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Renée Zellweger to PEOPLE: 'I'm Glad Folks Think I Look Different'

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Renée Zellweger has responded to Internet chatter about her appearance. In an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, the Oscar winner says she looks different because she is healthier and happier than ever – and she’s fine with people taking notice.

“I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows,” Zellweger, 45, says of the attention she received after an appearance at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards in Beverly Hills on Monday.

Calling the conversation about her appearance “silly,” she says she is choosing to address it because “it seems the folks who come digging around for some nefarious truth which doesn’t exist won’t get off my porch until I answer the door.”

“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy,” Zellweger continues. “For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things.”

RELATED: Ren e Zellweger Returns to the Red Carpet with a New Look (PHOTO)

That healthier, slower-paced lifestyle – and her happy relationship with boyfriend Doyle Bramhall – helped her turn a corner. “I did work that allows for being still, making a home, loving someone, learning new things, growing as a creative person and finally growing into myself,” she says.

Renamp#233;e Zellweger (left) and Nanci Ryder at the Walk to Defeat ALS in Los Angeles
And if some people don’t recognize the new Renée Zellweger, one thing they should understand is she’s comfortable in her own skin.

“People don’t know me in my 40s,” says Zellweger, who prefers to lead a quiet life with Bramhall and a close circle of friends. Recently, she pitched in to help her pal and longtime publicist, Nanci Ryder, who is battling ALS, at the ALS Association Golden West Chapter’s annual Walk to Defeat ALS in Los Angeles.

“People don’t know me [as] healthy for a while,” says Zellweger. “Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.”

Reese Witherspoon (left) and Renamp#233;e Zellweger at the Walk to Defeat ALS in Los Angeles

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Renée Zellweger: Her Changing Looks!