Tracey Gold, famous for her role as Carol Seaver in the hit American sitcom ‘Growing Pains’ has been acting since the age of four, when she first appeared in a Pepsi advert.
At the tender age of 11 her paediatrician diagnosed her with anorexia after he noticed irregular weight loss during a natural growth spurt. In what was termed a ‘desperate attempt to not grow up’ Tracey had been starving herself to stunt her growth.
When working on ‘Growing Pains’ she gained weight and the script was loaded with “fat” jokes which played on her mind. By the age of 19 she’d reached 133 pounds and that is when her compulsive dieting began.
“I was made fun of by a casting agent. If I were a different person, it probably would have rolled off my back, but I have the kind of personality where I will let those kinds of comments affect me. I’ve always wanted to please people.”
She then went to an established endocrinologist who put her on a 500 calories per day diet, despite knowing her history with anorexia. She achieved her goal of reaching 113lbs in two months and looks back on the achievement as being an uplifting moment.
“It was so wonderful. All of a sudden, I wasn’t awkward Tracey. People were saying I was pretty. I fell right into the pitfall of ‘I can’t lose this constant praise’.”
On the surface she had it all; a loving boyfriend in Roby Marshall, whom she later married, a supportive family and a hit television series. At the peak of her illness Tracey had starved herself down to an estimated 80lbs and became terribly frail.
Her mother, Bonnie, one day saw Tracey changing on the set of ‘Growing Pains’ and was horrified by her skeletal appearance. Tracey had taken to wearing baggy clothes to hide her growing thinness and had managed to deceive her parents well until that moment.
Being outed by her family didn’t stop her from starving herself and although she went for regular psychotherapy her weight continued to drop for another two years.
During a Christmas special she was suspended from the show due to her thin appearance. This made Tracey one of the first celebrities to be removed from a role due to anorexia but it was a good move for all because five days later she checked into a hospital for treatment.
From then on she fought the condition largely on her own, occasionally taking help from a nutritionist in UCLA which led to a vast improvement.
“They’ve stabilized my weight now and I’m healthy enough to know that I don’t want to lose any more,”
“I am fighting it, but it’s hard. It consumes my every thought.”
Tracey has written a book about her illness and recovery titled ‘Room to Grow’.