Obsessed with Food

One skinny, one heavy, TV anchors Mika Brzezinski and Diane Smith couldn’t have looked less alike. What was the same: Their days were controlled by what they ate. Here, the two good friends reveal how they wrestled—in very different ways—with their compulsions 

by Judith Newman
mika brzezinski and diane smith image
Photograph: Evelyn Laws

MORE: Did other people notice your compulsive eating?
Both my husband and the guy I dated before him have stories of spotting a plate of food in front of me, looking away for 30 seconds and looking back and seeing that everything was gone. Joe [Scarborough, her Morning Joe cohost] talks about a luncheon we went to in Orange County, California. There was some big, gross, breaded chicken stuffed with cheese, along with fried potatoes. Joe looked away for one minute. By the time he looked back, I had inhaled the plate. The entire plate of food.

MORE: The way you tell it, I’m laughing, but it’s not really funny, because if you can do that in 60 seconds, you’re not actually enjoying anything.
No, and it hurts your digestive system. But food is the thing I could count on. Food always loved me back. 

MORE: In the book, you say you tried to be bulimic but weren’t really good at it.
I was terrible. My eyes got really red, and I knew I was hurting my teeth.

MORE: So your eating disorder took other forms.
There were these constant stupid negotiations with myself: “I can eat the Domino’s pizza if I run 10 miles afterward.” That’s what I’d do after bingeing—go for punishing runs. 

MORE: Did you ever get seriously underweight?
Oh yeah, absolutely. And—let me tell you, this is really messed up—that’s when I got the most compliments. But if you examined me closely, I looked my least healthy. My hair was thin, and under the makeup my eyes were red and my face was puffy.

MORE: And yet in the book you say unequivocally that it’s important to be thin for a job in front of the camera. You are not at all critical of the woman who interviewed you for an anchor slot and told you to come back after you lost weight.
She was right. I lost about 15 pounds and really pulled myself together, and then all of a sudden I started getting attention and job offers.

MORE: You say you’ve gained a few pounds since you started the book. Do you have a number on the scale that it upsets you to go over?
Yes. It’s 130.

MORE: How tall are you?
Five foot six.

MORE: So you’re not happy if you weigh 133?
Exactly! [To her assistant] Emily, will you grab the scale out of the master bedroom and bring it out here? We’ll see if I’m happy today. [When Brzezinski sees she weighs 133, she says, “I’m working on believing 133 is right where I should be.”]

MORE: What did you learn by talking to Diane about her eating?
Our professional fortunes were very different because of our weight, but Diane and I were doing the same crazy things. We were both going to the local Price Chopper on Saturday night. We’d fill the cart and then gorge all night. That was my idea of a really good Saturday evening.

MORE: It was such a shocking thing to do, telling a friend she was fat. Yet against all odds, it brought you together.
Confronting Diane really turned out to be an even bigger intervention for me. Because while she went through hell losing 66 pounds, I also had to get help. To write this book, I had to see a therapist, and I realized my problems were worse than I’d ever thought.

MORE: How has writing this book changed your routine?
I made a commitment to be OK with missing a couple of days of exercising, to let myself exercise four or five times a week and not every day. I’m also trying to not kill myself over what I eat.

First published in the May 2013 issue

Share Your Thoughts!


Mika's advice on food.
Pretend that you overeat, so that you can boast and brag that
you go for jogs.
As if, Mika is the only one in America that is a runner.
How dull, narcissistic, arrogant and boring.

This is Mika's advice on raising young children:
Hire childcare around the clock to make sure that the children are always "staffed."
This is Mika's advice on getting a bigger paycheck:
Be a newsreader for Joe Scarborough and not even bother to watch his show. Then when Scarborough sees that Mika is the perfect deferential, obsequious, sycophant, make Joe demand more money from MSNBC, when all of Mika's efforts have failed. Just like they did when Mika asked for more money from CBS.
This is Mika's advice on food:
Pretend that you overeat, so that you can boast and brag about going for runs, as if Mika is the only jogger on earth.
Mika Brzezinski is one of the most boring, repetitive, self-absorbed, narcissistic, dull women on television.
Or anywhere.

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