It Figures is Yahoo Life’s body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Growing up in front of the world wasn’t always easy for Hilary Duff, as the Lizzie McGuire alum recalls going through all of her “awkward years” in front of a camera.
“It’s funny, to an extent,” she tells Yahoo Life of the pictures and memes that exist of her at all ages across the internet. “And then there’s some days where I’m like, ‘Wow, that was a really hard time in my life.’ It almost hurts for me to look at that girl.”
While so many idolized and envied the life of the young star, the 35-year-old hasn’t been shy speaking out about the scrutiny that she faced as a public figure. “The magazines were mean and the press was mean,” she says.
The cruel remarks that were made about her body, specifically, led Duff to develop an eating disorder at 17 years old. She previously told Women’s Health that she was made to believe that “actresses are skinny,” and went to great lengths to make sure she had adhered to that beauty standard.
Today, she’s more focused on achieving health and happiness than any specific body ideal.
“I don’t know what’s real anymore. Everything’s so heavily edited and filtered,” she tells Yahoo Life. “You just have to experiment and find out what works for you and what feels good … Kind of be your own beauty icon.”
It’s a perspective that Duff partially credits to age. “As I get older, I’m more happy with who I am and how I look,” she says. “I care about being healthy, I care about feeling good in my clothes, but I don’t care about being tiny.”
She also acknowledges the role that motherhood has played in shifting her thoughts about body image.
“I’ve had three kids, I’m obsessed with them. I loved being able to grow them and give birth to them,” she says. “It did change my mindset to understand my body was like meant to do this and it’s changing. It just kind of forced me into a different zone.”
She’s now mindful about speaking positively about bodies and food as a parent. “Especially having girls, I’m so careful about what I say and the rules that we follow at home.”
Around all three of her children — son Luca Cruz, 11, who she shares with her ex-husband Mike Comrie, and two daughters, Banks Violet, 4, and Mae James, 2, with husband Matthew Koma — Duff preaches one thing: “We only have one body in this life and we have to take care of it.”
“We don’t deprive it,” Duff says. “And we keep balanced by taking our supplements or eating vegetables and protein and eating smoothies packed with good stuff,” noting her partnership with vitamin brand OLLY.
This doesn’t make her family immune to the insecurities that most people inevitably face. However, Duff says she’s prepared to have the necessary conversations.
“My daughter is four and she was looking in the mirror the other day, and she was like, ‘My tummy is big.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about? You’re the exact size that you’re supposed to be,'” Duff recalls. “Your belly is holding in all of your organs. You haven’t stretched out tall yet, you are exactly how you’re supposed to be.”
She certainly won’t shy away from sharing her own struggles in hopes that it helps them.
“I’m never gonna not tell them the truth about me and my childhood or my teenage years, because, you know, I don’t want them to put me on a pedestal,” she says. “I’ve had some really serious conversations with Luca about my life or things that I’ve gone through. And I think it’s just really important to be open with them, so they don’t feel alone.”
Sometimes, she wishes she could have offered that same support to her younger self.
“I wish I could just tell her, ‘Hey, it’s supposed to feel this way. It gets so much better,'” Duff says. “Keep your head up, keep your chin up and don’t grow up too fast.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please visit the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website at nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.
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