Almost exactly one year ago, Camila Mendes opened up for the first time on social media about her past struggles with disordered eating, an admission she made in tandem with announcing her collaboration with Project HEAL, a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources and funding to young people seeking treatment for eating disorders. Since then, she’s continued to speak candidly about her experiences with bulimia, as well as her recent decision to stop dieting once and for all. In her cover interview for the November 2018 issue of Shape, the Riverdale star spoke about how she’s recovering from years of disordered eating, and what made her decide to share this process with her millions of fans and followers.
“I’ve struggled with bulimia. It happened a little bit in high school and again when I was in college. Then it came back when I started working in this industry with fittings all the time and watching myself on camera. I had such an emotional relationship with food and anxiety about everything I put into my body,” Mendes said.“I was so scared of carbs that I wouldn’t let myself eat bread or rice ever. I’d go a week without eating them, then I would binge on them, and that would make me want to purge. If I ate a sweet, I would be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to eat for five hours now.’ I was always punishing myself. I was even anxious about healthy food: Did I eat too much of the avocado? Did I have too many fats for one day? I was consumed with the details of what I was eating, and I always felt as if I was doing something wrong.”
About a year ago, the 24-year-old decided it was time to seek help. “I went to a therapist, and she recommended a nutritionist as well, and seeing both of them changed my life. So much of the anxiety I had about food went away when I started learning more about nutrition. My nutritionist completely cured my fear of carbs. She was like, ‘You need a balanced amount of good, healthy carbs in your life. Have a piece of toast in the morning; have some quinoa at lunch. When you’re eating a little of them all the time, you won’t have this crazy urge to binge. You won’t be scared of carbs anymore because you’re going to realize that eating them isn’t going to make you gain weight,'” Mendes said. “She also cured my addiction to dieting. I was always on some kind of weird diet, but I haven’t been on one since. I’m very proud of myself.”
And while the actor said she still faces some of the same insecurities she did before, she’s found ways to shut them down. “The voices in my head never completely go away. They’re just way quieter now. Every once in a while I’ll look at myself in the mirror and think, ‘Ugh, I don’t like the way that looks.’ But then I’ll just drop it. I don’t let it consume me,” she said. “I think it’s natural to judge or be critical of yourself. Everyone does it. But you can make the decision on the spot that you’re going to conquer it. In those moments I’ll look at myself and say, ‘You’re fine. You look good. This is your prime, so enjoy it.'”
It was that conscious decision to start loving herself just as she is that inspired Mendes to be more open with her followers. “It just felt so necessary for me to speak about those things,” she said. “I realized that I have this platform, and young women and men who look up to me, and there is a tremendous power to do something positive with it. It was definitely a very vulnerable thing to put that out there to almost 12 million people on social media. But that’s who I am. That’s me being authentically myself.” She continued, “As actors, yes, we bring joy to people. But for me, it’s also about what I’m doing for the world, what I’m contributing on a larger scale.”