Dolly Parton Gets Candid About Her 'Up and Down' Weight: 'I'm a Hog at Heart'

"You don't have to look like a supermodel. We need to be accepting of ourselves in how we are," says Parton

Even at 72 years old, Dolly Parton has one of the most enviable physiques in Hollywood.

But the country legend — who sat down exclusively with PEOPLE for its latest cover story — says she has struggled throughout her life when it comes to her body image.

“I’m a hog at heart. I’ve been up and down with my weight through the years, so I can definitely relate to that,” says Parton, who wrote six new songs off the soundtrack of the upcoming Netflix film Dumplin’, which tells the story of an overweight teenage girl inspired by the “Jolene” singer.

Parton has inspired plenty of women through her storied career with her sass and confidence, and with her latest project the entertainer hopes to continue making a difference in the world.

“[This movie] shows that you don’t have to be physically beautiful,” she says. “You don’t have to look like a supermodel. I really worry a lot about young girls today because they think they have to look like the models or the people on television. We need to be accepting of ourselves in how we are.”

Dolly Parton People cover

For more on Dolly Parton’s fascinating life and all about her decades-long marriage to Carl Thomas Dean, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Though she tries to keep to a “low carb diet” during the work week, Parton isn’t afraid to indulge in her favorite Southern dishes on the weekends.

“I’ll make gravy and biscuits and fried sausage or fried spam. My husband loves my cooking, so I cook for him,” she says about her husband of 52 years, Carl Thomas Dean. “I really cook just old Southern food.”

When Parton is missing “Mama” — her mom Avie Lee who died in 2003 — she rustles up some of her favorite recipes from her childhood.

“If I think of Mama, then I usually cook what she used to cook that we loved so good,” says Parton. “Mama used to make, it’s like chocolate pudding, really, but you put it in the skillet with flour and sugar and milk and you just make a pudding. Mama used to put it with biscuits. Mama’s gone now, but she’s not gone in our memory and in our cooking.”

ROLLOUT Dolly Parton RetouchedCredit: Art Streiber
Art Streiber

The star is being honored next year ahead of the Grammy Awards as Musicares’ 2019 Person of the Year, and Leon Bridges, Lauren Daigle, Norah Jones, Shawn Mendes, P!nk, Mark Ronson and Chris Stapleton are set to perform at the annual tribute.

Looking back on her career and ahead to the future, Parton says she simply hopes to make as lasting of an impact on her fans as her mother made on her.

“When I was younger, I used to wonder what my life would be like when I was older, how people would see me, ’cause I always wanted to do something to touch people,” says Parton. “I wanted to uplift mankind and glorify God. It’s very touching to me to see that something I’ve done has been an inspiration.”

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