Jameela Jamil has long been open about the impact that diet culture and an eating disorder has had on her body image and mental health. In a new podcast episode with Demi Lovato, the actress and advocate delved deeper and shared some steps she's taken to "take back ownership of my body" and even heal her relationship with movement.
"I don’t have any full-length mirrors in my house, I wear predominantly baggy clothes," Jamil said on 4D with Demi Lovato. "Very occasionally I’ll wear something tight or revealing but it’s not because I’m trying to make a statement for anyone else."
The founder of the "I Weigh" movement went on to explain how her involvement in Hollywood has impacted the way that she's viewed herself through a lens of scrutiny from others.
"This industry, especially with young people, really scrutinizes us to within an inch of our lives," she continued. "It forces us to learn how to scrutinize ourselves and we become our own biggest enemy. So the baggy clothes for me, whether I’m working out or not, are just a way of me taking ownership back of my body and no longer making it a part of this industry to be able to scrutinize or judge me over and I can sit however I want and not worry about what anyone else is thinking about me. I’m just comfy."
When it comes to exercising — something that Jamil now also does while wearing oversized clothing — she shared a similar viewpoint, saying that she would "compulsively exercise" for the sake of physical results.
"After reaching my 20s I realized, oh I don’t have any control over myself. When I start exercising I use it to immediately see results. I look in the mirror while I’m exercising, I look in the mirror after, I get on the weighing scale the next day," she told Lovato. "I had such a problematic view of it and it was impossible for me to see it as anything I do for myself. It was always something I was doing for the approval of others. And I would not go to gyms because I felt like you had to turn up at the gym already looking amazing in like crop tops and tight leggings. So there were just so many different things making me feel otherized from the fitness world."
While Jamil maintains that the fitness industry has "pushed" many communities out, she opened up about a personal breakthrough that she had during quarantine when she started to view exercise as a means of bettering her mental health.
"During the pandemic, I started to fall apart. I was really struggling with my mental health. I wasn’t leaving my bed. We were all locked inside and going for walks and starting to find fun ways to exercise was the first way that I started to actually develop a good relationship with exercise," she said.
It was then that she realized that her previous "destructive" behavior was a result of exercising for the sake of vanity — a journey that comes with little results over longer periods of time and results in compulsive behavior — rather than exercising for mental health, which yields immediate results.
"You start to feel more in control of your life, you have dopamine rushes, you have endorphins going around your body. You feel less stress, you’re going to sleep better that night, you’re going to feel better and more in control," Jamil said. "So once I started to realize that I was like, ok fine, that's it, I’m going to re-enter the world of exercise, but this time only for my mind. No more tight clothes. All baggy clothes, baggy t-shirts, baggy tracksuits, no mirrors. I’m gonna have a delicious sugary snack throughout my exercise to motivate me to do those squats or to do those star jumps. I’m going to try to change the way that my community exercises."
And again for Jamil, that includes no mirrors.
"It's really hard to let go of that control," she said. "I'm free of looking at myself in the mirror all day."
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