'Abbott Elementary' star Lisa Ann Walter explains why she officially stopped trying to lose 10 pounds: 'It's unsustainable'

Lisa Ann Walter talks body image and becoming a fashion icon. (Photo: Getty Images)
Lisa Ann Walter talks body image and becoming a fashion icon. (Photo: Getty Images)

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.

Abbott Elementary star Lisa Ann Walter is happy to say goodbye to her recurring New Year’s Resolution.

“I made a purposeful resolution, that I was going to stop trying to lose the 10 pounds that I'd always been trying to lose since I was 14,” the star tells Yahoo Life. “I'm not going to worry about the number on the scale.”

These days, the actress, who is currently working with Fiber One on its “Fall Off Forgiveness” sweepstakes, prefers giving herself grace and moving her body in a way that makes her feel good. She created the competition show Dance Your Ass Off, which ran for two seasons from 2009 to 2010, because for her, dancing was far more fun than running when it came to working out. Now, she admits to "doing some arm stuff" so she feels confident in her red carpet looks — but she no longer feels the pressure she did as a younger woman to adhere to unrealistic body image standards.

"When I was young, it was the Charlie's Angels look," she explains. "We've gone through periods where it was that 'heroin chic' look, and then there was the period that came out with the Kardashians, which was my figure naturally growing up that they shamed me for … and I still had an eating disorder, because it wasn't skinny enough."

Of her time spent dieting, she adds, “When you go into that all-or-nothing kind of mentality, there needs to be a perfect number on that scale that you allow yourself to be. It's false. It doesn't work. It's unsustainable. It's a recipe for disaster. We all need to get much more realistic about the healthy version of the body that we are meant to have.”

On the set of Abbott Elementary, Walter says she can always count on co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph to shut down any negative body image talk.

“She really embraces what she looks like now. She never says, ‘I wish I looked like I did when I was younger.’ I’ve never heard anything like that come out of her mouth,” Walter says. “She is very vocal about loving herself. So, when I turn around and say a smart comment about my shape, or, ‘Oh, maybe if I could just fit in that,’ she’ll just say, ‘Girl, nope. You need to love yourself.’”

Someone else in Walter’s corner was actually her onscreen enemy: Elaine Hendrix, who costarred with her in 1998's The Parent Trap as the young fiancée determined to ship the twins (played by Lindsay Lohan doing double duty) off to boarding school. Walter brought Hendrix, her friend of more than two decades, as her date to the SAG Awards in February. But while Hendrix’s Parent Trap character was the glamorous one at the time, it’s Walter who has become a millennial's fashion icon, thanks to her role of the denim shirt-loving Chessie.

“In that role in that movie, they purposely put me in jeans that just went to my ankle — like mom jeans — and looser shirts and a big overshirt. It’s the iconic Chessy outfit: khakis, and a big denim shirt,” she says of the nanny’s signature style. (She recently sported a denim shirt on Abbott as a nod to her character.)

In fact, Walter regularly reposts photos of fans dressing in their best Chessy style. She thinks it’s one way that this generation is embracing people of all kinds of shapes as fashion inspirations.

"People now dress like that on purpose," says Walter. "They're like, ‘You're my fashion icon.’”

Walter notes that there's a place to celebrate women of all body types as fashion icons, whether you prefer Hendrix's glam Meredith Blake look or Chessy's more laid-back attire.

“I think the younger generations are much smarter about not judging a woman because of [their body type,]” she explains. “Elaine…was a dancer, she's lean and six inches taller than me. That's how her body is supposed to look. And my body is supposed to look curvy.”

Mom jeans may be having a fashion moment, but Walter says getting glammed up for a red carpet event does make her feel a little bit more confident. She is keenly aware, however, that it takes a team of professionals to cultivate that look.

“Women at home are comparing themselves to that [are wearing] $180 in undergarments — undergarments that ain't messing around, sometimes with two people pulling the strings in the back,” she explains. “It takes a stylist, it takes hair and makeup, the clothes themselves…you’re talking three grand.”

For people looking at those red carpet photos, she says it’s simply “not a fair comparison.”

“It certainly helps when you see those pictures and go, ‘Okay, I cleaned up good,’" she says. “But you know, I like how I look on Abbott, too — and that’s much more natural.”

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