Growing up, Silicon Valley‘s Amanda Crew was constantly praised for being skinny. So when she hit puberty at age 14 and her body started to change, she felt like she was losing her identity.
“From a young age I thought that being skinny was my value and my worth,” Crew, 31, tells PEOPLE. “So when I started going through puberty, I felt like I was no longer skinny and there was nothing special about me.”
Crew started limiting what she would eat, and by age 21, at the start of her acting career, she was deep into an eating disorder. She was 5’9″, but weighed “around 95 lbs. at most.”
And being in the film industry didn’t help.
“I was like, how could I have a healthy relationship with my body in an industry that’s so obsessed with how I look?” Crew says. “In my diseased mind I had to either keep restricting my food, or I was going to balloon.”
Along with restricting her diet, Crew says she had an obsession with exercise. “If I couldn’t work out it would send me into a panic.” The two disorders culminated in a broken knee during a hike.
“I tripped because I had nothing in my system,” she says. “I was physically forced to sit still for the first time, and I couldn’t deny the mess I was in anymore. It was like I woke up from a coma. I had this awakening of what I had done to myself.”
Friends reached out to help, and it was one woman, who had been in recovery from her own eating disorder that made the biggest difference.
“Because she had been through it I knew she wouldn’t have judgment,” Crew says. “It gave me the strength to even say that I had an eating disorder, because before then I had been in denial, even to myself.”
With “a lot of therapy” Crew worked to recover.
“Self-worth is a big thing, and realizing that I have so much more to offer than just my outside appearance helped me get to a place where I was more in touch with myself,” she says. “I’m very type-A, which is what got me to an eating disorder in the first place, but I made it my mission to get better. Which is not to say it was easy.”
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Looking back on that time now, ten years later, Crew wants to change the messaging for young girls.
“I think we need more diverse representation of role models,” she says. “It can’t just be this one super thin, blond-haired, blue-eyed white girl. We need more transparency and diversity. And the last thing we should be putting value on is our exterior. We need more focus for girls on our brains, and our creativity and our passion.”
She cites Aerie and Darling Media — with whom — as companies that are getting it right.
“There’s no photoshopping, and they have all types of models and ethnicities, and I think we need to be doing that and showing that there’s not one kind of person,” Crew says.
And she’s now in a much better place.
“I had basically wanted out of my body, and now I’m so grateful for my body, it does so much for me,” Crew says. “That’s not to say that I’m perfect — I still have days where I’m insecure — but they’re fewer and far between and less extreme. It all goes back to self-love, which is something I used to roll my eyes at, but it’s about putting value on more than your exterior.”
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