'Pretty Little Liars' Star Troian Bellisario Opens Up About Eating Disorder

By McCarton Ackerman 01/09/14

The actress said that her eating disorder derived from a 'bizarre system of checks and balances' that eventually led to friends staging an intervention.

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Pretty Little Liars actress Troian Bellisario is opening up about her former struggles with an eating disorder and self-harm. The actress, who plays Spencer on the show, told Seventeen magazine that the pressure her character faces to remain an overachiever in high school isn’t far off from her own high school experience, leading to Bellisario not eating as punishment.

“I started self-harming when I was a junior. I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school,” she said. “Being a teenager is chaotic because you’re kind of coming into your own. I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong, so I think I created this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world. But it really backfired.”

Bellisario said her eating disorder and self-harm came largely from the irrational belief that her parents would disown her if she expressed sadness or anger. Her friends eventually staged an intervention when her destructive behavior became all too apparent, prompting the actress to focus on herself instead of pleasing everyone else.

But while she’s made remarkable progress in learning to love herself, Bellisario admitted it’s been a process. “It’s an ongoing struggle,” she admitted. “Especially for a woman on a show that has the word ‘pretty’ in it! Sometimes I feel like I’m trying too hard, like I don’t belong. I just look around at Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell and Ashley Benson and I’m just like, ‘Why am I on this show?’

Her fellow co-stars have rallied around her since the interview was released; Hale said she was “proud of her for speaking up” while Benson tweeted to Bellisario that “you inspire me.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.