When Jackie Goldschneider decided to detail her eating disorder battle in a memoir, the words came pouring out.
“It all came to me in a flash,” the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star, 46, told Page Six on a September morning at her Tenafly, NJ, home.
“Once I started that recovery process, all of these secrets felt like poison inside me. And I had to get rid of them. I was like, ‘If I put it all down in a book, I can get them out of me.’ It was therapeutic.”
Goldschneider lays bare the trauma of her decades-long war with anorexia — and the triumph of being in recovery — in “The Weight of Beautiful” (Gallery Books, out Tuesday), a labor of love for the lawyer-turned-journalist who always dreamed of becoming an author.
“I thought I would just die with those secrets,” she added. “I can’t believe that this thing that I thought would eventually kill me turned into this amazing book that will help others. I’m really proud of it.”
As an obese teen, Goldschneider said, she felt tortured by her weight.
“I remember a lot of shame. People in my high school were not nice to me. I was an outsider.”
After moving from Staten Island to the Garden State — where she felt isolated, not knowing a single soul outside of her family — she found comfort in food, which she remembers her mother, Ann Mark, providing in excess.
“My mom worked like an animal and she was not home a lot,” Goldschneider said of Ann, who ran a thriving IT business in New York City. “And when she was home, she would cook enormous amounts of food. She would get joy out of seeing us eat all of it.”
Goldschneider once thought there was “some weird malicious” intent behind her mom’s constant need to feed her.
She discovered a deeper meaning to it later in life: Her maternal grandparents — survivors of the Holocaust — practically worshiped food, a scarce resource, during WWII.
This was passed down to her mother and infiltrated Goldschneider’s upbringing in complicated ways.
“When I started my recovery, I did have a talk with her about how she taught me to overeat, and she explained to me the origins of how food was so scarce for her [family],” she said.
“My mom spent all these years thinking … food was just a gift from God. And so that was her mentality, like, ‘You find food, just eat it all.’”
Goldschneider rebuked this mentality at 17 when a doctor chastised her for her weight.
“I was told that I wouldn’t have any fun in college if I was fat. I remember my doctor being very disappointed in me. I felt so ashamed of myself,” she said.
“The minute he told me that I shouldn’t go to college fat, my head connected being fat with, ‘I’m never going to have fun in my whole life if I stay fat.’ It almost became this emergency for me to lose weight, like I didn’t have another minute to spare.”
The doctor suggested that Goldschneider try Weight Watchers; she said it felt like she “found God” at her first program meeting.
“I was looking at this booklet and I was like, ‘This is it,’” she recalled. “I was never not on a diet another day in my life.”
Goldschneider, who dropped a significant amount of weight before entering Boston University in the mid-’90s, struggled with Weight Watchers’ strict parameters in college.
“There was so much temptation and so many late nights and drinking, and you don’t want to be that one person that’s not doing any of that,” she said. “And so a lot of weight came back. I was constantly yo-yoing and I was still desperate to lose weight.”
She eventually turned to a Weight Watchers clinic away from campus, hoping to shed the weight again.
While trying to find its downtown office, Goldschneider bumped into an Army recruitment officer who told her she could reach her goals by serving her country, no diet necessary.
“I sat in that office for a good hour with him and I just remember thinking, ‘I’ll do basic training, I’ll lose all the weight and I’ll learn how to discipline myself,’” she said.
“It was so much, emotionally, to hate yourself like that — and I thought I would never lose weight without something really kicking me in the ass. But I knew I had to get out of that office because I was thinking about it a little too hard.”
After graduating from Boston University, Goldschneider moved to Manhattan to attend Fordham Law School.
Living alone, she discreetly tried “plenty of odd diets” — living on Lean Cuisines or pints of low-calorie Tasti D-Lite ice cream for extended periods — but nothing worked until she employed an “elimination” diet in 2003.
“I started starving myself … when I was 26,” she said. “I was cutting a lot [out of my diet] and I was really on a dangerous path. Once I started counting calories, it was all downhill.”
The attorney, then a size 6, only planned to keep it up until she reached a size 2.
But that December, she met her now-husband, Evan Goldschneider, and — even if he never thought twice about her weight — her desire to be thin amplified.
“My confidence was so low. I thought if I gained weight, Evan would have no interest in me anymore — even though that wasn’t true,” she said. “I convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of love if I was in a bigger body. So I got very scared and it actually made me worse.”
Goldschneider shut down conversations about food with Evan from the start, though she didn’t hide any of her ritualized eating from him.
