In a recent interview with Women’s Health Australia, the 35-year-old actress and singer opened up about struggling with an eating disorder when she was 17. She had just broken out as the titular character of Lizzie McGuire, an ultra-popular Disney Channel original series that ran from 2001–2004 and was adapted into a feature film. But being on camera all the time caused Duff to scrutinize every inch of her body.
“Because of my career path, I can’t help but be like, ‘I am on camera and actresses are skinny,'” she told the magazine. “It was horrifying.”
Duff now has a much healthier relationship with her body, but it took years for her to cultivate that self-acceptance. She isn’t alone, either. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 9 percent of Americans — so, 28.8 million people — will develop an eating disorder at some point in their life. These complex and life-threatening disorders are characterized by dangerous eating habits, such as food restriction or binge-eating, that affect your physical body, emotions, and ability to function normally.
In a previous interview from May with the U.S. edition of Women’s Health, Duff said she didn’t truly accept her body until she became a mother. “I have just gained a lot of respect for my body,” she explained. “It’s taken me all of the places I need to go. It’s helped me build a beautiful family. I feel like the older I get, the more confident I get in my own skin.”
Indeed, Duff has very different priorities now than she did during her Disney Channel days — namely, her overall wellbeing, friendships, and family. She is married to Matthew Koma, a musician, and has three children: Luca, Banks, and Mae.
“[I’m] appreciating my health, doing activities that make me feel strong instead of just bettering the outside of my body,” she told Women’s Health Australia. “Spending time with people that make me feel good and share similar views on health and body positivity and getting enough sleep and balance in my diet.” Now that is what dreams are made of.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Over time, these disorders can be deadly.
Before you go, check out our favorite inspiring quotes about cultivating positive attitudes about food and bodies: