How 'Shameless' Actress Emmy Rossum Overhauled Her Entire Wellness Philosophy

"The idea that stepping on a piece of metal is how you should define yourself? I don't think so!"

Emmy Rossum has strong opinions.

Take her feelings about weight, for instance. "The idea that stepping on a piece of metal is how you should define yourself? I don't think so!" says the actor, 32. Last summer, Emmy went on Instagram to express that sentiment to her millions of followers as part of the "I Weigh" movement, which aims to build body positivity.

"During my life, the scale has told me that I've gained and lost, but that piece of metal doesn't really know. Here's what I actually weigh," she posted, then listed her best qualities and achievements, including: "drive, kindness, 100+ hours of television, one happy marriage, animal rescuer." For the star, it was a no-brainer to speak out. "I think it's vital that we stop focusing on unimportant things, like a number, and start thinking of our real worth as what we've accomplished, as well as the things that make us unique and strong," Emmy says. "Your appearance is just one part of you. It doesn't determine who you are or what you're capable of."

She's just as decisive about her career: When Emmy made the sudden announcement that she was leaving Shameless, the critically acclaimed Showtime series that she has starred in for nine seasons (the second half of her final season on the show premieres on January 20), it seemed fitting that she did it on her own terms.

"I made 110 episodes playing the character of Fiona, and it's been an incredible journey," she says. "I've learned a lot about myself as a person and as an actor. I want to leave the show while I still love it, and I know the door is open to come back if that feels right. I'm also extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish off-screen, with my negotiation for equal pay [in 2016, Emmy fought successfully to be paid as much as her costar William H. Macy] and the effect that had on other women in the industry and in general."

Photo: David Slijper.

While leaving the cast she considers "family" is not easy, Emmy is excited about what lies ahead. "The way I look at it is that the end of one thing is the beginning of something else," she says."I couldn't be more thrilled to spend time writing, directing, and seeing what other characters I want to play. It's both scary and wonderful."

In the meantime, as she gears up for her next act, Emmy has been doing an internal audit and redefining what wellness means to her. Here are the five key rules she has learned about being healthier and happier.

Trust Your Body

"Last year I did an overhaul. I started listening to my body about what exercise and food make me feel good and how much sleep I really need. My relationship with exercise has always been a very healthy and committed one, mostly because it has helped me reduce stress and anxiety. But I've changed my workouts. I used to do a lot of intense cardio and high-intensity interval training, but I've scaled some of that back. I felt as if I was in a pattern of doing those things because I thought I was supposed to, not because they gave me joy, and I wanted workouts that made me feel more in tune with my body. So I started doing Pilates-type exercises, specifically a program called GST [Grace Somatomorphic Technique], which is stretching based. It feels so good. You get the intensity, but it's not like, Oh my God, how long do I have to do this?

I also realized that alcohol isn't a good thing for me. It's not as if it helps me de-stress. In fact, it actually causes me more anxiety the next day. Cutting back and saying I know I'm going to feel better if I don't have wine tonight has really been good for me."

My overall approach to food and movement now is holistic. I feel more centered and connected to myself. It's as if I'm living in the body that I'm supposed to have."

Photo: David Slijper.

Meal Prep Is the Best Therapy

"I love to cook. I find it incredibly relaxing. I've become a stress cooker, not a stress eater. I'll roast a bunch of carrots and make some fish and cauliflower rice, so I know what I'm putting in my body. That allows me to have a really good relationship with what I'm eating-avocados and healthy oils, good starches, and foods that are going to fuel me for the rest of my week.

It's also about tapping into the joy and sensuality in food. I've been allergic to gluten since I was a kid, but I can't exist without carbs. I like seeded bread and things that are whole-grain and gluten-free. I've learned how to bake in a Paleo way and eat food that sustains my blood sugar, gives me strength, makes me feel full, and tastes good."

Authenticity Is Everything

"As women, we get into a cycle of what I call ‘compare and despair,' thinking, If I just looked like her, I would be happy. I spent a lot of years wanting to look like the pictures of the girls I saw in magazines, and now I'm trying to love my individuality. I've been working on embracing my curly hair, for one thing. And I don't need makeup every day. We should own our uniqueness and be the healthiest, best version of ourselves we can be."

Photo: David Slijper.

Put In the Work

"I'm definitely a type A. I'm always overprepared. But I also ask for help when I need it-from my acting coach; my cinematography teacher; my husband, Sam. I think confidence comes from working really hard at something and knowing that you can be better at it today than you were yesterday. I just read an article that said ‘When you think about yourself a year ago, are you in a better position than you were then?' Well, the answer for me is definitely yes. I've accomplished a lot that I'm super proud of. I'm directing a project for Amazon. I'm married. I'm a good friend. I'm a better daughter than I've ever been. And I'm learning how to embrace vulnerability."

Stay Grounded

"Giving a voice to animals is incredibly important to Sam and me. I work with Best Friends Animal Society, which is the leader of the no-kill movement across America. And gorillas-Sam and I went to Rwanda for our honeymoon, and I made him hike into the mountains to see the gorillas, because that's been a dream of mine. It was such a moving experience that I joined the board of Gorilla Doctors, which cares for, protects, and provides medical attention to these amazing animals. I also work with Los Angeles Mission and do food serving at the homeless shelter downtown. That's something I'm passionate about.

I am truly blessed to be paid well for a job I love, and it means a lot to me to give back and be engaged in my community. It's pretty easy for actors to get lost in the bubble of special treatment. I think it's really important to rip yourself right out of that and plant your feet firmly on the ground, so you don't lose sight of the real world."

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