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MARGARET CHO

Margaret Cho’s Always Been ‘Hollywood Obese’

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Jan 11, 2016

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

We get A LOT of emails from Sporkful listeners -- many of them requesting advice about eating. But this one immediately got our attention:

Hi Dan,

[...] Here's the deal: I'm a teenage girl [...] and have recently developed some unhealthily sparse eating practices/scary attitudes about food. I was wondering if you might consider ever doing an episode that explored eating disorders, especially from a recovered persons point of view.

[...] Shame and fear of food is something that just permeates teenage girlhood...I know more anorexic/bulimic/ambiguous-other girls than one person should know in an entire lifetime, and although I don't have a full-blown eating disorder myself yet, I can see myself kind of hovering around that doorway.

I would love to hear your take on this phenomenon, because your shows are hilarious and heartwarming and celebrate food.

Sincerely,

"Reyna" 

This week on The Sporkful, Dan talks to to Reyna (note: that's not her real name) about what she's been going through:

"I hate being someone that is constantly censoring my eating habits," she says. "When you don’t eat or you have trouble eating, it’s dehumanizing."

Enter comedian Margaret Cho, who’s struggled with eating disorders for most of her life.


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Margaret joins Dan to share her experiences recovering from the disease with Reyna.

"Eating disorders are terminal diseases. For me, it’s a cancer," she says. "I go into remission for a time and then something comes up -- like thigh gap -- and it throws me back into this disease."

When Margaret was a young comedian, she used alcohol and drugs to mask her hunger. Later on she resorted to other methods of controlling her weight:

"It’s a very secretive disease," Margaret says. "You do weird sh*t. I would get a whole loaf of bread and chew it and then spit it out into the toilet. Or I would go for weeks with only eating persimmons."

Margaret doesn't hide the role Hollywood played in the onset of her disease. Back in 1994 she was hired to star (as herself) in the first network sitcom about an Asian-American family. But network executives told her she needed to lose weight to playherself.

She starved herself so severely that her kidneys failed.

"I wanted the job so bad. I thought…if I don’t lose this weight I won’t be able to [be on TV]," Margaret says. "That ruined me, it ruined my life."

Listen in to the full episode to hear Margaret's advice for Reyna -- and other young people struggling with eating issues.

If you or someone you know are affected by an eating disorder, you can get more information from the National Eating Disorders Association online or by calling their helpline: 800-931-2237.