By opening up about her struggles with anorexia, Jackie Goldschneider is hoping to help others who battle the same eating disorder. In an interview with PEOPLE, The Real Housewives of New Jersey rookie detailed when her struggles started — and how she ultimately found the help she needed to establish a healthy relationship with food.
The issues began, Jackie shared, when she was 26 years old. Not content with her weight after years of yo-yo dieting, the mother of four began restricting her caloric intake and upping her exercise regime. Things quickly spiraled out of control, and Jackie was hardly eating at all and exercising compulsively.
“I couldn’t stop,” the RHONJ pal told PEOPLE. “I would do hardcore cardio no matter what, even if I was sick with the flu. I weighed every single thing that I would eat — down to a piece of gum — because I had to know I had the right amount of calories. I learned really creative ways to satisfy hunger without eating. I got very, very, thin and I became so scared of putting and weight back on. I got myself caught up in it all, in these habits that were incredibly unhealthy. And they stuck with me for the next 10 years.”
The issues were still plaguing Jackie when she began dating her now-husband, Evan. On one date at a bar, Jackie said she "flat-out fainted" and woke up "on the floor in the middle of a bar." She added: "Evan saw how skinny I was and how much anxiety I had around food. When he would say something like, ‘Let’s share something,’ I would turn it down so quickly. I did everything to avoid talking about it with him. I didn’t want to put him in that position where he would have to save me."
Even at her wedding, Jackie said, her family and friends were concerned about her gaunt appearance. “That made me really sad, I didn’t want my parents to worry like that,” Jackie said. “But I couldn’t help myself.” Once, she said, the realization even dawned on her: "I’m going to die if I don’t stop."
At a certain point, Jackie knew it was time to seek help. After meeting with a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders, the healing began. "When you find somebody you can trust who really knows how to help somebody with an eating disorder? I can’t even put it into words... But she told me, ‘We’re not going to fix it in one fell swoop. We’re going to look at tiny things that you do and we’re going to break those habits.’ And little by little, I changed my behavior."
Now, Jackie said, "I’m really proud of coming out of the other side because it was so hard. It’s really not a way to live. It’s horrible. It was absolutely horrible. And I’m hoping that I can help people out there like me, who usually just suffer in silence. Because I wish I knew that one day, I’d get through it. That was always a fear of mine that I would never stop doing this.”
Jackie opens up about her battle with anorexia in tonight's episode of RHONJ — check out a preview clip above. And make sure to tune in tonight at 9/8c.