Fans of Debby Ryan had been waiting for her to make her TV comeback and she gave them that with her lead role of Patty in the Netflix series, Insatiable. The series has faced some serious backlash though, with viewers saying it body-shames in an offsenive manner and there was even a petition to get Netflix to cancel the show. But now, Debby is opening up about how her personal body image struggles, specifically her battle with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder.
"Dysmorphia has been a dark passenger of mine for years. I first noticed it at 13, when I was told to draw an image of my body, and the silhouette and shape of what I saw apparently did not line up at all with what everyone else saw," Debby said to The Sydney Morning Herald. "I don't know to this day if I've ever looked in the mirror and seen what other people see when they look at me. And I have never had a day, not one day, where I looked in the mirror and thought, 'Cool.' It used to be all I wanted but I've accomplished a lot in 12 years, so maybe I don't need that to feel fulfilled any more."
Now 25 years old, Debby has been dealing with these thoughts for nearly half her life and it's truly inspiring to see how far she's come and her willingness to be so open about something that is tough to talk about. She's been gracing our TV screens for years now, with her breakout role on the beloved Disney Channel series, The Suite Life On Deck, so we can only imagine being broadcast in front of millions of viewers while you're trying to cope with your own body image issues is not easy. She also explained that when she was going through an emotionally trying time four years ago, she gained weight and was not treating her body right when it came to eating, something people —especially on the Internet — had a lot to say about.
"I'd gone through heartbreak and my close friend was going through cancer and I emotionally ate and was dealing with a full-blown eating disorder," she said. "I put on 12 pounds, which isn't much on the Hollywood scale, but everyone online was calling me fat and speculating that I was on drugs. It enraged me so much."
That is just not OK. Debby went on to say that she does want everyone to know though that her show isn't about fat-shaming or being cruel. There are many layers to her character and the overall story.
"Clearly [the show] is striking a sensitive chord but the humor is not in the fat-shaming. The redemption is in identifying the bullies and saying, 'This is not okay.' And just because this one thing happened to Patty that changed her on the outside, it doesn't solve her problems because she's not free of compulsion and addiction," Debby explained.
And as for the actress herself? Well, Deb has come out better and stronger than ever when it comes to battling her eating disorder.
"All I can think about is marking and celebrating the days of going without being unhealthy and falling back into bad habits. The redemption for me is that this whole struggle can now live outside of me on the show, and is no longer hidden," she said.
And that's what matters most.
If you or someone you know needs with, please contact that National Eating Disorders Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.