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

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  1. Embee says:

    Interesting read. Heigl is polarizing but I’ve always admired her bravery. And what she is saying about the inexplicable 20 lbs gain and the medical community’s response is consistent with my experience as well. My weight is coming off a bit but I’ve had to change my approach and focus on stress reduction, sleep and low impact exercise. And it happens slowly. So slowly lol

    • Emily says:

      Around 2021 I also gained 15lbs (I’m only 5’3) and doctors literally don’t care because I’m technically in a healthy weight range still. I’m on an anti-depressant which I’m sure doesn’t help. I’ve tried telling the doctor to look more closely at my thyroid tests because the numbers are nearly triple what they were for me pre-pregnancy and I get dismissed. I think a lot of women can relate. Doctors do not care about women’s hormones nor pain and how our bodies change as we age — we’re just told to suck it up.

      • AnneL says:

        Anti-depressants often make you gain weight. I was put on one and slowly put on 30 pounds. The doctor told me it probably wasn’t the medication, that I was just getting older and needed to eat less and exercise more. Then I went on line and found a huge number of people who had the exact experience as me on the same medication. We all gained about the same amount of weight, and when we expressed our concerns to our doctors, were dismissed.

      • FHMom says:

        I’m your height and I’ve been through this. Your TSH should not be above 4.5. Mine was always between 1.6 and 1.8. When it went up to 5.0, my doctor put me on a low level of thyroxine. It made a world of difference.
        Also, anti depressants will put weight on you. There are some that claim to be weight neutral, but that doesn’t take into consideration long term use. I’ve been on a few different anti depressants over the years. My weight would remain stabile until around the one year mark. Doctors don’t like to acknowledge this, but if you google it, there is a lot of info out there.

      • Coldbloodedjellydonut says:

        Your TSH should not be above THREE. Doctors always say 5, but they are full of crap. When they medicate you they want you between 1 & 2. It takes 20 years for the medical community to adopt new findings from studies and we’re getting close to that with the study that recommended 3.0 for TSH, so hopefully doctors will get on board (while acting like this is a new thing).

        Get tested for thyroid antibodies (thyroglobulin and peroxidase, don’t let them do just one). Hashimoto’s is very common and won’t always reflect in your TSH. Basically the immune system thinks your thyroid is a foreign body and tries to kill it. Your TSH will only sky rocket once your immune system has damaged your thyroid sufficiently.

        Also, postpartum depression can be linked to low thyroid function. Babies are basically little parasites (lovely as they are) and they will suck up all your body’s resources. My thyroid disease was already well established when I got pregnant and I had to be tested at least monthly (more frequently near the end). Sometimes women can benefit from some thyroid meds after giving birth but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long term thing (not sure what’s appropriate as I haven’t looked into it much).

        Also – because thyroid disease can be autoimmune, looking into food allergies is really important. Gluten, dairy, nightshades, etc. Do an elimination diet and see if you’re reacting to anything. It’s ideal to do this when you’re young, but definitely helps when you’re older.

      • Kate says:

        Find a different endocrinologist. When I started taking medication for thyroid my tsh was not crazy high but I was barely functioning I felt like I had the flu in terms of how tired my body felt. If yours is triple what it was before when you were presumably feeling okay, that’s absolutely something some people could feel (even if you were a 1.5 starting and now you’re a 4.5). Thankfully I have an endocrinologist friend who validated me when I was first tested and didn’t write me off like I know a lot of people are.

    • meli says:

      Increase protein, water, lift heavy.

      I will take this to my grave.

  2. Nic says:

    I saw a dietitian to lose 30 pounds I’d slowly gained over a five year period. Like KH notes above i tried exercising more, eating less, fasting etc etc. But what I learned was that I actually wasn’t eating enough, which seems very common for midlife women. Not enough protein, dairy or carbs. Eating carbs was hard at first because we live in such an anti-carb culture, and the other thing I learned was to eat three to five times a day combining fruit (morning), dairy, protein and carbs, and veg (lunch and dinner) at every meal. It freed me to eat and enjoy food and once my body adjusted the weight fell off and had stayed off, even with menopause.

