Recovering from an eating disorder is an incredibly difficult process, even more so if you don’t have anyone — a friend, a family member, a partner — to look out for you and help. For “Yellowjackets” star Melanie Lynskey, the person who supported her in eating-disorder recovery was a former boyfriend, actor Andrew Howard, who confronted her about her eating habits in a moment Lynskey described as “the closest thing I’ve had to an intervention.” “I’d never had anybody care that much,” the actress said in a recent interview with Vulture. “I’d never had anybody be like, ‘This is really painful.'”
In the interview, Lynskey said she’s seen food as an “enemy” for as long as she can remember and that she experienced issues around eating starting at age 12. She remembered ripping pictures of the “skinniest, most beautiful women” out of magazines and hanging them all over her room. “I thought you were supposed to have a gap between your thighs,” she said. “I became obsessed with that.” Later, Lynskey’s career in Hollywood further convinced her that she “was not the things you needed to be” to find success in show business — those things being “thin, confident, pretty,” she said. “Mostly thin.”
Lynskey described her disordered eating habits in the interview, saying she would eat about 800 calories a day, “and if I ate anything over 800 calories, I would throw up.” (According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the average adult requires between 1,600 and 3,200 calories a day.) Sometimes when Lynskey was famished, she’d let herself have “another teacup of Special K. Then I’d be like, ‘Well, now I gotta throw it up.'”
It wasn’t until Lynskey started to date Howard, whom she met on the set of “The Cherry Orchard” in 1999, that she began to confront her eating disorder. “When I was living with him . . . he got really intense about my eating issues,” she remembered. “He tried to stop me from monitoring my own eating and talked to me about how thin I was.” Lynskey wasn’t on board at first. “I thought he was nuts,” she said. “The people I had confided in [before] were usually people who also had eating issues, so it would become about swapping tips.” When Howard spoke to Lynskey about her eating disorder, though, it “changed my life,” she said. She stopped throwing up, acknowledging that “it took a while,” but it was a big step away from her old habits.
Now 45, Lynskey doesn’t hesitate to hold Hollywood accountable for its damaging and unrealistic body standards or to speak out against the all-too-prevalent body shaming that runs rampant on social media. “Skinny does not always equal healthy,” Lynskey tweeted in January 2022 in response to a now-deleted comment. Since the premiere of her hit show “Yellowjackets,” body-shaming remarks have become “[t]he story of my life,” she added in the tweet. “Most egregious are the ‘I care about her health!!’ people . . . b*tch you don’t see me on my Peloton! You don’t see me running through the park with my child.”
For Lynskey, it’s not just about standing up for herself and her body; she also wants to be a role model for her 3-year-old daughter, Kahi. “My number one thing is that I don’t want my daughter to question herself,” she told Vulture. “It’s important to me that she knows who she is and she likes who she is.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has resources available including a 24/7 helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or by texting “NEDA” to 741741.