When Jackie Goldschneider joined The Real Housewives of New Jersey during season 9, she was keeping a secret from her costars.
Goldschneider had been battling an eating disorder for nearly two decades, a revelation she wouldn’t share with her castmates or the audience until season 12, which aired in 2022. She begins her new book, The Weight of Beautiful, by looking back on the moment Jennifer Aydin called out her anorexia in front of the Bravo cameras for the first time in her new book.
Read on for an exclusive first excerpt of The Weight of Beautiful, out Tuesday, September 26, and available for pre-order now.
Cast trips were the hardest parts of every season because there were so many meals to manage and so many excuses to make, and I couldn’t just go home and not eat in private. I had two jobs on cast trips: the first was to film a reality show, and the second was to eat enough to make sure no one thought I had a problem, without eating so much that my life would fall apart. The latter job was unquestionably harder.
Before these trips, I always made a plan with a detailed schedule of calories rationed throughout the day, excuses to avoid unsafe foods, foods I could eat in a multitude of situations, and a strategy to compensate for any missed cardio sessions. The rules were all written down in my food diary, so I could go back at any point to check that I’d made no mistakes with anything I ate that day. And it was working, I thought. Two years into being a Housewife, and no one had noticed I was sick. No one had noticed I was torturing myself every minute of every day or that I was famished while I moved the food on my plate to get to the lettuce. No one had noticed I was anorexic.
And then they did.
“Margaret [Josephs] said you have issues with food,” Jennifer, one of my castmates, suddenly announced to the table, and I wondered if my world was about to crumble.
Maybe this was my chance to confess everything. For a split second, I considered it. The same way that, when you’re driving over a bridge, you think for a split second about what might happen if you veer hard to the right. The world would end, at least as you know it, so of course you’d never do it. But for a second, you let yourself wonder about it. It was the first time since I 2 started all of this toxic shit — since my doctor had encouraged my first starvation diet when I was seventeen and I was desperate to be anything other than the heavy, invisible girl in the halls of my high school — that anyone who actually knew me had called me out on my behavior around food. It was the first time in years that I was being questioned as to whether I was sick. And it was taking place on national television. Ambushing someone when they least expect it is reality-show gold.
I could’ve come clean, but I wasn’t ready to let go of anorexia. I hated it deeply, I hated the pain and the endless thoughts and the hold it had on everything in my life, but I also needed it. Anorexia was the only thing that gave me control when everything else felt out of my control, and it was the only thing that let me run so far away from the person I used to be that I was no longer recognizable. I traded everything—my health, my sanity, my ability to socialize without anxiety—to hold on to my eating disorder. I gave it everything, and in return, it let the old me disappear.
I lived a life dominated by starvation, where no one dared to ask me if I needed help. For almost two decades, my diet followed a strict set of rules that were never stretched or broken, bound to maintaining a dangerously low body weight. There was no flexibility, there were no days off from exercise, there were no indulgences. And for all that time, through dating and marriage, infertility, parenting, and eventual fame, it was all done in secret.
And now here I was, living in hiding while in front of the cameras on one of the world’s most popular reality shows, facing millions of people every week who somehow, without really knowing me, came to know my truth. I could no longer hide my brutal struggle with an eating disorder — a struggle that impacts thirty million Americans, fueled by diet culture, social media, and the dangerous promise of perfection.
This is my story, but it is also the story of millions of people like me, suffering in silence and striving to lead healthy, happy lives in recovery from eating disorders. My story is for all of us.
Copyright © 2023 by Jacqueline Goldschneider. From the forthcoming book THE WEIGHT OF BEAUTIFUL by Jackie Goldschneider to be published by Gallery Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.