Katherine Heigl on her body image: ‘I can’t believe how mean I was to myself’

Yahoo Life has a series called “It Figures,” in which influential figures discuss body image. Katherine Heigl is in “Firefly Lane” on Netflix and the second half of its final season premiered a few days ago. Katherine spoke to Yahoo for its series and talked about her past body image and how it’s evolved to present day. She talks about how negatively she looked at herself earlier in her career and says something many people will find familiar: that when she looks back at that time now she can’t believe how she perceived herself compared to how she actually looked. And she talks about her view of her body in present day and her approach toward her body and aging.

Katherine Heigl made her film debut decades ago, kickstarting a massively successful career on-screen — most notably as the “it” girl for rom-coms of the early 2000s. Looking back, one of her biggest regrets is how she treated her body.

“I can’t believe how mean I was to myself. It almost makes me want to cry because it breaks my heart,” the Firefly Lane actress tells Yahoo Life. “I was so f***ing mean. And I said the most awful things to myself and I was so hard on my body.”

The 44-year-old recalls that she “hated” the way she looked at the time and would often compare herself to those around her. “I always felt I was like, so much bigger and heavier than everybody else,” she says.

[The negative self-talk is] something that Heigl is cognizant of as her figure evolves. However, getting older has presented new challenges to her experience with body acceptance.

“February or so [in 2021], I started inexplicably gaining weight, like a lot of weight, like I think I put on 20 pounds. And I couldn’t figure it out. Everything I had always done in the past wasn’t working,” she says, noting that she returned to old habits. “I restricted, I restricted, I restricted, I started working out more, working out more, working out more, giving up everything that I like and literally not losing a pound. Nothing budged.”

She went on to say that she was “intermittent fasting,” which she likens to “starving yourself for 16 hours a day.” When she brought her concerns to doctors, Heigl felt dismissed.

“I started going to doctors and a lot of just like regular general practitioners, ob-gyns [told me], ‘Oh, you know, just exercise more and restrict calories.’ And I’d go, ‘I am doing those things. I’m down to 1,200 calories a day. Any lower and I’m gonna pass out.’ And they’d be like, ‘Oh, well, you know, this is just kind of part of getting older.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’”

Heigl explains that she’s learned to ask herself questions about how she’s feeling in her body in an attempt to remain grounded and focused on her health, rather than her appearance.

“‘Katie, if you weren’t in front of camera, would you care? Would you care about your weight?’” she asks. “The answer was yes, I would care. Because I don’t feel well. And I’m tired and I have no energy and I’m moody as hell. My body doesn’t feel like my own.”

Most importantly, she wanted to be given the opportunity to address the weight gain “in a healthy way,” she says. “It can be done holistically, it can be done mindfully, you know. But this idea like, either live with it or stop eating just really pissed me off.”

As she’s found the means to approach her body in a more mindful way, she’s attempted to apply the same mindset to other areas of her life. The difficult part is coming to terms with how she wants to see herself age versus what others might expect of her.

“I’m not against anybody doing whatever they feel they need to to feel their best, to wake up in the morning and have self-confidence and feel whatever best that is for them. It’s so individual and so personal,” she explains. “I want people to understand I am in the public eye. I made a choice to be. I feel it is part of my job to look my very best, within reason. But if I weren’t in the public eye, I still think I would want to look and feel my best for my age, within reason.”

And she wants to be as transparent as she can be as a person in the spotlight going through it.

“I get a little tired of the idea that like actresses just have genetically superior DNA. Maybe some do, I don’t know. But I know I have made choices to maintain, as one will. I also have made choices not to go too far because it’s not been worth it to me,” she says. “I don’t want to change my face, and I’m not interested in looking 25 anymore. That was a nice time, it has passed.”

[From Yahoo Life]

Katherine specifically references re-watching “The Ugly Truth,” as the project where she was shocked at how great she looked then compared to what she thought at the time. But I just kept thinking of that scene in “Knocked Up” when she gets the promotion and they tell her to lose weight in a roundabout way because they can’t legally tell her to do so. I also remember a time when she was lauded for being a more “healthy weight” compared to some of her medical drama costars, but even if people thought they were being positive, it probably felt different to her. I thought it was interesting that she talked about her recent 20-pound weight gain and being dismissed by doctors, but never really talked about whether she found a solution or just learned to accept it. I think her pivoting to talking about people doing what they need to feel their best indicates the former. I do like that she hit back against the idea that “actresses just have genetically superior DNA.” So many promote that idea and it’s infuriating.

Photos credit: Vince Flores/Avalon and Netflix/Firefly Lane

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