Hayden Panettiere opens up about body issues in Women’s Health

Michael Krumboltz
The Juice
September 18, 2012

Hayden Panettiere, star of TV's "Heroes" and the upcoming "Nashville" series, opened up to Women's Health about how she stays at peace with her body image — not an easy thing in Hollywood.Panettiere told the magazine that at age 16, she saw a picture of herself in a tabloid. The image, with the word "cellulite" written above it, had a strong effect on the young actress, now 23.

"I was mortified," she said. "It gave me such body dysmorphia for so long. But I remember reminding myself that beauty is an opinion, not a fact. And it has always made me feel better."

Body dysmorphia, also known as "perceived ugliness," is a type of mental illness where a person is fixated on a perceived flaw in their appearance. A page from the Mayo Clinic explains that a person with the disorder feels intense shame and seeks to avoid being seen. Sarah Michelle Gellar has also battled the disorder. "I totally have body dysmorphic disorder. I think most women do," Gellar said in 2011. "I just have to remember that I'm human, and I'm a mom. Being a parent changes the vanity at least a little bit." Many have speculated that the late Michael Jackson also suffered from a severe form of it. His mother told Oprah Winfrey that he was "addicted" to plastic surgery.

Panettiere remarks, "People can tell when you're happy with being you and when you're not. It's only cheesy because it's true. As I've gotten older and grown into my body, I've started realizing that the way you carry yourself and that light coming out of your eyes are the most attractive things about you."

The star is open about the fact that there is no magic formula for staying in shape and notes that she tries to do exercises like swimming and hiking that incorporate fun. "Treading water for 10 minutes is a great workout," she said. Panettiere says eating healthy is a "constant battle" but she doesn't eat like a bird. "I'm a huge pasta fan. That's my splurge right there."

She also takes the stairs whenever she can. "My best friend, Amy, has an elevator phobia, so we always take the stairs. We will walk 12 flights. It's less embarrassing than getting into an elevator with her."

When asked about her upcoming show "Nashville," Panettiere said that she can relate to her character, country star Juliette Barnes. "I feel like there are a lot of things I can relate to, in regards to my own personal life, being a young girl growing up in the spotlight and dealing with those troubles, everything being out in the open. A lot of the character, I've pulled from personal experience."

While obviously a successful actress, Panettiere has another passion, too: animals. "I'd love to work at a wildlife reservation with the babies," she said.

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