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'WISE GIRL' 'Sopranos' star shares disasters, triumphs



Published: Fri, August 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The actress's desire to get revenge on an ex-boyfriend by losing a few pounds led to a serious eating disorder.

By THERESA HEGEL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

"Wise Girl: What I've Learned about Life, Love, and Loss," by Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Sheryl Berk (Pocket Books, $13)

Don't let her seemingly effortless success fool you.

"Sopranos" star Jamie-Lynn Sigler has been through a lot in her short life. In addition to the usual tribulations of a teenager and aspiring actress, the 21-year-old has battled a severe eating disorder and was hospitalized twice for her Lyme disease.

Her life fits the roller-coaster formula of an episode of VH1's "Behind the Music."

In an autobiography written with the help of Sheryl Berk, the "Wise Girl" paints a candid portrait of her life up to this point and offers advice to other teenagers.

Sigler describes her childhood self as a "bit of a ham." She would roam her house singing Disney songs at the top of her lungs. Her parents enrolled the budding star in dance lessons and singing lessons.

In elementary school, Sigler started appearing in plays at the Plaza Playhouse in Long Island. With almost a decade's worth of performances under her belt, it's not hard to see how Sigler landed a starring role on David Chase's HBO series "The Sopranos."

Serious illness

Getting the role of Meadow should have been one of the high points of Sigler's life, but in the months between the filming of the pilot and the start of the first season, disaster struck.

Her desire to get revenge on an ex-boyfriend by losing a few pounds spiraled into a full-fledged eating disorder. Sigler developed a strict daily diet that consisted of little more than three scrambled egg whites, "a scooped out bagel" and fat-free yogurt.

Sigler had eliminated all fat from her meals and was only taking in about 500 calories a day, though she was obsessed with burning off all those calories through a rigorous exercise plan. She felt that her eating habits and weight were the only things she had control over in her life.

At her lowest point, Sigler had to wear clothing from the children's section; she couldn't even fit into size 0. Soon after reaching this point, she confessed her disorder to her parents and began the long road to recovery.

In 2000, Sigler contracted Lyme disease while filming an independent film in New Jersey. For several weeks, she was in the hospital, completely numb from the waist down. Doctors toyed with several diagnoses before settling on Lyme disease. They warned Sigler about the possibility that she might never walk again.

Investing the same determination that helped her excel in other areas of her life, Sigler devoted her energy to getting back on her feet.

Casual style

Though Sigler spends many pages discussing her personal tragedies, she also spends a lot of time talking about her closeness to both her real and her "Sopranos" family, and much of the book is about the happy moments in her life. Even during the rough times, Sigler reminds us again and again that she never gave up hope and never gave in to self-pity.

"Wise Girl" is written as though it were a casual conversation between Sigler and her readers. Her frequent jumps in topic and time are sometimes confusing, but it's easy enough to piece together her life story.

The advice Sigler imparts is sometimes on the simplistic side, but if her courageous story inspires even one teenage boy or girl to seek help for an eating disorder, then "Wise Girl" was well worth the effort.

hegel@vindy.com




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