Zosia Mamet Opens Up About Her Eating Disorder

Zosia-Mamet-HeadshotPhoto: Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe.
Best known for her role as Shoshanna Shapiro on HBO’s Girls, Zosia Mamet recently penned a column for Glamour magazine’s September issue, in which she tackled a serious, personal concern. “Do you have a secret?" she asked. "Is your secret something that could kill you, a silent gnawing feeling that's slowly melting you away, little by little, something deadly that nobody else can see?”
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Then, Mamet described her battle with an eating disorder. By opening up about her experience, she wants to create an honest, open discussion about the issue, which so many people face. Zosia also recently partnered with Glamour and Bayer for the “Make Your Mark” contest, which aims to inspire and celebrate women who are making positive changes in the world.
We had a chance to talk with Mamet about the reaction to her column, as well as what it really means to "find your passion." (Side note: Her new, blonde bob looks amazing in person.) Of course, we couldn’t help but ask about Zosia's upcoming film role, in which she plays a sex worker. And, we discovered the most Shoshanna thing she’s ever done.
In your column, you opened up about your battle with an eating disorder. What has the response been like?
“People have been incredibly gracious and kind. The reason I really wanted to write it was to try and effect even a tiny bit of change, and to try to reach some people to make them feel like they are not alone... I’ve had some feedback [from people saying the article] has helped, and that, to me, has been absolute gold. I think it’s something that’s not talked about as much or as candidly as it should be, and that’s what I was trying to do.”
If someone knows someone who they suspect has an eating disorder, should they say something?
“It’s such a tricky issue, and it is sadly kind of a case-by-case thing. Having been on both sides of the coin now, when you’re in the throes of it, a lot of the time when people approach you, it makes you push them away that much more. Then, you’re trying to reach someone through a concrete wall. It’s definitely something delicate, but I think that you shouldn’t ever just let it go by the wayside. I think that trying to talk about it and trying to broach the issue is so important with someone if you think that they are really in pain and really suffering.
"Another one of my goals in writing the article was trying to inspire women who are struggling to talk about it themselves. Something that I experienced in recovery — [which] I think is a common, known fact with addictions — is that if you don’t want to get better, you’re not going to get better. You’re going to keep going back to your fix. I think that is also...super important: finding the desire in yourself to find healing."
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You’ve mentioned that your battle wasn’t just with food, but was about a deeper issue. How did you tackle it and begin to heal?
“One of the things that was super inspiring to me was realizing that it wasn’t just about me. The things I was doing to myself were deeply affecting the people around me as well. That was something that really made me try and untangle my issue, which, as I’ve said before, is something I’ll be dealing with my whole life. You deal with figuring out the core cause for always. But, realizing that I was affecting [people other] than myself was helpful in really wanting to figure out how to truly get better.”
rexusa_1894190lcPhoto: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
How has your Glamour column been meaningful and empowering to you?
“I always wanted to write and dabbled in writing. But, for some reason...so many of us...feel like oh, but I couldn’t do that. I happened to write a monologue for an evening [Glamour] did, and the whole experience just made me feel really capable. So, then, when they asked to me to write this column, I was like yeah, I can do this. With this contest, [I want] to inspire women to feel confident about their choices. To feel like I’m doing this, I can do this, I’m good at this.”
We sometimes put labels on ourselves and our abilities; how can we overcome that?
“No one else is saying you can’t write, or you can’t be an athlete, or you can’t do these things. There are these stipulations and barriers we put on ourselves and I think that the most important thing is to try something before you tell yourself that you can’t do it. Have faith in yourself, and if you have a passion, follow it. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out — but you tried. I think that’s the key.”
It can be scary, though — pushing beyond your comfort zone. How do you tune out the negativity or criticisms?
“In my specific career, it manifests in things like reviews, which I just choose not to read. I think that people are going to have opinions and they are entitled to them. But, if you’re doing something because you love it, and if you feel proud of what you do, that’s really the only thing that matters...the opinion you have of yourself is the most important. All opinions are just someone’s way of looking at the world, but that doesn’t mean that [they're] right. You don’t have to take it.”
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Has writing been a therapeutic outlet for you?
“Yeah, it was exciting and definitely felt very therapeutic in certain ways. And, it’s so much fun to kind of stretch my muscles in a different way. So much of what I do involves so many different people and is so public. Not to say that this writing isn’t public, but the process of creating this article is a very private one, and I got to do it in the comfort of my own home."
What other topics do you want to tackle in your column?
“I have so many things I want to say. It’s a complicated time. Your twenties is a funny decade; I have lots of ping-pong balls bouncing around in my head.”
rexusa_2193736jPhoto: MediaPunch Inc/REX USA.
“I have adored working with Glamour, so when they approached me with this 'Make Your Mark' contest, I was so excited... The essence of this contest, to me, was to get a message out to women to feel inspired and confident about the ways in which they are making their mark on the world — not just in a creative way or a way that’s in a public platform...but in any way. I encourage women 18 years and older to enter the contest; even if you don’t win, I think there’s something wonderful and helpful about writing... Even if [what I'm writing] won't go to print, I’ll write it out, and I’ll have gained so much knowledge of myself. That’s something really special about this contest: If you write an essay and send it in, it’s going to inspire you."
If you were entering the campaign, what would your entry be?
“Oh, that’s such a tricky one. I guess I would try and write about how me and this crazy gaggle of girls are trying to make a show for the world to see that is honest and realistic, and hopefully entertaining — about what it’s like to be a young women in your twenties.”
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And, on a different note, you have an upcoming movie, Shiva and May, where you play a sex worker.
“That’s what she prefers to be called. She’s a prostitute.”
What was it like to portray this character?
“One of the more exciting things about playing this part is that it had this edgy allure to it, in that it was something super different than I’ve ever played before. The character description, and her job description, is that she’s a sex worker — but that’s really not what the movie is about. The movie is about these two women finding themselves, finding each other, and finding strength... This character [is] interesting, intriguing, flawed, and loveable. She was so incredibly dynamic."
With such a busy schedule, how do you stay healthy and fit?
“I’m actually someone who really enjoys working out. I’ve liked it ever since I was young. I love running, and I love to sweat. I’m a horseback rider...but the thing that has taken its place at the moment is SoulCycle. I have drunk the Kool-Aid and I do not care; I love it with a deep passion. I’m totally that girl who’s flinging her towel over her head and screaming at the top of her lungs.” [Ed. note: We can totally see Shoshanna heading to a SoulCycle class.]
Front-row bike, I hope!
“Front row. No other way. One of the things I love so much about it is that no one cares. Everybody is there to get a good workout... There’s just a fun attitude. No one is looking at each other, and there’s also a respect about it; you can’t talk, and you can’t bring your cell phone in. It sounds so corny and cheesy, but there is a tribe-like quality... I’ve made friends through SoulCycle. I also love to do yoga, which is a wonderful counterbalance. I have a favorite yoga studio in Williamsburg, Y7. They call it 'the SoulCycle of yoga' — they turn the lights off and they blast music.”
What’s your secret to being someone who loves (or at least doesn’t hate) working out?
“It’s about finding what works for you and what makes you happy. The thing that I found does NOT work for me...is simply trying to follow a fad, or trying to follow something because it’s what the news has told me is healthy at the moment. You’ll feel it in your body. If eating a shit-ton of kale is something that you hate, don’t do it. Choose a different vegetable. People get so serious about it, and that can make life not enjoyable.”
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