Camila mendes gets real about her struggle with an eating disorder

Camila Mendes is known for portraying the spunky and spirited Veronica Lodge on Riverdale. But the woman behind one of the show’s most charismatic characters hasn’t always been as confident and bulletproof as she’d have us believe.

Mendes recently opened up about battling bulimia at POPSUGAR’s Play/Ground summit in New York on June 22, as well as the toll it had taken on her during the show’s earlier days.

“I didn’t realize I had an eating disorder until I entered the industry… I couldn’t even get through a fitting [on Riverdale],” she said as she explained both the mental and physical anguish she’s gone through while preparing for and embodying the role.

“I used to think [dieting] was a nice, healthy way to live. It took a lot… to get rid of that fear of carbs,” she said of her relationship with food. Costume fittings were a particularly painful experience during the show’s early seasons, as she wasn’t accustomed to wearing the kinds of tight skirts and dresses found in Veronica’s closet. That anxiety escalated the actor’s own struggles.

“It happened a little bit in high school and again when I was in college,” she previously explained in an interview with Shape back in December 2018, where she discussed how she began managing the disorder, speaking on her experiences with her therapist and the benefits of regular exercise and working with a nutritionist.

“Then it came back when I started working in this industry with fittings all the time and watching myself on camera… If I ate a sweet, I would be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to eat for five hours now.'” Mendes later declared herself “#donewithdieting” on a February 2018 Instagram post, where she reached out to her followers to make a change in their lives along with her.

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When did being thin become more important than being healthy? I recently went to a naturopath for the first time in my life. I told her about my anxiety around food and my obsession with dieting. She phrased a pivotal question in such a way that struck a chord with me: what other things could you be thinking about if you didn't spend all your time thinking about your diet? I suddenly remembered all the activities I love that used to occupy my time. At some point in my life, I allowed my obsession with being thin to consume me, and I refused to make room in my mind for any other concerns. Somehow I had stripped myself of all the pastimes that brought me joy, and all that was left of me was my anxiety around food. My passion for education, cinema, music, etc. — all the interests that used to occupy my mind — had been eaten away by my desire to be thin, and it made me miserable. I'm done believing in the idea that there's a thinner, happier version of me on the other side of all the tireless effort. Your body type is subject to genetics, and while eating nutrient-dense foods and exercising regularly will make you healthier, it will not necessarily make you thinner, and the current system fails to make that distinction. I’m sick of the toxic narrative that the media consistently feeds us: that being thin is the ideal body type. A healthy body is the ideal body type, and that will look different for every person. I’m #donewithdieting – join me in this movement and share your story!

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“My passion for education, cinema, music, etc. — all the interests that used to occupy my mind — had been eaten away by my desire to be thin, and it made me miserable,” she wrote. “I’m done believing in the idea that there’s a thinner, happier version of me on the other side of all the tireless effort.”

Mendes is now enjoying life as a happier, healthier version of herself, and she’s hoping she can help others do the same. Previously, she worked with nonprofit organization Project HEAL in an effort to raise awareness and erase stigmas for those living with eating disorders.

“I can say from experience that eating disorders are serious mental illnesses,” she wrote. “Growing up, I watched my big sister suffer from one for many years, and I’ve experienced periods of my life when I’ve suffered symptoms as well.”

For more information on Project HEAL or how you can help those dealing with an eating disorder, visit the organization’s official website.