Nikki Glaser: ‘Learning to be nice to myself… takes so much work’

Trigger Warning: eating disorders
Nikki Glaser is a comedian and stars on a reality show on E! called Welcome Home Nikki Glaser? I only heard about her recently, and after reading a first person essay she wrote for The Cut she’s on my radar. Nikki detailed her almost 20 year battle with disordered eating and body image, something she was only able to recently overcome. She wrote about it in matter-of-fact terms that were relatable to me, particularly being hard on yourself and using that as twisted motivation to eat less and lose weight. While I’ve never had serious health problems from it or been underweight, I got the most compliments when I was borderline underweight and it messed with me like Nikki mentioned. It’s a hard cycle to beat and she was able to do it through 12 step work early in the pandemic. Here’s some of what she wrote, with more at the source:

The first time a boy showed interest in me, I got so nervous and excited about hanging out that one day I just didn’t eat. The next day at school, people noticed it. They were, like, “You look great. You look like you’ve lost weight.” It felt like getting an A on a test I didn’t study for. It was the best feeling. The date came and went, but I kept up the streak of not eating. I quickly became addicted to the results and positive feedback.

That’s when I caught anorexia. I say “caught” because it was not in my control; it’s not a choice. I didn’t know how to stop dieting. Within a month, I was super-thin and super-popular. And then, a month after that, my hair was falling out and I had dry skin and mouth sores from malnutrition. I slept all day because I was hungry and just didn’t want to be alive for it. I fainted here and there. I was eventually hospitalized and then I started eating enough to convince people I was okay, that I was well enough to go to college. I just wanted to get away and go to school where I could continue to starve myself. It was the only thing I’d ever been exceptionally good at…

I had started eating, but then I couldn’t stop. I started to get very secretive and weird about food. My anorexia turned into bingeing, which turned into bulimia. I was getting mouth acne from throwing up and always had sores that I would pick at, because eating disorders also cause you to have OCD. There was so much shame around it. In my late 20s, the mouth acne got me to quit throwing up, but my bingeing persisted. I would starve all day, wait to eat until nightfall and then eat all night long. I obsessed about calories and worked out incessantly. That led to stress fractures and broken bones and then I wouldn’t be able to work out, so I would go back to starving myself…

When the pandemic hit, I moved back home with my parents. I couldn’t be alone because if I was alone, I would just binge. Home, to me, was where you get to binge and sleep. There was no watching TV or hanging out with friends. I was always filling my day with things so that I wouldn’t binge. And suddenly I had all this time alone, so I freaked out and moved in with my parents. I realized I couldn’t do this anymore. By the end of March 2020, I was in recovery, in a 12-step program. In April, I was able to stop starving myself. Since then, I have maintained my weight and haven’t felt out of control. I actually feel great.

With alcohol, you can have a hard rule to stop drinking, but it’s different with food because you have to eat. So I made rules for myself. I eat three meals a day, at least, no matter what. Anytime I’m hungry, I have to eat. I used to get really high off the feeling of hunger, and I do a lot of work to combat that now. There are days where I really struggle with gaining a couple pounds or my jeans’ fitting too tight. But I try to keep in mind the best thing I’ve learned: When you stop fighting it, when you stop trying to control it, your body will just be what it needs to be. It will find a balance. I never thought that giving up was the solution, but it really was for me.

In the business I work in, size does matter. Hollywood is disgusting when it comes to acting, pretending like they’re accepting of any body size when really they’re not. I would like to have the freedom to get any size I want and still have a career, but I don’t believe I do. We still reward women for losing weight. I don’t read comments about myself anymore. I’m missing some good stuff, but I’m also missing things that would really derail my happiness. Learning to be nice to myself is a lot more than just, like, positive affirmations in the mirror. It takes so much work.

[From The Cut]

Nikki deserves a lot of credit for being open about this, and I bet it was hard for her to write and publish her story. It’s so true that food issues can be difficult because you still have to eat and you can’t just stop eating like you can stop drinking alcohol. Exercise works to help get me out of this pattern as I find it freeing, particularly dance fitness. I appreciated the line I put in the title, that it’s hard work to be nice to yourself. I try to talk to myself like a best friend would, but I need to remind myself to do this. My default is to tell myself to suck it up and work harder. Affirmations can seem cheesy but they help too.

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7 Responses to “Nikki Glaser: ‘Learning to be nice to myself… takes so much work’”

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  1. Sam says:

    I’ve followed her as a comedian for some time. She’s very funny but I never knew much about her as a person. I had no idea she was struggling with these dark things. Just goes to show you that a smiling public persona doesn’t a happy person make.

    • kirk says:

      I’m going to have to start watching her now after reading this! Impressive. I think she’s on Comedy Central…

  2. Kate says:

    God that’s a really long time to struggle with food and body issues. I’m glad she finally reached her breaking point and was able to turn it around.

    • Silent Star says:

      I’ve watched her as a comedian for a few years and love her! She’s especially good at roasts. I really admire her for talking about her eating disorders.

  3. Concern Fae says:

    I had a friend who really appreciated dance fitness because she could plan her class schedule ahead of time and that was it. The instructor knew the right amount of time and exercise for her to do. Running, going to the gym, and other open ended fitness routines were tickets to orthorexia for her.

  4. girl_ninja says:

    She’s right about the self talk we do. I know that for me I make a conscious choice not to put myself down when I make a mistake. It’s so easy for me to call myself stupid or dumb when I mess up and it really does mess with my mind. I watched part of Comedy Central roast (I’ve forgotten who they roasted) and those can get pretty brutal. After declaring that she was “in love” with him and found him so hot Blake Griffin said that she looked like Larry Bird and old. I remember being so embarrassed. I had to stop watching. She even shared about how hurt she was by his “roast.” I really appreciate that Nikki is sharing about her struggle publicly because it will help other people.

  5. LIONE says:

    Before I even read the article I thought to myself that I think she looks so much healthier these days!

    She always seemed like a person who constantly craved people’s validation and neglected herself, to me. Hope she finds loving herself easier every day, she’s valuable by just being alive.