Near the end of season seven of ‘Growing Pains,’ Carol Seaver, played by Tracey Gold, the studious, nerdy sister was dispatched to London for the remaining episodes. In actuality, she was suffering from anorexia and the producers and Warner Brothers insisted she seek professional treatment.
Since then, Gold has appeared in dozens of Lifetime television movies and lives a quiet life just outside Los Angeles with husband Roby Marshall and four sons, 14, 12, 7 and 3. And now she has a new show on Lifetime premiering on December 2 called ‘Starving Secrets’ that follows six anorexic women. Gold, 42, serves as the host on the series.
FOX411: Tell us about the show.
Tracey Gold: I act as a sort of mentor/friend, host of the show. We meet the six women and then we get them into treatment. We follow their in-treatment, their ups and downs and everything in between.
FOX411:Was it hard to go back and see those women struggling like you had?
Tracey Gold: Sure, absolutely. I think there are certain things that resonated with me more than others. When I first got into this I was nervous, how is this going to affect me? I think I was able to do it in a way that I felt compassion but also distance from that place.
FOX411:Were you worried you might feel triggered?
Tracey Gold: Of course, you couldn’t help but have it cross your mind, is it going to trigger something but I think very quickly I realized it strengthened my resolve in my recovery and that was not a place that I wanted to venture back into.
FOX411: It seems like Hollywood is worse than ever when it comes to weight.
Tracey Gold: The image of what a girl is supposed to look like, what the media presents is a size zero. Any girl who dares to be a size six God forbid is put down. You have Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, these two young girls who now have to fight against the press because they’re not stick thin. What happens is a lot of these girls become famous when they’re young and then they start to get more curves and look like what a woman is supposed to look like. Then the media blasts them for gaining weight. All these headlines, you’ve got to have tremendous self-esteem and a strong self image to have to be able to stand up to that kind of stuff.
FOX411: You were outed by tabloids.
Tracey Gold: Yeah I was. I had to leave "Growing Pains" towards the end of the seventh season. There were probably only two episodes left. The producers and Warner Brothers had me go into an in-patient treatment program at a hospital. It started as a little tiny blurb in T.V. Guide and then it kind of spread quickly.
FOX411:At the height of your disease you weighed 80 pounds.
Tracey Gold: By that point I was barely eating anything. It was during the 90’s so nobody was afraid of carbs. My fear foods were fat and dairy so I ate dry cereal, a dry bagel.
FOX411: It’s so awful that when you complained about the fat jokes that Mike (Kirk Cameron) hurled at your character the producers retorted, ‘But they’re funny.’
Tracey Gold: They did apologize afterwards when they realized what happened but it was not sensitive by any stretch of the imagination.
FOX411: Did that set you off?
Tracey Gold: The fat jokes hurt and I wasn’t fat by any stretch of the imagination.
FOX411: When did you feel like you were recovered?
Tracey Gold: By my first pregnancy. I really started to feel; ok this is really going to be behind me.
FOX411: That must have been scary putting on all that weight.
Tracey Gold: Yeah I was scared but I think there was a freeing part to it too, like all of a sudden my body wasn’t about this certain number on a scale. I was providing for another human being. I think it liberated me and gave me strength to understand what my body could do.
FOX411: You became the poster child for anorexia in Hollywood but we all know there are other actresses who have eating disorders.
Tracey Gold: I do think there are girls who obviously have disordered eating, they keep their weight too low but I also believe that when you get severe anorexia it really does stop everything. I don’t think there are many that exist with it. The word anorexia gets thrown around. By the time you get diagnosed with anorexia it’s a fully fledged mental illness. There are a couple of actresses that I can think of offhand who probably had it and didn’t acknowledge it but I’m also of that mindset that everybody takes their own journey on how they want to handle it. I kind of approach things head on.
FOX411: You must weep when you see pro-anorexia websites.
Tracey Gold: They disgust me. They make me so mad. Those websites are so sick. It’s so disturbing. They’re done by very sick girls who are trying to bring girls down their road. I don’t know why anybody would want to try and do that.