It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Sadie Robertson Huff is no stranger to being in the spotlight, after starring in the hit A&E reality series Duck Dynasty alongside her family at just 14 years old. But after a decade in the public eye, the 24-year-old is reflecting on the lessons that she's learned from growing up in front of the world and becoming a celebrity and influencer in her own right. Most importantly, she's recalling the challenges she's faced when it comes to self-acceptance.
"Being on camera, in general, can definitely make you be pretty nitpicky on what your body looks like because you see yourself on camera so much and people comment on your body so much that you're hyper-aware of what it looks like," Huff tells Yahoo Life when discussing her early days as a reality star.
Although Huff was an impressionable age at the time, she didn't feel pressure from the show's audience when it came to her looks and the way that she was perceived. As she went on to compete on Dancing With the Stars in 2014, however, she was suddenly placed on a different type of pedestal.
"My body just whipped into shape very fast. Everyone started noticing that my body looked good, I guess, and commenting on that," she says, noting that it was a result of the hard work she was putting into her rehearsals and performances. But eventually, she became dependent on external validation.
"I think that that happens to a lot of people. I think when people make comments on people like, 'You're in incredible shape' or 'You look so good,' they mean it out of good intention. But sometimes if you're not in a healthy spot, you can take that as a pressure to maintain it," she says. "It led me down some very unhealthy patterns when it came to what I ate, what I thought about my body."
Huff detailed the extent of her eating disorder and her issues with negative body image in a 2017 blog post on her website Live Original where she wrote about the challenges she faced daily while looking at herself on television, in photos or even in the mirror.
"It was like I was looking in a magic mirror, you know, those ones that distort the image? Except it was my mind changing what I saw," she wrote. "My thoughts instantly went to the imperfections. The blemishes. The flaws. At least five times a day, I would wrap my hands around my thighs, making sure they hadn’t grown beyond what I could reach. I knew each little calorie that was in every bite of food I took. I talked about food all of the time."
She then felt conflicted about how her own behavior had become the opposite of the authenticity she had preached to others.
"During this time I helped lead others into victory over their battles – but little did they know, I was staying behind on the battlefield," her blog post read.
What ultimately saved Huff was her faith.
"Whenever I was struggling with an eating disorder, I leaned on the words that Jesus says that actually I am loved and that I'm not too far gone," she tells Yahoo Life, "and not only can I forgive other people but I can forgive myself and move on."
Now, in her latest book titled Who Are You Following: Pursuing Jesus in a Social Media Obsessed World, Huff explores the root of the very challenges that she faced, noting how easy it has become to compare ourselves to one another in the digital era. After redefining her relationship with her faith and ultimately herself, she's learned to maintain her self-worth despite the noise and influence of social media.
"I don't go on social media needing anything from anyone. I can get 200 positive comments but the 10 negative are the ones that stick out, you know? And you have to know who you are so those don't destroy you," she says.
Huff's experience with pregnancy also provided her with the opportunity to embrace the ways that her body was changing, instead of trying to control it.
"The gift of pregnancy is such a miracle and I was just so blown away by the fact that that was happening inside of me that I don't even think I had time to think about what it looked like," she explains. "Perspective can kill you or perspective can make you. I threw up every single day from week 7 to week 24. It's not like I had this perfect pregnancy, but at the end of the day, gratitude defeats many feelings of fear and many feelings of insecurity that you might have."
And although people continue to judge and criticize the way that she presents her life with husband Christian Huff and their daughter Honey on social media, becoming a mom has given Huff a new sense of purpose that allows her to remain positive about herself, her body and what she's teaching her baby girl.
"She's my greatest inspiration when it comes to all things because I just know that if we don't make a change in our world, then it will be no different for her, it will be harder for her," Huff says. "I am just so thankful that I have a platform and that I'm able to hopefully create some change in the world."
–Video produced by Katarina Vasquez
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