“It was so bad I would take a little bit of uncooked oatmeal into a baggie and eat one flake at a time,” she said of her attempts to stave off hunger.
“I said to myself, ‘If he wants me, he’s going to have to accept me as I am and this is how I am.’ And he has always accepted me, in every stage [of my anorexia and recovery].”
On August 26, 2006, they were married in a lavish affair at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Columbus Circle.
“The Weight of Beautiful” opens with an introduction about her inner turmoil surrounding the day, underlined by anxiety over consuming wedding cake in front of guests while clad in a delicate lace gown that showed “every rib around my breastbone and … razor-sharp clavicles.”
“If you see the way that I looked at my wedding, I can’t imagine now as a mom watching … my child look like that and knowing that nothing could stop her,” she said through tears.
“I feel bad that I made people watch me slowly kill myself and just that no one could say a word to me. I feel bad about that stuff.”
Despite her sickness, Goldschneider endured multiple grueling rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive her two sets of twins — 15-year-old sons Adin and Jonas, and 13-year-old son Hudson and daughter Alexis — with Evan, 47. (Today, the family has an open dialogue about Goldschneider’s eating disorder and recovery: “I try to lead by example, eating with them and making healthy choices.”)
Anorexia made her pregnancies difficult.
“I live and die for my kids, but I was very unhealthy and I did take chances with my health that I wish I hadn’t,” she said. “I don’t know if my behavior ended up being the reason why my kids were premature, and that’s very painful for me to realize.
“The way that some people miss drinking wine or eating sushi when they’re pregnant, that’s the way I missed starving myself. I just couldn’t wait to starve myself again.”
By the time Bravo tapped the mother-of-four for “RHONJ” in 2018, she had spent 15 years concealing her eating disorder from loved ones. Surely, she thought, she could camouflage it on TV.
“I was not OK health-wise, but I looked OK. Because a lot of ‘Housewives’ are very thin and a lot of people in the reality show world are very thin, nobody really questioned me,” she said. “And then I got nervous that they would notice.”
Three weeks into filming, Goldschneider — who transitioned into a “friend-of” role this year — told her castmates that she had recovered from an eating disorder.
In reality, she was still suffering in secret.
“I kind of threw people off my trail,” she said. “There were a lot of weird habits, and I was afraid. I figured, ‘Let me tell them that it’s over so that nobody thinks it’s current.’”
But Goldschneider’s harrowing day-to-day tactics persisted, as she starved herself for days in order to indulge in twice-a-week “freedom meals” for on-camera dinners, a strategy utilized to fool co-stars and viewers.
She hit rock bottom in 2021, falling to the floor of her basement gym after a debilitating bout of tendonitis thwarted her near-daily treadmill run.
“I had this moment on the floor where my body was in so much pain and I had been starving myself,” she said. “I don’t write this in the book, but a few days before I fell, I was at the supermarket and I saw an old lady looking at the calories on the back of a frozen meal and I said, ‘That’s going to be me.’
“I had my moment on the floor and I thought about that woman. I realized that I’d be doing this until the day I died if I didn’t stop. In that moment, I just decided to start recovery.”
Doing so on the show held her more accountable: “’New Jersey Housewives’ essentially saved my life.”
After filming her intake meeting at Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders, Goldschneider — whose anorexia had weakened her heartbeat and halted menstruation, among other health concerns — discovered that one wrong move without aid from professionals could have been fatal.
“[I was told that] starting to eat again can make your blood circulate so much faster that you are at risk of a heart attack,” she said. “I’m lucky to be alive. I could’ve died and that really scared me.”
Goldschneider has since established a treatment plan with a therapist and dietician, adjusting to a life that isn’t governed by caloric computations or enfeebling thoughts about her physical appearance.
“I would say I’m about 80% recovered,” she said. “I still have a lot of fears around foods that I, for 20 years, labeled as ‘bad.’ I still get nervous sometimes about gaining more weight than I’ve already gained because I’m comfortable with where I’m at.”
She never steps on a scale, though.
“I haven’t been on the scale since 2021. I like the way my body looks, but I try not to put too much stock in it. And if I start to think a bad thought [about myself], I walk away from the mirror.”
Goldschneider, who now works with the National Eating Disorders Association, is optimistic that readers will see themselves in her story.
“There are so many people walking around with eating disorders who don’t know what recovery looks like — because movies and TV show you that recovery happens quick and easy,” she said. “It can be long, it can be hard, but you’re never too far gone and you’re definitely not alone.”
If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, visit the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders (ANAD) website or call their hotline at (888)-375-7767 to get help.