    • Nx2 says:

      Nic: that is fantastic! I love your journey! We have such a diet culture for girls & women that we don’t even know how to eat anymore. My mom had me dieting as a child (!!!!) because she thought I should be her size (she was much smaller in height & weight), but it wasn’t called a diet, it was just “you don’t get to eat like your brothers”. So screwed up. Another thing is to drink a ton of water along with eating in a balanced real-food way – I used to eat out of thirst, not hunger and never realized that! (edited to add: by my comment, I’m def not promoting “weight loss” or diets, just being healthy!

      • Nic says:

        Awwww, NX2 I’m sorry you experienced that. Our culture around food and girls and women’s body images is so hard on us and it’s hard not to internalize it and turn the shame/blame inward. In this way its a good thing that Hollywood actors are starting to speak out and shift away from diet culture and ridiculous unhealthy expectations around our bodies. We should eat and enjoy food! It sounds like you are in a much better place and yes you are so right about drinking a lot of water that does really help! 😊

      • SquiddusMaximus says:

        I have a 16 mo. old daughter, and I’m already strategizing how to combat the Diet Industrial Complex and ease her into a healthy acceptance of her body, no matter what that looks like. Let me tell you, the Ozempic craze raises my hackles, because it’s going to make it that much more difficult to tear down the notion that thinness is the ideal and synonymous with health.

        As a super-muscular girl growing up in the 90’s, I had zero appreciation for what my body was capable of doing and instead fought constantly against it. Thank goodness we have more visible role models for strong women — I’m currently fangirling over Kay O’Brien — but who knows what the diet culture will come up with next.

  3. ShazBot says:

    I always try and remember this clip because man was this ever true, Moira


  4. Barrett says:

    I lost weight and started having fatigue and digestion issues. My doctors missed clues and then I had an endocrinologist actually make a medical error re diagnosis and reading of lab values. . I’m suing her now. I found out too late. I had thyroid issues and slowstart of type 1 diabetes ( diabetes can be a continuum in adulthood, many don t realize it can sometimes come on slow) My journey was seeing 16 doctor specialties. I was asked by one if maybe it wasn’t all just psychological ? And another told me to just accept I had a complicated body. I get concerned Heigl team is missing something as root cause.

    Healthcare is scattered and not integrated and woman are dismissed. I now have daily suffering and much shortened lifespans regardless of seeing 16 doctors over 12 years. Please all seek the best, never give up on root cause or sudden onset of odd symptoms. You know your body better than others.

    • FHMom says:

      Barrett, I’m sorry to hear this and I wish you improved health.

      To whomever needs to hear this: Always, ALWAYS get a copy of your test results. Doctors make mistakes. They miss things. A family member was diagnosed with cancer when they read their report and saw mention of a tumor. Somehow, the doctor skimmed the report or maybe never read it at all and never picked up on it. Luckily, not much time was lost because my family member read the report himself. A lot of health providers will give you online access to your medical records. It’s important to advocate for yourself and loved ones.

  5. Torttu says:

    Firefly Lane has really grown on me! It jumps around in time a bit too much and sometimes I can’t tell what year it’s supposed to be, but that’s ok. The young actors are fantastic. And Heigl and Chalk make such a nice team.

  6. Barrett says:

    Dr actually read lab value and misinterpreted it. My new endocrinologist noted value was a positive antibody reading and doctor did not follow algorithm for blood glucose challenge. I was very, very unwell at time. I now look back and realize when you are sick never go to a physician appointment alone. And always do second opinions. In addition positive relationships do help us live longer. My ex husband was very short w me and was verbally abusive about how he was tired of me feeling unwell. I went alone. I do note even when at other past appointments he was a bit overwhelmed or detached. Not sure he would help. Go w a connection who is logical and cares for you. A lot of this for me goes back to childhood, I have done lots of therapy to realize my parents brought me up to think I could never get sick and to people please or put others first. Very female model. Ladies heed my story for your own health. Healthcare is a mess. Family health history is critical, get second opinions. Don’t allow gaslighting.

  7. Kate says:

    Was frustrated she didn’t give her solution at first b/c I’m a curious gossip but I’m kind of glad she didn’t since so many people read celebrity profiles and think this one person’s diet or lifestyle or condition must apply to them too because they are pretty and on tv.

  8. Rackel says:

    I was hard on myself as a teen and 20s, because the people around me was hard on me. I wish I would’ve pulled a Camilla and just ignored them. Then pulled a megan and left their space. Lol.
    My life would be so much better right now.