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Shining a light on eating disorders

Actress Tracey Gold is enjoying her new role as producer and host of television’s ‘Starving Secrets'

Posted: December 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Actress and Valencia resident Tracey Gold is the producer and host of “Starving Secrets,” a six-part docu-drama that will air its first episode on Lifetime today. The former “Growing Pains” star battled anorexia nervosa in the public eye as a young woman.

 

Fame can make keeping secrets difficult, especially when you suffer from an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

Such was the case for actress Tracey Gold. Known as the whip-smart Carol Seaver on ABC’s popular family sitcom “Growing Pains,” Gold started appearing in tabloid pages in the 1990s for her alarming weight loss.

As a teenager, Gold constantly faced extreme pressures to appear thin on-screen, and at 19 years old, she became anorexic, which nearly took her life by age 22.

“I had a very public battle with anorexia,” she said. “I was outed when I was sick, so I had to talk about it. Eventually, I embraced it.”

For years, Gold, a Valencia resident, toured colleges and spoke about her struggles with anorexia. Now she’ll reach a wider audience through her six-part series, “Starving Secrets with Tracey Gold,” which airs on Lifetime today.

“I’m constantly approached by people who know someone with an eating disorder or struggle with it themselves,” she said. “It’s always been in a corner and kept a secret, so I wanted to shed a light on eating disorders and help people in the process.”

 

“Starving Secrets”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, only 1-in-10 men and women with eating disorders receives treatment, though up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder) in the United States. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

“Starving Secrets” follows 10 women with eating disorders as they are evaluated by a physician and then put into treatment.

“Some have a marked change, others are still in treatment. There’s not a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s a docu-drama; I hesitate to call it a ‘reality show,’” Gold said. “I have a following in the eating-disorder world, and this was an opportunity to show the issue in a bigger way, a raw, real, unglamorous way.”

Gold not only hosts the series, but also created and produced it. The process, which involved finding a production company for the filming and pitching the show to different networks, took two years to fulfill.

“It was a very long road to get here, but it was rewarding and exciting,” Gold said. “I’m usually in front of the camera. I’ve never created something like this before.”

 

Child actor

At the age of 4, Gold unintentionally found her way into acting when she tagged along at an audition in New York with her father, an actor, for a Pepsi print ad.

“They were seeing little girls also, and as the story goes, wanted me to come in and get my picture taken the next day,” Gold said. Gold got the job, her father did not. She continued on garnering television and print gigs before her big break with “Growing Pains,” which aired from 1985 to 1992.

“I loved doing ‘Growing Pains.’ It was a great experience; we all really got along,” Gold said.

Aside from her fond memories of the series, a reunion for which was recently featured on “Entertainment Tonight” and “Entertainment Weekly” for its 20th anniversary since signing off, Gold recalled that being a child actor had its challenges, as well.

“I had good parents and a stable home, so I wasn’t caught up in the scene that a lot of child actors are. But no matter how good it is, you’re still working. It’s a trade-off,” she said. “Adult actors can work and take a break, but kids on set work and go to school at the same time. There are great rewards, but also great sacrifices.”

 

Her favorite part

The one role Gold always knew she wanted to play was that of mother. She and her husband, Roby Marshall, a media sales manager, have four sons: Sage, 14, Baily, 12, Aiden, 7, and Dylan, 3.

“I love being a mom; it’s so fun,” Gold said. “My family, without a doubt, is the most important thing to me.”

After growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Gold and Marshall decided they wanted a different environment for their children and moved to Valencia many years ago.

“Everyone’s parents worked in the industry. I wanted my kids to know other professions and things to do,” Gold said. “We love the public schools here, and Santa Clarita has a real suburban feel. It doesn’t feel transient like L.A.”

 

Shining a light

In addition to “Starving Secrets,” Gold is currently shooting a science-fiction television movie in Louisiana for a cable network.

She’s curious to see how “Starving Secrets” will be received.

“Eating disorders are a controversial subject. Do you put it on TV or not? I’m open to the idea that some people think you shouldn’t,” Gold said. “But I feel that in the last 20 years, a lot of progress hasn’t been made, so I don’t think there’s any shame in talking about it or shining a light on it.”

Her hope, Gold continued, is to spark a conversation.

“The more awareness there is, the more hospitals open, the more women will see themselves and get help,” she said.

“Starving Secrets with Tracey Gold” will air on Lifetime starting today. For more information, visit http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/starving-secrets-with-tracey-gold.

msathe@the-signal.com

 

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