The Simpsons’ Yeardly Smith Reveals She Battled Bulimia for 24 Years – PEOPLE

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"The fear is rooted in a deep shame of who you are, how much you have not lived up to your expectations or other people's," Yeardley Smith said of living with bulimia

The Simpsons star Yeardley Smith is opening up about living with an eating disorder for more than two decades and how she overcame it.

Smith, who has voiced Lisa Simpson since the animated series first premiered in 1989, appeared on the latest installment of the Allison Interviews podcast and shared how her internal "pursuit for perfection" impacted her body image.

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"I had an eating disorder for 24 years ... from the time I was 14 'til 39. I'm 57 now," Smith revealed.

She went to a UCLA outpatient facility for 13 months, where she took part in "group therapy" eight hours each week. There, she and the other participants were instructed to eat one meal together, "which of course is harrowing if you have an eating disorder. My particular predilection was bulimia," Smith said. They also had to do "something social" each weekend.

"Eating disorders are incredibly isolating, and you practice your disorder in private," Smith explained. "It's very ritualistic. It's very secret, it's not social like drinking. Not to say one is worse than the other, just different ... "

Her turning point came when she was 39 and had gone through years of therapy. She refused to enter her 40s "still binging and puking my brains out."

"So I sort of pulled up my socks and said 'Alright I need some actual help.' I had been telling myself that I can do this on my own forever and ever. Obviously, I can't so I need some help."

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That's when she entered the UCLA program and received the "tools" she needed to overcome her eating disorder.

"It was probably another couple or three years before I really was not afraid of food. So now I feel like food is actually good. I'm not afraid of food. There are a couple of trigger foods that I really stay away from."

Smith said during her struggle she believed she "deserve[d] nothing good."

"The fear is rooted in a deep shame of who you are, how much you have not lived up to your expectations or other people's. That your body isn't the shape and size that it should be that you see in the magazines, that I see in my industry. It is really a punishment."

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Added the star: "In this twisted, ironic way by binging and purging you're like 'Listen to me, I have control over you.' When in fact, what you're doing is completely out of control. So it's a false sense of 'I can fix this.' But there's so much anxiety and pain that you're never enough, and that you're not good enough and you haven't achieved enough, and you're unworthy of everything from love to the good things that happen to you. "

"There's so much grief there, that doing this violence to your body is sort of like a drug. It distracts you from those feelings that are so hard to sit with."

Smith said she has since been able to embrace self-love and inner peace.

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.

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