This story discusses eating disorders. If you or someone you know are experiencing an eating disorder or are having disordered thoughts about food, contact the National Eating Disorders helpline by calling or texting 800-931-2237. Anyone in a crisis that needs immediate attention can text NEDA to 741741, the Crisis Text Line.
For 18 years, Jackie Goldschneider from "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" has grappled with anorexia. While she’s shared her experiences of living with the eating disorder before on the show, in season 12 she’s more candid than she’s ever been.
“Prior to this season, it was difficult because I wasn’t being fully honest. I wasn’t ready to talk about a lot of the things I was struggling with and I just wanted to table a lot of the conversations,” Goldschneider told TODAY. “I acted as though I was recovered from it when in reality I was still struggling.”
She had an altruistic motivation for why: She wanted to show others that recovering from an eating disorder is possible.
“I also wanted to give people hope so I ran with the story that I was recovered, which I was better than I used to be,” she explained. “But I wasn’t being fully transparent.”
In some ways, she had changed. She had started eating more food and she had gained some weight. But when no one was looking, she restricted what she ate. That’s one way that she coped with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and last season’s rumors swirling about her husband, Evan Goldschneider.
“The way I deal with stress sometimes is to eat less and I started off this season — you’ll see — very thin,” she said. “I knew I was in a bad place.”
While she had been through recovery before, she had not truly embraced it.
“I had recovered to a point that I was comfortable with, where I was able to eat a little more and able to eat publicly. When in reality, I was going home and the rest of the time not really eating,” she said. “From a public standpoint, people could see me eating and I had gained a little weight from my lowest — so I considered that a little bit recovered.”
When she saw how thin she had become, she realized she needed more help. Goldschneider relied on the skills she sharpened as a freelance journalist and began searching for experts to help her recover.
“I found a center that I had heard about that focuses on healing people with eating disorders,” she said. “I work with a therapist. I work with a nutritionist, a physician. When the cameras stopped rolling, I really stayed so intensely in it and I’m slowly recovering.”
During her treatment, she has started eating things like ice cream and pizza with her children — something they never saw her do before.
“I take them for ice cream probably at least one a week for their entire lives, if not twice a week, and I have never once gotten ice cream with them. I’ve never gotten pizza with them. I don’t eat things out of the ordinary,” she explained. “I’ve made sure now that they see me behaving very differently around food, eating a variety of things, eating at meals. I want to talk to them about it — but I want to get a little bit better first.”
The Bravo star is even more dedicated to her recovery this time because she had learned that having anorexia had started to impact her physical health, too.
“When I went to this center initially and they were doing my intake, it turned out that I was having a heart issue caused by malnutrition,” she said. “It made me very nervous because I was basically heading towards a heart attack if I kept this up.”
In hindsight, she realizes that being anorexia impacted every area of her health.
“I was constantly freezing cold because my body didn’t have enough calories to regulate my temperature. I haven’t menstruated in 20 years so I couldn’t have children on my own. I had to go through many rounds of IVF,” she said. “There’s not a part of my life that this didn’t affect.”
At times, though, the long recovery process feels daunting.
“I had thought it was going to be a lot easier than this. I thought that you trust somebody who tells you what to eat and you start eating again,” Goldschneider said. “I’m so uncomfortable around food and I don’t know why that’s so difficult.”
She realizes that she needed to completely shift her mindset. For a long time, she prided herself on being the thinnest person.
“I knew that no one was going to be thinner than I was and some people might think that’s crazy. But that was my thing,” she said. “It’s hard. All those changes are hard.”
Even though it feels difficult at times to discuss having anorexia, Goldschneider feels it’s important to do so. Over the years, she longed to see someone who had an eating disorder and successfully recovered. She hopes she can be that person for others.
“For many, many years I said, ‘Please universe show me somebody — an adult, not a child — who has been in it as deeply as I am and came out the other side and was fine and learned to eat again and was comfortable with that,’” she said. “I want to be for other people what I needed when I was struggling, which I never found.”
TODAY and Bravo are owned by the same parent company, NBCUniversal. “The Real Housewives of New Jersey," season 12, premieres Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.