Lily Collins's 6-Step Plan for Learning to Love Your Body

Amanda Montell
PHOTO:

Vanity Fair for Sundance

"There's no such thing as perfection. The sooner we realise that, the less pressure we put on ourselves, and the more freely we can live our lives."

This is Lily Collins's parting sentiment, a heartfelt conclusion to the whirlwind heart-to-heart we've just had on the phone for the last 45 minutes. Collins says this statement with such pleading sincerity that it forms a knot in my throat. On the surface, the actress and model seems to be the spitting image of perfection: She was born the daughter of legendary musician Phil Collins and went on to launch a successful performing career of her own, starring in movies like The Blind Side and Rules Don't Apply, which earned her a 2017 Golden Globe nominationShe has modelled for iconic brands like Teen Vogue and Glamour and secured a giant contract with Lancôme; not to mention, she is the brow icon of the century and overall one of Hollywood's most achingly beautiful young stars. 

But the 27-year-old's self-image hasn't always reflected these accomplishments. In a candid new essay collection, "Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me" (available today), Collins details her struggles with anorexia and bulimia, which developed during her tween years and continued to dominate her life until recently.

"I never had a problem eating whatever I wanted growing up in England or when I first moved to L.A.," she writes in the book. "No one made me feel self-conscious or made me doubt how good I looked. This is why it's hard for me to understand how I fell into such a deep trap years later—a trap I have slowly but surely been digging my way out of ever since." 

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, anorexia and bulimia are "complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes." In other words, there is no clear, singular trigger. Collins traces her body image issues back to the stress from her parents' divorce, the social anxieties of middle school, and the professional pressures of her budding career. It's clear from the book, and from our conversation, that Collins has put a great deal of work into understanding her mental and physical health and doing her best to improve it. 

Over the past few years, Collins has been able to fight her way out of the depths of her eating disorder. Admittedly, she still doesn't have the world's highest self-esteem—as she writes, "I still find myself looking through magazines and comparing myself to the photos, despite knowing the amount of Photoshop and tweaking they have been through. I'm still influenced and impacted by these images and by the things I read, including those same interviews about actresses hating the gym and eating whatever they eat. Even though I know full well their purpose is to create a certain image."

Collins tells me over the phone that her journey to self-acceptance hasn't been easy or linear, but it has saved her life. She seems devoutly appreciative of the many different people and efforts that have led to the happy, healthy, vibrant version of herself that I get to meet over the phone. In fact, Collins says that much of why she wrote this book was to let other people dealing with the same issues know that they're not alone. "[Recovery] is all about open conversation and communication, and the written word is the most amazing way to be able to do that," she says.

According to a 2014 study of body image conducted by psychologist Heather R. Gallivan, PsyD, at Park Nicollet Melrose Center, approximately 80% of American women are unhappy with their bodies. According to Collins, there are six keys to turning a person who hates their image into a person who loves themselves more and more every day. In her own words, here are Collins's secrets to self-love.

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