Katie Couric Opens Up About Her Past Struggles With Bulimia in New Interview
Katie Couric is opening up about her past struggles with bulimia and how concerns about her body image continue to affect her even today.
In a new interview with PEOPLE, the 64-year-old former news anchor is reflecting back on the seven or eight years as a teenager and young adult when she had bulimia. Her experience with the eating disorder is one that Couric writes about in her new memoir, Going There ($19; amazon.com). And as she revealed ahead of the book's October 26 release, it was societal pressures and a search for perfectionism that were leading contributors to her body image issues.
"I think there was an aspect of perfectionism and high achieving that was very much a part of our family, and that contributed to my discontent about my body," Couric told PEOPLE. "There was so much pressure on women, and dieting was so much a part of the culture."
Couric first revealed in 2012 that she had had bulimia throughout college and for two years after graduating. When she initially spoke publicly about it, Couric shared how the eating disorder affected her: "I know this rigidity, this feeling that if you eat one thing that's wrong, you're full of self-loathing and then you punish yourself," she said on her talk show at the time. "Whether it's one cookie or a stick of gum that isn't sugarless … sometimes [I would] beat myself up for that."
As Health previously reported, people with bulimia over-evaluate their shape and weight; to control both, they engage in binging and purging. After a binge—or the act of taking in large amounts of food in a short period of time—those with bulimia typically feel extremely guilty and are afraid of gaining weight. To offset the food they just ate, they engage in purging, self-induced vomiting; excessive exercising; or use of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.
"Like so many women of our generation, I aspired to be thin and lanky and all the things I'm not," Couric said in her latest interview. "I think back on my formative years when Twiggy was all the rage and that period of time in the '60s. And there seemed to be an ideal body type, which was extremely thin."
Couric wasn't alone when it came to wanting to obtain a certain body type. She watched as her older sisters kept themselves going on cottage cheese. "I remember after college I said, 'I've lost 10 pounds,' and my sister said, 'Keep going!'"
"We all wanted to achieve and do well in school and go to good colleges," Couric said. "And so I think that perfectionism contributed to sort of the... I don't wanna say self-loathing, because that's too strong a word, but my discontent about my body."
It was the 1983 death of singer Karen Carpenter—who died of heart failure due to complications of anorexia—that "shook me to the core," according to Couric. Realizing how harmful eating disorders can be for someone's health was what made her stop. Potential health consequences for bulimia specifically include dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance from the loss of fluids, Andrea Vazzana, PhD, a clinical psychologist at NYU Langone Health's Department of Psychiatry, previously told Health. An electrolyte imbalance might even lead to a heart attack or a coma.
While she no longer obsesses over her weight, Couric does have some lingering impacts when it comes to her body image. For example, the mother of two hasn't weighed herself at home in five years. And when she goes to the doctor, she faces away from the scale. "Sometimes I flat-out refuse. I don't want it to ruin my day," she says.
When it comes to food, that "still plays a slightly outsized role in my consciousness, but not nearly as much as it did," she explains. But she does "try to emphasize healthy eating and taking care of yourself" to her two daughters, with Couric making it a point to help them feel good about their bodies. And it was her daughters that were top of mind when Couric wrote her memoir. Afterall, according to the author, through the book, she hopes to "impart some wisdom [to her daughters] from the experience I've gained."
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