same, to be as tiny as possible, but to also be so iron clad in your ‘health’ that others can’t judge you.

    It’s scary how intertwined tiny and thin have become with healthy.

    There is nothing to prove that being at the lowest end of your healthy BMI (To use a flawed metric) is anyway healthier than being at the highest end of healthy.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      @detritus I think you’re correct that it is currently EDNOS (which is such a frustrating category on its own, but I get it).

      BMI & the idea that low weight = good health & high weight = bad health are sooooo damaging. They promote disordered eating & also result in lack of proper health care for people at higher weights because doctors are more likely to dismiss their health concerns.

    • emmy says:

      Absolutely. Youtube is a true hellhole of disordered behavior masquerading as health conscious living coupled, of course, with the scaremongering re toxins. It’s worse than the outright diet cult I grew up with because there’s no criticizing it. It’s all about health after all.

    • A says:

      There was a fantastic article written by Ruby Tandoh, one of the runners-up in the Great British Bake-Off, on this exact subject regarding the ‘wellness’ industry, and how it incentivizes disordered eating of some variety or another.

      It’s been kind of eye-opening and a little alarming to me, reading up on the backstories of the most famous and popular wellness food bloggers, and finding out that a lot of them struggled with eating disorders for years before they started their blogs. It is so so hard not to see their turn to ‘wellness’ as just another expression of that.

  12. Minorbird says:

    that last pic of her is gorgeous!

  13. Ashley says:

    I recently started doing this. In December I got fed up of being called fat every day by my ex boyfriend and I became consumed with steps and calories. I had NEVER had any issues with my body before I met him (I’m 34) but a year and half in and he broke me down and wouldn’t let me go a day without saying I could be better or how he wished he could have dated the ‘before’ me. At some point I had gone from 135 to 165 but I never noticed. I thought I looked fine. He never let me live it down. Then in May after he broke up with me I started to realize that only allowing myself 1100-1300 calories a day was crazy. I wasnt eating any of the food I liked. I wasn’t eating when I was hungry. I was basically this weird new person that I didn’t like.

    Anyhow I still count my calories but I don’t freak out when it goes into the red (which is everyday). I still count my steps too but again I’m not making sure I hit my target. If I don’t one day I’m okay with that.

    I realize now that it was a very abusive relationship and he had made me hate my body. The sad thing is I am finally losing weight (I wasn’t when I was counting and walking) and I wish I could shove it in his face and be like “I may have been fat but at least I could lose it. You’re still bad assh-le!”. I know it’s petty. But it would feel so damn good.

    • Chanteloup says:

      So happy for you that you escaped that relationship! and cheering for you as you love you for you, your authentic self! <3

  14. Meg says:

    This is so relatable. I’ve met people who have this preoccupation and insist it’s a sign of will power and attention in their part while others are ‘out of control’.

  15. Tara says:

    Did you transcribe her Australian accent saying “whirlwind” as “wellwind”? 😂

  16. Valerie says:

    I feel like orthorexia is more common than it was when I was treated for an ED 10 years ago. I knew a couple of people who were into it, but it was still more about binging and purging or starvation. Now, I feel like the idea of healthy eating and what it means to be fit has changed again, and we focus more on getting ripped rather than as skinny as possible.

    I hate to bring social media into it (because I always disliked when they’d emphasize the role of celebrity in the formation/perpetuation of EDs), but I think the rise of fitspo and fitstagrams have contributed to it at least a little. You can post very selectively and misleadingly. You can say one thing and do another, and nobody would know.

    With thinspo, it was more in the other direction, where if you ate 1000 calories, you’d say so proudly. With fitspo, it’s more like you fudge (lol) what you ate and how much you worked out and what it takes to maintain your figure. That’s not the case for everyone, because bodies are different, but a lot of fitness bloggers eventually come out and say that they have an f’d-up relationship with food.

  17. Kristen says:

    I had a very disordered relationship with food for a long time, through my teens and 20s. Getting pregnant somehow snapped me out of it, too. I know the opposite is true for a lot of women, and pregnancy can cause a higher consciousness of one’s body and how it grows and changes. But for me, it was finally the excuse I needed to just eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full and that was that. I’m so grateful it happened that way for me, and I am no longer trapped in the awful cycle I was in before that.

  18. Lex says:

    I first saw her in a small indie (maybe even student) Aussie film called 2:37

    Hard to get your hands on but she was really great in it. Be warned, it’s depressing. But really enjoyable.

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