Former iCarly star Jennette McCurdy reveals eating disorder ordeal was triggered by abusive mother

Former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy has reflected on her painful battle with anorexia and bulimia, which she said was triggered by her mother.

McCurdy — best known for her role in popular children’s series iCarly and its spinoff Sam and Cat — opened up about the physical and emotional abuse she said she suffered at the hands of her late mum Debbie, who taught her how to count calories at age 11.    

“I was a mess for a long time,” the actress told People magazine in a new interview. “But I no longer think about food in an obsessive way. And I once didn’t believe that was ever possible.”

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The 29-year-old said when she was younger Debbie placed her on 1000 calories (approx. 4184kJ) a day, with the child star often eating even fewer as she “wanted [her] mum to be proud”.

By the time McCurdy was cast as Sam Puckett on iCarly in 2007, she had developed anorexia.

“My mum said she could teach me calorie-counting and we could be a team, but that I had to keep it secret,” she said. “I thought it was an opportunity for my mum and me to be closer. I don’t think I even realised how intense it was. But I’m sure everybody [on set] just attributed [the weight loss] to normal body fluctuations.”

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When the star was 18, Debbie was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, and passed away in 2013. This caused McCurdy to develop another dangerous habit. 

“Bulimia took over my life very quickly,” she shared. “The cycle of bulimia kept me numb. It was a full-time job, so there was no space to deal with my issues or mourning my mom.”

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It was her brush with death that acted as a wake-up call for the young star.

“I passed out in my friend [iCarly co-star Miranda Cosgrove]’s bathroom,” she revealed. “That terrifies me because I could have died, choking on my own vomit. I realised that destroying myself wasn’t going to help anything. I needed better tools.”

The star then sought treatment with two years of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, during which she also learned to forgive mum.

“Food was my coping mechanism,” she said. “I haven’t binged or purged or restricted in years. And I feel very deeply and very strongly about saying I’ve finally recovered.”

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with an eating disorder, you can find help, support and resources through The Butterfly Foundation: 1800 33 4673.