Written by Jessica Ryen Doyle
Insecure and suffering from bulimia, Greta Gleissner had her dream job as a Radio City Rockette for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular in New York City – but that didn’t stop her from bingeing and purging up to 30 times a day.
Gleissner had been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her parents’ credit cards in order to pay for food; and at 5-feet, 7-inches tall, she constantly compared herself to the other dancers – never feeling she was good enough to belong.
Depressed and feeling bloated toward the end of the show’s season, she called in ‘sick,’ deciding to spend the day bingeing and purging. In her mind, Gleissner rationalized this would make her feel thinner.
After eating “huge balls of mozzarella ... a breakfast burrito, three hash browns, a cinnamon roll, two strips of bacon, and egg and cheese biscuit and a large Diet Coke,” Gleissner attempted to purge – but the cheese became lodged in her esophagus.
“You stupid idiot. What’s wrong with you?” Gleissner remembers thinking. She chronicled those thoughts in her memoir, Something Spectacular: The True Story of One Rockette’s Battle With Bulimia.
“That was a close call,” she wrote. “I easily could’ve choked to death. …Agh, I don’t want anymore. I’m finished for today, having scared myself silly.”
Gleissner, who soon entered a rehab program at Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona, said she remembers the specific day she became a bulimic as a teenager. Initially, the process was difficult – but she soon learned the ‘tricks’ of a bulimic – and became hooked.
It got to the point where she didn’t even have to stick her finger down her throat – her stomach would convulse on its own.
Jenny Taitz, a New York City-based psychologist who has not treated Gleissner, but treats patients with eating disorders, said it is estimated that 24 million Americans struggle with eating disorders; although it’s hard to know for sure, since many people struggling with one don’t always seek treatment.