Jane Fonda 'Assumed' She 'Wouldn't Live Past 30' During Her Battle with Bulimia: 'It Takes Over Your Life'

jane fonda
jane fonda


Jane Fonda feels lucky to be alive.

During an appearance on Call Her Daddy Wednesday, the film icon says she struggled with an eating disorder in her twenties.

Just as her career was beginning, she said, she began suffering from bulimia.

"I led a secret life. I was very, very unhappy. I assumed I wouldn't live past 30," Fonda said, joking that she doesn't "understand" how she's now 85.

She detailed the "secret life" she led that consisted of not going out, not dating, and being "unhappy" overall. "And then I was also making movies that I didn't very much like," she said, referring to the romantic comedies she starred in at the start of her career, like Tall Story (1960) and Sunday in New York (1963).

"It seems so innocent in the beginning," Fonda said of her experience with the eating disorder. "What you don't realize is, it becomes a terrible addiction that takes over your life."

The 80 for Brady star said that it harmed her appearance, making her look tired, and also impeded her ability to have an "authentic relationship."

"Your day becomes organized around getting food and then eating it, which requires that you're by yourself and that no one knows what you're doing. It's a very lonely thing. And you're addicted. If you put any food in you, you want to get rid of it."

She said that she connects her struggle with disordered eating to feeling inauthentic during that period of her life. "It happens when your life is inauthentic — when what you should be doing and who you should be, or who you really are, those things are being betrayed."

PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 06: Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Lily Tomlin and Sally Field attend the world premiere opening night screening of “80 For Brady” during the 34th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival on January 06, 2023 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Society)

Vivien Killilea/Getty for Palm Springs International Film Society

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While it began in her twenties, she told host Alex Cooper, it lasted for two decades. She got to a point in her forties, she said, where she thought, "'If I keep on like this, I'm gonna die.'"

Despite being married — at the time, to political activist Tom Hayden — and being a mother, she wasn't sure she would survive. "My life was important," she said. "But I was becoming less and less able to continue it."

Fonda ultimately overcame the eating disorder by going "cold turkey."

"I didn't realize that there were groups that you could join — I didn't know anything about that yet. And nobody talked about it. I didn't even know there was a word for it. And so I just went cold turkey, and it was really hard."

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At the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the actress said she "took the easy road for a while" with roles she now considers to be less than flattering, with Barbarella among them.

"I would say [feeling inauthentic] ended with Barbarella," she said, per HuffPost. "I liked doing something that caused a certain generation of men to have their first erections. But then I became an activist."

The film, which "could have been a truly feminist movie," Fonda said, is now being remade, with Sydney Sweeney set to star and produce. She said she tries not to think about the remake. "Because I worry about what it's going to be," she told The Hollywood Reporter.