May 15, 2018 12:13 PM

Zoë Saldana has learned that there’s a big difference between extreme dieting and simply following a healthy lifestyle.

The 39-year-old actress opened up to Women’s Health about her relationship with food, admitting that she fell victim to the belief that having a fit body would lead to greater accomplishments in other areas of her life.

“When I was younger, I was more strict,” she said of her diet. “I felt I needed to control that part of my life in order to feel I was going to be successful at something — because we often equate success with our physical beauty. It’s so f— up!”

Although Saldana usually goes for gluten-free and organic options in her kitchen, she’s no stranger to indulging in a great Italian dish.

The Guardians of the Galaxy star also pulls from her experience as a ballet dancer to stay in tune with her body.

“I love having that kind of intimacy with my body and getting my body to do things I never thought I could do,” she explained.


Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana for Women's Health

And when she’s not getting in her exercise with stunts on the movie set — Saldana is no stranger to feats like martial arts, archery and horseback riding — and she notes the importance of yoga in her life.

“I often take for granted how helpful stretching and breathing exercises are,” the star shared. “Yoga reminds me to breathe and slow down.”

RELATED VIDEO: Zoë Saldana’s Three Adorable Boys Attend Walk of Fame Ceremony: ‘They Were on Their Best Behavior!’

Then there’s the workout that comes being a mother to three sons: 3-year-old twins Cy and Bowie and 1-year-old Zen.

“My boys are a constant source of strength for me,” Saldana said. “They keep me on my toes, reminding me how much I still have to learn and grow as a person.”

Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana

Saldana told SHAPE last year that she focuses on eating healthy when she can’t hit the gym.

“I can’t work out regularly, so I compensate by eating a lot healthier than I might otherwise,” she told the magazine. “Once you have relatively healthy eating habits, your workout can become playing with your kids, strolling around the neighborhood, playing airplane or just changing diapers.”

And she doesn’t worry about her body fitting any specific image.

“If we could design ourselves, we’d all be perfect. But we can’t, so why be unhappy about it?” Saldana said. “I’ve never wanted different hair or my body any other shape. And I’ve never thought of a person as ugly unless they opened their mouth and their heart was full of venom.”

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