“The X Factor” U.S. judge Demi Lovato, 20, has talked about her personal problems (including having bulimia and anorexia) in several interviews, but when she appeared on Katie Couric’s nationally syndicated talk show “Katie” in an episode with an eating-disorder theme, it prompted Couric to confess that she too had bulimia when she was in her late teens to her mid-20s. The prerecorded episode was televised on September 24, 2012.
Lovato has also been very open about being bipolar and having problems with substance abuse and self-mutilation. She has been in rehab for all of these issues.
In her “Katie” interview, Lovato said her earliest memory of having self-confidence issues about her body was when she was “3 years old, in a diaper, and rubbing my hand over my stomach … I remember thinking in my head, ‘I wonder if one day this will ever be flat.’ And it just continued. I always had self-confidence issues in my body and self-image problems. It also didn’t help that I had kids at school, at such a young age, that were really, really naturally thin. So I always felt like I was the bigger one of the group.”
Lovato said that she would alternate between behaviors of bulimia (bingeing and purging) and anorexia (self-starvation). She confessed that there was one week when she ate only two meals. She said her bulimia started when “I was around 8 years old … I believe I was born with it. It was just going to be there. It runs in my family. It’s just there. I think when you go through things that are traumatic that happen to you when you’re little or at any time in your life, it can bring out the nasty behaviors that rise to the surface when you don’t know how to stay in control or feel your emotions.”
She added that being bullied at school also damaged her self-esteem: “People don’t realize how badly verbal harassment and that cyber bullying affects you. It played more of a toll on me than if I was physically abused at school. I kind of always said, ‘I wish they had hit me in the face and gotten it over with,’ because what they said to me sticks to me to this day. It affected me into the person that I am today. They called me ‘fat’ and they called me horrible things.”
Lovato eventually asked to be home schooled because she couldn’t take the bullying anymore. And although Lovato says she had eating disorders long before she became famous, she believes that being a famous entertainer “amplified” her insecurities about her body because she was negatively affected by what the media said about her physical appearance.
In 2010, Lovato made headlines for hitting her female backup dancer Alex Welch. It was an incident that prompted Lovato to check into rehab that year. The incident was briefly mentioned in the “Katie” interview. Lovato commented on the incident: “I felt horrible. I wasn’t in control of my emotions at the time. I was out of control. There’s no excuse for it. It definitely showed everyone I needed to get help. I think two days later, I was checking into rehab.”
In rehab, Lovato says, she was not allowed to eat by herself or go to the bathroom by herself. She says she was also forced to eat everything on her plate. “Oftentimes, I would cry, because I physically couldn’t stomach it. If that happened, I would have little consequences [as punishment in rehab] — nothing horrible, just not being able to go to the cafeteria to eat.”
The key to her recovery from the eating disorders was changing the way she thought about controlling her weight, Lovato said. “The only way to accept yourself is to say, ‘God, I’m giving it to you,’ or whatever you feel gives you that power. It’s just surrendering and saying, ‘I can’t do this to my body anymore. I’m going to let my body be what it naturally is supposed to be.'”
Couric pointed out Lovato’s recovery manager, Mike Bayer, who was in the audience. Bayer commented that it’s very difficult for anyone to overcome an eating disorder unless “the whole family is willing to participate in their daughter’s or son’s [recovery from having an] eating disorder.”
Lovato said her family has been very involved and supportive of her recovery.
At the end of the episode, Lovato was shown performing her hit “Give Your Heart a Break.” She performed the song live.