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Liv Tells - How I won my weight war

New Zealand Woman's Day, March 2007, Scans by Samantha

The jubilant Lord of the Rings star and mum reveals how she stopped dieting and got the body of her dreams

Liv Tyler can't wait to turn 30 this July. She has spent most of her adult life trying to find a rhythm and sense of place in the world. And she has finally succeeded. "It's hard to explain why, but I was insecure for a long time," admits Liv. "I worried about my height, I was worried and uncertain about my acting. I worried about how I was perceived by other people. "But being with my husband Royston [Langdon, rock musician] and becoming a mother has turned my life around. I feel very secure and together now. "I have the confidence that comes with taking care of my man and our child that has taught me not to worry any more - well, maybe I still worry a little bit!"

Not that she needs to, as Liv is now looking better than ever and is about to make her return to the big screen in Reign Over Me. It's Liv's first serious film role since she gave birth to son Milo in December 2004, and is a touching drama starring Adam Sandler as a man whose life has been shattered by the loss of his wife and children in one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Here Liv talks about her happy marriage, motherhood and conquering her weight demons.

You look amazing! What's your secret, Liv?
I've never looked this thin in my life and I'm kind of shocked. And it came at a time when I really convinced myself to stop freaking out about my weight. Then I did this movie and I guess I was pretty concentrated because I knew I had to lose about 4.5kg for the role. My body just reacted very well to all the fish and vegetables I was eating. I'm down to a size 6 [NZ size 10] and I'm able to wear all these incredible dresses that I haven't worn in five or six years.

Do you feel good?
It does feel good, even though I think women have to get away from the notion of defining ourselves with our bodies or how slim we are. We can look great at size 6 or 10 or 14. As long as we're healthy and feel good about ourselves.

You're often vocal about dieting and urging other women not to focus so much on appearance.
It's an individual decision, but I've learnt that, for myself, I don't want to worry about my weight any more. In one sense, I have to be in shape for my work or when I'm doing a photo shoot for a magazine every once in a while. After I gave birth, I didn't want to torture myself by hiring a trainer and wanting to lose all the weight I gained as fast as possible. I don't think it's necessary or even healthy to push yourself too much right away. The first few weeks and months of motherhood are such a beautiful time and so why should women feel all this terrible pressure of getting their shape back so fast? So I took my time and now I'm in probably the best shape of my life and I don't feel like I'm dieting or struggling any more. It's actually a very liberating feeling.

Do you watch what you eat?
Yes, I do, but it's a positive kind of discipline. I know the kinds of foods which make me feel better and don't make feel full or fat the next day. So it's more of a natural process than something that feels forced on me or like this burden that I have to live with. I eat healthily and try to have more meals and smaller portions.

What advice do you have for other women?
I can only speak from my own experience and perspective, but I think finding the right foods and the right kind of rhythm to your life is important. I try to stay active. I like walking and I need to do that because I hate working out. I don't like going to the gym and I know I'm not alone in that feeling. I've kind of figured out what I have to do to feel good and not worry about it at the same time. Be yourself, have a good time and enjoy your life.

Was it hard for you to deal with all the attention to your looks?
It was. I always felt awkward about my appearance. More about being very tall and gangly, and always feeling like I stuck out. That makes you very shy, and when you're a teenager all you want to do is fit in and not be noticed. So obviously that's a contradiction when you become an actor and your profession involves being noticed and being evaluated on the basis of your appearance as much, or more, than your talent. All those things made me feel very self-conscious, a little afraid of everything.

And now, how do you feel?
I feel more womanly now. I've taken more responsibility for everything in my life. I face up to things now and don't let myself feel overwhelmed any more. It's a really odd thing to find out that the world is a lot easier to deal with when you just go out there and be very bold in how you approach things. Everything just seems really good now and it's like all those silly anxieties, which sometimes play games with your head, have just disappeared. It's part of growing up and I think my twenties have been all about figuring out how I fit in, and now I feel I do.

How does being a mother play a role in that process?
It's been a huge part of my evolution. I wasn't sure how I would react to being a mother and taking care of Milo and being there for him. i don't think you can really know in advance what it's like to be a mother or how you're going to react until you actually experience it. For me, I fell very naturally into the role and it's been a beautiful and important step for me. I've seen that I can handle the responsibility and be a good mother, and it's a very comforting state of mind just knowing that you're not a mess and that you can organise your life and help your child adapt to the world.

Do you feel those contradictions that women face - balancing a career with being a mother?
I don't see it as a contradiction at all. I took a year off after Milo was born, and during that time I was able to do a lot of serious thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I even considered giving up acting and just moving to the country, like my mother did, and just relax and have lots of babies. I kind of always knew deep down, though, that I needed to get back to work at some point, and that acting was a very fulfilling and vital part of my world. I know that I haven't really tapped into certain emotional and psychological sides of myself when it comes to my work. I was blocking myself in many ways just out of fear and insecurity. Now I have the attitude of, "Hey, bring it on!" I want to play those difficult roles that I probably wasn't ready for three or four years ago.

How does it feel to be getting back into your acting career?
I'm happy with the way things are going. I loved working on Reign Over Me with Adam Sandler and I've done another film [The Strangers] that is probably the most difficult role of my life... It's taken me a while to feel like I know where I'm going and believe in myself and the choices I've been making. But being a mother and taking on the responsibility of caring for my own child has given my a lot more perspective and grounding.

Did any lack of grounding come from being a rock star's daughter?
No, strangely enough I grew up totally unaware of that side of my mother's life. Even though we had a lot of musician stopping by, like Mick Jagger, I was just an average girl growing up in Portland, Maine, who happened to have this connection to the music world. My insecurities stemmed from my appearance and first trying to get some work as a model and then not being very happy with that kind of world, and then becoming an actress and still not knowing whether I was good at that.

What was it like working with Adam Sandler?
It was very emotional for me to watch Adam work. I'd known him for his comedy films and to see him play this very deep, very touching character, a man who has lost his family in 9/11, was a revelation. He blew everyone away on the set and I was just amazed.

What rapport did you two have?
Oh, it was great! Adam's very funny, a little quieter than you might expect, and very gentle and caring in how he speaks to you. He has a lot of soul and sensitivity and this film shows a very fragile emotional side that I think is going to surprise a lot of his fans.

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