If there’s one thing I appreciate about Riverdale’s Camila Mendes, it’s how she bravely speaks about her past struggles. She’s opened up before about her issues with body image and how she’s done with dieting, now she’s sharing with the world her battle with bulimia.
In a recent interview for Shape magazine’s November cover story, Mendes shares how she had to seek therapy to help her recover from her eating disorder. “I’ve struggled with bulimia. It happened a little bit in hight 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,” she shared. “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. It 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.”
After years of struggling with bulimia and having an unhealthy relationship with food, Mendes decided to finally put her foot down and get help.
“About a year ago, I got to a point when I realized I needed to see someone. So 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,” she said. “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 isn’t going to make you gain weight.’ 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.”
Mendes now works with Project Heal, a nonprofit organization that raises money to help expense and cover treatments for people with eat disorders. It also offers recovery support services to get clients in a recovered and healthy state. The Brazilian-American actress wants to use her past struggles to help empower and heal others.
“As actors, 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,” she says. “This body-positivity movement we’re having right now is so amazing, and it’s helping me so much. I’m seeing all these people who I look up to, like Rhianna, open up about their weight fluctuations and loving themselves the way they are. That makes me love myself more too.”
Loving yourself and accepting yourself is a work in progress, it’s not something that just happens over night and Mendes is fully aware of that. She’s doing the work and understanding that the struggles will still come but despite how her body may look, she’s still worthy of love and happiness, something we all need to work towards reminding ourselves.
This summer she kept it real about one of her biggest body insecurities—her belly, “I’m extremely insecure about my belly: the belly fact, the little roll that sits over your jeans,” she said during a panel in late June. “I’m so insecure about it and in a fitting, I’m always trying to avoid anything that exposes my belly, and I’m trying to overcome that, but baby steps, you know?
We all have insecurities, that’s just a given. The important thing is having that self-awareness to recognize those insecurities and working towards healing. Mendes knows that despite the insecurities she might have, they don’t define her.
“Despite it all, I’m pretty confident, I think it comes naturally in the sense that I’m Brazilian, and there’s an outward confidence that the people there exude,” she tells Shape. “The Brazilian women in my family all really love and respect themselves, and I think that kind of just transferred to me. My natural inclination of being a confident person helps me cope with the insecurities I have.”