In a blog for Women’s Health, the former beauty queen, 39, says she never had issues with body image before being insulted by the presidential candidate.
“Growing up, body image was something I never thought about,” she writes. “My family told me I was beautiful, powerful and smart. It was a very positive environment to grow up in. Before entering beauty pageants I never had any concerns about my weight.”
Machado — who grew up in Venezuela — began competing in pageants at 16, and says she never considered plastic surgery or extreme diets to alter her looks like the other contestants did.
“At that time, I was really happy with myself, and I never once thought that I needed to have surgery to win competitions,” she says. “I didn’t follow any strange diet plans, either. I just ate healthy food, exercised and danced.”
Machado won Miss Universe in 1996 at the age of 18, and was a size 0 at the time thanks to her healthy eating habits and commitment to working out. After winning, Machado says she gained 15 lbs. because of her travel schedule, work obligations, changes to her diet and lack of sleep. She went up to a size 6.
“Even after gaining weight, I didn’t see myself as fat,” she says. “Gaining 15 lbs. when you’re a size 0 doesn’t suddenly make you massive. When Mr. Trump called me ‘Miss Piggy,’ ‘Miss Housekeeping’ and an ‘eating machine,’ it was horrible for me. It made me feel awful to be insulted that way by him.”
Machado says she still doesn’t understand why Trump made the body-shaming comments so publicly.
“I don’t know why he did it; maybe it was a publicity stunt,” she continues. “It was a terrible blow to my self-esteem because his comments were so public and it felt like everyone was pointing fingers at me. I’d never faced anything like that before. I didn’t feel like it was fair for him to call me those names because of 15 lbs.”
After completing her Miss Universe reign, Machado says Trump’s comments still stuck with her, and led her to develop anorexia and bulimia.
“Luckily, I was able to recover with help from my mother and the rest of my family,” she says. “Just as they did when I was growing up, my family gave me so much positive feedback about who I am as a person. That reassurance, along with therapy, helped me overcome my disorders.”
“It took time, but I learned to feel positive about myself and regain my self-esteem,” she continues. “I began focusing on working out to be strong, healthy, and feel good — not to lose weight.”
WATCH: Donald Trump on Miss Universe Winner Alicia Machado: ‘She Gained a Massive Amount of Weight’
In 2005, Machado posed for Playboy as “part of my healing process.”
“In that moment I finally got rid of all that bulls— that was in my head,” write Machado. “I was healthy again in my body and my mind, and I reclaimed my self-esteem. It was an amazing experience for me and I’m so proud of my appearance in that magazine. I loved doing it!”
Machado sent an autographed copy of her Playboy cover to Trump.
“I decided to send that magazine to Mr. Trump to show him that he had not broken me,” she says. “I signed it, ‘This is for you. This is your Miss Piggy. This is your Miss Housekeeping.’ It felt good to do that.”
Now, Machado is focused on maintaining a healthy body image and making sure her daughter feels positive about herself as well.
“I have a beautiful daughter who I need to be a good role model for,” she says. “I don’t want her to see me taking pills or following crazy fad diets or other stupid things to achieve the ‘perfect shape.'”
Machado says she is supporting Hillary Clinton, because she feels having Clinton as president will help other women become successful as well.
“I believe in her plan for the future of this country,” she writes. “This beautiful country is now my home, and with Hillary as president these women can get the help they need to succeed and be healthy and happy.”