Former child star Jennette McCurdy has been vocal about how early stardom — starting when she was only 8 years old on shows like "Mad TV" and "Law and Order: SVU" — deeply impacted her upbringing. Growing up with a controlling mother determined to make her youngest child a star, McCurdy got her big break in 2007 when she was cast as the plucky tomboy Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon's "iCarly."
McCurdy was only 14 at the start of "iCarly" and spent six seasons with Nickelodeon until its finale in 2012. The show — and especially McCurdy's character, oozing confrontational confidence and corny one-liners — was a hit with the network's young demographic. But off screen, McCurdy was struggling with an abusive mother, whose controlling behavior severely influenced the now-30-year-old's relationship with eating.
In McCurdy's memoir, "I'm Glad My Mom Died" ($25), she writes that by 11, her mother, Debra, had already introduced severe calorie restrictions, promising it would help McCurdy book roles if she stayed small and looked young.
McCurdy has been outspoken about her years-long struggle with disordered eating, in which she grappled at points with anorexia and bulimia. She reveals in the book that her mother put her on a restrictive diet as a preteen, subjecting her to weekly weigh-ins and body measurements. Debra waved off doctors' and other parents' concerns over her daughter's weight, instead scolding Jennette when her figure fluctuated. At 22, Jennette sought treatment, and she tells readers that at that point, she was mixing alcohol use with binging and purging habits.
When McCurdy was 21, her mother died of cancer — and though she struggled with grief, McCurdy was finally able to start living her own life. In an interview with USA Today, she said, "I definitely would not have been able to confront or face my experience of eating disorders had my mother not passed away . . . because my eating disorders were so endorsed and supported and encouraged by her."
After starring in the short-lived series "Sam & Cat" with costar Ariana Grande, McCurdy quietly quit acting and later passed on the opportunity to join former "iCarly" costar Miranda Cosgrove on the reboot series. Making the switch to directing and writing, McCurdy penned several articles for HuffPost and the Wall Street Journal on body shaming, eating disorders, and the way the industry reinforces the obsession with thinness.
Writing is a way for McCurdy to process the traumatic events of her life and "speak back" to her mother's influence. "[My mother would] always say writers get fat and dress frumpy," she told BuzzFeed. "'You're going to get a watermelon butt instead of your peach butt.'" In her memoir, McCurdy writes: "My mom didn't deserve her pedestal. . . . My mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me."
Now well into her recovery, McCurdy is finally feeling hopeful about the future. She's written and directed a pilot and four short films, and her one-woman comedy show "I'm Glad My Mom Died" sold out at the Lyric Hyperion Theatre in Los Angeles. Her memoir is already making waves as a No. 1 bestseller, but most importantly, McCurdy feels empowered by her choices.
Regarding her history of eating disorders, McCurdy writes that recovery can be as difficult as the disorder itself, and she has had moments of relapse. But, as she writes in her book, recovery is "difficult in a different way because I'm facing my issues for the first time instead of burying them."
In her interview with USA Today, McCurdy added: "I have not had any eating disorder symptoms for years. I feel so free from those. People still often talk about how difficult they are to overcome. I hope [this book] provides some sort of encouragement for somebody out there who needs to hear it."
— Additional reporting by Lindsay Kimble
If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has resources available, including a 24/7 helpline at (800) 931-2237.