Beauty Standards

Houston-Raised TV Star Stephanie Beatriz Gets Real About Eating Disorders

"I thought by controlling what I ate I was controlling my fate, when it was ultimately controlling me," says the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actress in an emotional essay for InStyle.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen July 12, 2017

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Stephanie Beatriz at the FoxTV TCA All-Star Party in January.

Image: Shutterstock

Friendswood-raised Stephanie Beatriz isn't afraid to pull back the curtain on the less-than-glamorous aspects of being a successful actress. Since being cast as the tough-as-nails Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, she's written columns about growing up poor, acne and television's (waning) penchant for one-dimensional Latinas.

Now she's penned an incredibly thoughtful and personal essay for InStyle about her struggle with "disordered eating"—an umbrella term Beatriz prefers because her symptoms can't be neatly categorized as anorexia or bulimia.

"Here’s how I used to 'get ready' for [photo] shoots: I’d stress. I’d look in the mirror and pick apart my body, my face. I’d zoom in on areas I hated, like my ass or my stomach. And then I’d start the obsessive food restriction and compulsive workouts. ... 

I used disordered eating to try to keep myself small. I used my job as an actor under constant scrutiny as an excuse, a reason to hurt myself with food. I often used food to self-medicate, if you will, with a cycle of bingeing and restricting. I used the size of my ass and flatness of my stomach as the answer to everything that was wrong with my life and why I couldn’t seem to feel really, truly happy.

Food was both the remedy and the punishment. I thought by controlling what I ate I was controlling my fate, when it was ultimately controlling me."

Beatriz lists a series of behaviors that are less likely to be recognized as problematic than the eating disorders we've come to recognize, including compulsive workouts, orthorexia (an unhealthy obsession with only consuming healthy foods) and punishing herself after overeating, describing an inner voice that taunts and belittles her, which "sounds JUST LIKE ME but DAMN she is mean as hell."

I’ve started to figure out that this voice, so focused on weight and body image, is actually desperate to express her creativity, her fears, her desires, and her dreams. But she simply doesn't have the language. It’s become the biggest job of my life to teach her how to start dreaming and thinking bigger than her body size. I’m encouraging her to worry and feel, to delve into the deepest parts of herself.

And she’s doing better. She started reading again, started seeing other women not as sizes in relation to her own but as beautiful, complex beings. She started talking to friends about her disordered thoughts, and they’re helping her see that she’s a complex, beautiful being, too.

Beatriz is clear that recovering from this kind of disordered thinking is something she has to work on every day. But hopefully her candor and her own tale of learning to love herself can inspire a few of her fans to improve their relationship with their bodies and their food, too. Read the entire essay here.

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