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How Camila Mendes Stopped Fearing Carbs and Broke Her Dieting Addiciton

"There's nothing I won't talk about," says Camila Mendes, 24, who stars in the hit show Riverdale. "I'm open and up front. I don't play games."

Last fall the actor took to Instagram to share her struggles with an eating disorder, and earlier this year she announced that she was done with dieting. "It just felt so necessary for me to speak about those things," Camila says. "I realized that I have this platform, and young women and men who look up to me, and there is a tremendous power to do something positive with it. It was definitely a very vulnerable thing to put that out there to almost 12 million people on social media. But that’s who I am. That’s me being authentically myself."

The star, who now works with Project HEAL, a nonprofit that raises money to help cover treatment for those with eating disorders and offers recovery support services, is determined to keep using her voice for good. "As actors, yes, we bring joy to people. But for me, it's also about what I’m doing for the world, what I’m contributing on a larger scale," Camila says. She credits other strong women with setting a good example. "This body-positivity movement we’re having right now is so amazing, and it's helping me so much. I'm seeing all these people who I look up to, like Rihanna, open up about their weight fluctuations and loving themselves the way they are. That makes me love myself more too." (For example, Ashley Graham inspired her to stop obsessing over being skinny.)

Camila has some strategies for staying strong, focused, and happy. And they'll work for you too.

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Photo: Peggy Sirota

Make Time for What Matters

"Working out sets the tone for my day. It puts me immediately in a great mood and makes me feel as if I've done something for myself. I try a lot of different classes, but I always come back to yoga and Pilates. Those are the workouts that bring me joy. At this point in my life, exercise is the one time when I’m not working. My phone is in a locker, and it's just my trainer and me, or me in a class. I can completely focus and meditate in an active way. It’s about dedicating time to me and making myself stronger, healthier, and happier." (This 20-minute daily yoga flow is the perfect addition to your wellness routine.)

Face Fears Head-On

"I've struggled with bulimia. It happened a little bit in high school and again when I was in college. Then it came back when I started working in this industry with fittings all the time and watching myself on camera. I had such an emotional relationship with food and anxiety about everything I put into my body. I was so scared of carbs that I wouldn't let myself eat bread or rice ever. I’d go a week without eating them, then I would binge on them, and that would make me want to purge. If I ate a sweet, I would be like, Oh my God, I’m not going to eat for five hours now. I was always punishing myself. I was even anxious about healthy food: Did I eat too much of the avocado? Did I have too many fats for one day? I was consumed with the details of what I was eating, and I always felt as if I was doing something wrong." (Related: Camila Mendes Admits She Struggles to Love Her Belly (and She's Basically Speaking for Everyone.)

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Photo: Peggy Sirota

Ask for Help When You Need It

"About a year ago, I got to a point when I realized I needed to see someone. So I went to a therapist, and she recommended a nutritionist as well, and seeing both of them changed my life. So much of the anxiety I had about food went away when I started learning more about nutrition. My nutritionist completely cured my fear of carbs. She was like, 'You need a balanced amount of good, healthy carbs in your life. Have a piece of toast in the morning; have some quinoa at lunch. When you're eating a little of them all the time, you won’t have this crazy urge to binge. You won’t be scared of carbs anymore because you’re going to realize that eating them isn’t going to make you gain weight.' She also cured my addiction to dieting. I was always on some kind of weird diet, but I haven’t been on one since. I'm very proud of myself."

Find Inner Strength

"Despite it all, I'm pretty confident. I think it comes naturally in the sense that I'm Brazilian, and there's an outward confidence that the people there exude. The Brazilian women in my family all really love and respect themselves, and I think that kind of just transferred to me. My natural inclination of being a confident person helps me cope with the insecurities I have." (Here's how to boost your confidence in 5 easy steps.)

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Photo: Peggy Sirota

Stand Up to the Naysayers

"The voices in my head never completely go away. They're just way quieter now. Every once in a while I’ll look at myself in the mirror and think, Ugh, I don’t like the way that looks. But then I'll just drop it. I don’t let it consume me. I think it’s natural to judge or be critical of yourself. Everyone does it. But you can make the decision on the spot that you're going to conquer it. In those moments I'll look at myself and say, 'You're fine. You look good. This is your prime, so enjoy it.'"

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