(LOS ANGELES) — As a member of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger appeared to be at the height of her fame, winning MTV awards, selling albums and appearing all over the world.
Behind the scenes, however, the singer was in the midst of a nearly decade-long battle with bulimia.
“I just hated myself,” Scherzinger, 34, told VH1′s Behind the Music in a special that aired Sunday night. “I hated myself. I really was so disgusted with myself and so embarrassed. I felt so alone. I was in a group, and I never felt so alone in my life.”
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by frequent binge-eating episodes followed by “behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Unlike anorexia in which someone may engage in extreme diet restrictions even when they appear underweight, bulimic behavior is typically done in secret and is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame, NIMH says.
In the revealing interview, Scherzinger says it was her first photo shoot with the all-female group, known for their skimpy outfits and racy dance moves, that started her downward spiral into bulimia.
“It was all new to me and I was incredibly scared,” she said. “I was not comfortable with my body.”
While some of Scherzinger’s fellow Dolls had a hint of what their bandmate was doing to herself, Scherzinger says the fans who were buying the Dolls’ music and going to their concerts never had a hint of what was behind her smile and sexy dance moves.
“I never did drugs, but kinda doing things to myself was my addiction,” she told VH1. “It’s like when I got off stage, I was on this high, and I’d come back to my room and I’d be alone, so I would just do things. My bulimia was my addiction; hurting myself was my addiction.”
People with bulimia can usually maintain what is viewed as a normal weight. But the disorder can have devastating effects on the body such as causing heart irregularities, decreased oral health, muscle fatigue, stomach ulcers, intestinal problems, anemia and dehydration, according to the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It was only when the Pussycat Dolls disbanded in 2009, when Scherzinger was just 31-years-old, that she began therapy, she says, to save her life.
“I grew. I started to embrace myself, as a woman and my curves,” she said.
[For information on eating disorder treatment from the Mayo Clinic, CLICK HERE.]
The former Doll went on to win Dancing With the Stars in 2010 and host The X Factor on Fox. She left the show earlier this year, replaced by new judges Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, but says she feels the best chapter in her life is still to come.
“I feel on top of the world and today I feel like the sexiest woman alive,” she told VH1.
Scherzinger’s revelation puts her in the chorus of music superstars like Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera who have stood up recently to publicly defend their bodies. Scherzinger says, however, that going public with her disorder was not an easy decision.
“Yeah, I’m nervous about it,” she said. “It’s embarrassing. I never spoke about it. Like I said, I never want to play a victim, and I never wanted my family to hear about things from me because I think it would break their heart, you know?”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio