How Jennette McCurdy's iCarly Role Exacerbated Eating Disorder

Jennette McCurdy continues to share more details about her tumultuous childhood and the way iCarly impacted her health.

By Cydney Contreras Aug 06, 2022 2:00 PMTags
Watch: Jennette McCurdy Says She Was "Exploited" on iCarly

Jennette McCurdy continues to reveal more details about her experience starring on iCarly.

As scene-stealer Sam Puckett—first on iCarly and later the spin-off Sam & Cat—the actress was one of Nickelodeon's biggest stars. But Jennette is now peeling back the curtain on what it's like to be a child star in the upcoming memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died, in which she writes about the toxic relationship she had with her late mother Debra McCurdy, who she says contributed to her problems, including her struggles with anorexia and bulimia.

As Jennette tells it, her eating disorders were exacerbated by her role as Sam, whose gimmick on the show was eating ridiculous amounts of food. "It's tragically hilarious," she told The Washington Post in a profile published Aug. 5. "It made me so anxious because my character was constantly eating."

Jennette tried to change this aspect of her character, but it was difficult to explain to her Nickelodeon bosses why she was so opposed to it. "I tried speaking with the producers on a couple occasions, asking if we could dial back on that stuff," she said. "I had some sort of reasoning like, ‘I think there's so much more to Sam as a character, and I think she goes much deeper than this.'"

iCarly Stars: Then and Now

Jennette added that she couldn't outright admit that she had an eating disorder, because she didn't want to face the reality of her situation. Plus, her mom was insistent that she maintain a thin appearance. As a result, she said, "I wasn't capable of saying, ‘Hey, I'm actually really struggling with this. So, can we not?'"

Since Sam's relationship with food was such a major aspect to the character, fans coming up to Jennette in real life always made references to chicken legs and other snacks the character consumed on-screen. "It started to feel like my life was mocking me in every way," she said. "They didn't know what I was struggling with, but it felt like people were just poking directly in every f--king insecurity and every trauma that I had. It was just twisting the knife."

Steve Granitz/WireImage

When iCarly came to an end in 2012, she moved on to a role in Sam & Cat, in which she starred opposite Ariana Grande. This was an upsetting experience for Jennette, who felt Ariana received preferential treatment. According to Jennette, the pop star was frequently allowed to miss work, requiring Jennette to put in more hours on the set. It was so frustrating, Jennette was relieved when the show was canceled after just one season.

By this point, Jennette was fed up with acting, having been consumed by the "frustration and rage" that had accumulated since she started auditioning, at the insistence of her mother, at the age of six. However, Jennette's mother wouldn't let her quit acting, so she coped by drinking, doing drugs and binging. 

Jennette shared she didn't know who else to turn to, so her struggles happened "in the sad silence of my own doom," adding that she didn't know who else to turn to. "My mom was very clear," she continued. "This is something to be grateful for. This is what we've been working for our whole lives."


Jennette was able to start healing after her mother died from cancer in 2013, after which she forced herself to start therapy. "That got me to the point where I was able to accept my mom was abusive," she said, adding, "It was a very slow-moving process, excruciating in a lot of ways."

But the former Empty Inside podcast host came through the other side with a better understanding of herself. As she said, "It was through consistent work and exploration that it became freeing and healing."

So when Jennette was approached to reprise her role in the iCarly reboot, she had no hesitations about turning it down. "My biggest priority is my mental health and my happiness, and there was no intersection there," she said. "There was no overlap."

The former actress has worked hard to get where she is now, saying, "I'm in a good place, which is such a weird thing to say. I feel more fulfilled than I ever have, and I wish it wasn't new, but it is very new for me."

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237.