Actress Lily Collins Details Bulimia Battle In New Memoir

By Paul Gaita 01/07/19

Collins reveals in her new autobiography how divorce played in a role in her eating disorder.

Actress Lily Collins

British actress Lily Collins has published a new memoir in which she addresses a long and debilitating struggle with an eating disorder during her teenaged years.

Collins, who is the daughter of rock veteran Phil Collins and the star of such films as Mirror Mirror, wrote in Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me that her desire to control her weight began with an addiction to exercise and laxatives and progressed to bingeing and purging.

Collins also addressed her father's alcoholism, which took hold as she was battling her eating disorder. Support from their family members helped both Lily and her father gain perspective on their respective diseases and as a result, grow closer. "It doesn't define how I live my life daily any more," she said.

By Collins' account, her childhood was marked by upheaval: Her father split from her mother, Jill Tavelman, in a costly divorce when she was five, and married his third wife, Orianne Cevey. Collins said that she "couldn't handle the pain and confusion surrounding [her] dad's divorce" and longed for his presence and approval. His absence left Collins feeling that she "wasn't enough," and she plunged into a punishing regime of extreme exercise and diet moderation through chewing gum and drinking coffee.

By her mid-teens, Collins had turned to diet pills and laxatives to keep her weight down, and she began bingeing and purging on junk food. "I'd be in tears on the floor, jamming my hand down my throat and trying desperately to gag," she wrote. Her menstrual cycle stopped for a period of two years, leaving her feeling like "a young woman in a little kid's body."

As Collins continued to battle her disease into her early 20s, she saw that her father had spiraled into alcoholism, a condition he also fought for years. "Once I was aware, it was all I could see," she wrote. "I was convinced that one day, I would wake up to a phone call from halfway across the world, saying that it had finally gone too far."

During this period, Lily also found herself in a revolving door of relationships with men consumed by their own dependency issues. The toxicity of these interactions reached its lowest point when a boyfriend pressured her to isolate herself from her friends and family and even threatened her with verbal and physical violence. That incident provided Collins with the impetus to make crucial changes to not only improve her health but also her relationship with her father, who also took control of his life and dependencies.

With her newfound health and happiness also came stardom as an actress in such films as The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and an upcoming BBC television adaptation of Les Miserables; Collins also tackled the issue of eating disorders head-on in the 2017 Netflix film To the Bone, in which she played a young woman struggling with anorexia. 

Collins is keenly aware of her past struggles but also acknowledges how far she's come since that time. "It's never going to be erased because it's a part of who you are," she said. "But it doesn't define how I live my life daily any more."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.