The Good Place actress was forced to reassess her health after the injury, removing herself from the modeling industry and the dangerous habits she had developed

Jameela Jamil
Credit: Jon Kopaloff/Getty

Jameela Jamil has opened up about how a “very intense” car accident had a roundabout way of saving her life.

The Good Place actress, 33, was 17 at the time and embroiled in the modeling industry she now speaks out against for promoting a life of disordered eating habits from a young age.

“I only modeled for a while and then I got hit by a car and ended up in a wheelchair, which probably actually saved my life,” she told Cosmopolitan. “Otherwise, I would probably still be a model with an eating disorder.

Jamil said that as a teenager in the business, she was instructed by agents and other models to smoke and engage in unhealthy practices to maintain an unrealistic physique.

Jameela Jamil
Jameela Jamil
| Credit: Craig Barritt/Getty

“I was encouraged to only eat red peppers or take a small bag of sweetener around with me so that whenever I felt like I was gonna faint, I would just have a little bit of sugar rather than eat any full meals,” she recalled.

Then, when she was involved in the car accident that “destroyed” her back — she was bedridden for about a year and used a wheelchair for six more months — she was forced to reassess her health.

“At that point, I had gained about 70 pounds on steroids, so I was ‘too big’ for modeling,” said Jamil, now thankful for the career-halting incident. “I also developed a sense of purpose to protect my body after that and stop starving myself.”

She added: “I still had an eating disorder mentality, but I stopped actively starving myself once I got better because I realized that my body was fragile and I was taking it for granted.”

Jameela Jamil
Jameela Jamil
| Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Jamil now is an advocate of body neutrality or body liberation, as opposed to body positivity. When she stopped by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in October, she said that movement was “not for me” because of its inherent discrimination based on size.

“I believe in just not thinking about your body, and I have the luxury of being able to do that because I’m not being constantly persecuted for my size,” she explained.

She has actually stopped looking at her body in the mirror altogether, Jamil previously told PEOPLE.

“The only time I look in the mirror is when I put on my eyeliner in the morning and when I take it off at night,” she says. “I’m not interested in my appearance. I still suffer from body dysmorphia so it can be very distracting for me. Doing that has helped me concentrate on progressing and doing things that enrich my life, like watching my career grow and my relationships grow.”

She added: “That’s what gives me a wonderful sense of self.”

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to