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May 18, 2016 07:20 AM

As a former college basketball star, Robin Roberts‘ identity was that of an athlete, with the body to match. But her two illnesses took a toll on her self-esteem.

“There are many times when my body failed me,” the Good Morning America anchor tells PEOPLE. “When I went through my last ailment, I was down to like 115 lbs., didn’t have any muscles whatsoever. I lost my butt, which was really very hard for me as a black woman, not to have my booty. I had to wear booty pops for awhile there.”

Although she jokes about the booty pops, her battle with myelodysplatic syndrome, or MDS, in 2012 was rough on Roberts.

“I jokingly say that, but I’ve always been someone who’s athletic, I’ve always taken a great deal of pride in being as healthy as I can.”

For more from Robin Roberts and our other bodies of the year, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Robin Roberts
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Now, four years later and conscious of her weakened immune system, Roberts had to change up her lifestyle to match.

“I do Pilates once a week, I work with a trainer,” Roberts says. “I have things like almond butter in my pantry now, blech. I love pasta, but now I’m eating chickpea pasta because I had to cut back on wheat.”

“And I’m Southern, we would fry water if we could, but it’s a change and I’ve accepted it. I know that if I take better care of my physical being, it’ll lessen the chances of the cancer returning.”

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It’s all a new approach to how she loves her body.

“It’s a little bit different when you’ve gone through health challenges, and your health has been taken from you,” Roberts says. “I know for myself, I look at my body differently. When you have been on the brink a couple of times, I make sure that my diet is better. I make sure that I exercise. Those things that I took for granted, I don’t take for granted anymore.”

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