For years, Kathy Bates has stood out on screen for the larger-than-life personalities in her famous roles.
But the Oscar-winning actress has completely changed her look in recent years, after two serious bouts of cancer forced her to change her lifestyle.
The American Horror Story star was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003, and underwent a double mastectomy to treat her breast cancer in 2012.
While Bates is cancer free today, the diseases left her with a lingering condition called lymphedema, which causes painful swelling in the arms and legs.
Bates, 70, now raises awareness for the common condition, and warns that it’s often overlooked, or mistaken for simply being overweight.
“It affects more people than ALS, MS, AIDS and Parkinson’s combined. Ten million Americans. But people just don’t know about it,” Bates told People, but some doctors still “think it’s cosmetic and not life-threatening.”
“Doctors spend 15 to 30 minutes on the entire lymphatic system in medical school, so if someone goes to their general practitioner with swollen limbs, pain and heaviness the doctor will have no idea what it is. So it goes undiagnosed and the disease progresses for years and gets worse and worse.”
As a way to fend off the worst symptoms of her condition, Bates set out to lose weight. The actress credits her niece’s support and “mindfulness” techniques for helping her shed more than 60 pounds.
“Mindfulness, just knowing when to push my plate away,” she explained to Us Weekly.
“My niece told me this little secret, I guess it’s no secret, it’s a biological thing, that at some point when you’re eating, you have this involuntary sigh and that’s really your brain and your stomach communicating that you’ve had enough.”
Experts who recommend “mindful” eating habits say the technique is about breaking bad, “mindless” habits that we adopt unconsciously. Say, for example, eating chips in front of the TV, snacking between meals when you’re really not hungry, or eating an entire sweet when you would have been satisfied with half.
Along with listening to her body, Bates says she avoided junk food and soda. But she warns fans not to expect instant results from changes to their diets.
“It took a few years,” she said. “I would say you have to be really patient… I don’t like the word willpower, but I like the word determination.”
While it wasn’t easy, Bates has no doubt her hard work is paying off.
“I have never been in such good health,” she told the magazine. “I just had a physical. I’m doing great… I feel like a completely different person. I can move, I can walk. I just wish I had done it years ago.”