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Chrissy Metz Explains How Kate's Body-Image Journey on This Is Us Shaped Her Own

"If you don’t love your body for what it looks like today, you’re not 'gonna ever get to the place you want to be," Metz says.

By Christopher Rosa
This Is Us 609 Chrissy Metz

This Is Us Season 6, Episode 9 was a tough one for Kate (Chrissy Metz). She visited Toby (Chris Sullivan) in San Francisco, and everything that went wrong, well, did. They didn't see eye to eye on what to do with their time; Kate felt out of place at a party for Toby's boss; and worst of all, they had to confront the fact that their relationship just isn't working anymore. Without warning, Toby sprung on Kate the prospect of her and the kids moving to San Francisco—a conversation she clearly wasn't ready to have that weekend. And to top it off: She learned Toby secretly turned down a job offer in Los Angeles that would've effectively ended their long-distance issues. 

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Kate also had to grapple with her body issues in this episode—something she's done throughout the show but not explicitly for a while. In one incredibly nuanced scene, Kate was faced with the fear that she may not physically be able to do the things Toby wants her to. But when she surprised herself after challenging her capabilities, she had a realization: She and Toby just want different things now—point-blank, period. This moment of clarity is key for Kate; it's the first step toward her going after the life she pictures for herself. Sadly for fans, that life doesn't really include Toby anymore (not as her partner, at least). 

Metz opened up to NBC Insider about this and more in an incredibly candid interview. Read on. 

NBC Insider: This Is Us has been trailblazing in the fact that so much of Kate's storylines have nothing to do with weight. How has it been seeing that evolution?

Chrissy Metz:  It’s been such a breath of fresh air. Yes, [weight] is a part of who Kate is, but it’s not everything that she is. She’s a mom. She’s a mom who’s navigating uncharted territory. She’s a woman who confronted a really dark past with a terrible human being of a boyfriend. It’s just so nice that we’ve seen her go through everything in order to get to where she is. The only way to go is through, and the way that she’s done it is to absolutely go through it all. She's a courageous person. They’ve written her so bravely, and she just keeps showing up and doing the work. 

The scene in Season 6, Episode 9 with the Lyft is very nuanced. Toby is trying to order a Lyft to take himself and Kate to his boss's party, but it keeps canceling. And when Kate asks if they can walk, Toby remarks that it's all up hills. You see so many emotions on Kate's face as this is happening. What were you thinking? 

He is thinking of her because he loves her, but he’s also like, "Oh, she couldn’t do it." At least, that’s what she’s thinking he’s thinking. Maybe that never crossed his mind, but, of course, when we have our own insecurities, those are projected onto other people. I think what she tried to do was not project that or make a scene. He had already planned this beautiful weekend for them, and she’s already sort of poo-poo’ed it. She’s trying to go into the party with an open heart and an open mindbut also realizing that, yeah, she couldn’t probably walk that hill. And if she did, it’s not 'gonna be in her dress and heels. Who's ever going to want to do that? 

But there is this thing of her in the back of her mind having an insecurity of, "Oh, well, maybe somebody else could do that. They could run in heels," but she couldn’t. And it’s still hurtful; he's changed so much physically and has lied about going to the gym and has lied about changing. I think, at least in my subtext, Toby feelsnot that he feels like he’s better than her, but he’s conquered this part. [The Lyft situation] doesn't feel good, even if he might be coming at it from a positive place. 

Eventually, we do see Kate walk up a steep hill.  When she finishes, though, her instinct is to call her boss, Phillip (Chris Geere), and ask to be considered for the full-time job opening at the music school. She isn't thinking about Toby. Why do you think this is? 

I don’t even think she thought she could do it [walk up the hill]. She’s like, "I’m just 'gonna do it. I’m just 'gonna try. The only thing I can do is put one foot in front of the other," and I think that’s what she’s been doing all her life. I think she surprised herself, and along that walk, she realized that what she wants is just as important as what Toby wants. And, unfortunately, they don’t want the same things anymore. She chooses herself and knows she's capable of having the things that she wants. 

Kate is starting and ending the show in such different places, as far as her relationship with her body and weight is. How would you describe her journey in those areas? 

I think she’s come to terms with: if you don’t love your body for what it looks like today, you’re not 'gonna ever get to the place you want to be. And that’s interesting because that’s what I’ve come to understand with myself. Beating myself up and torturing myself is never 'gonna get me to lose weightif I want to. That only further perpetuates binge-eating or eating things I know aren’t good for me (but I want to eat my feelings). I don’t think Kate's so consumed by it in a way that she used to be. 

She's forgiving herself and being patient and kind to herself, and we’ve never seen that. It’s always beating herself up, and then it’s a cyclical thing of, "I’m 'gonna beat myself up, and then I feel bad for beating myself up, so I’m 'gonna eat about it. And then I feel bad for eating about it." I think she’s ready to get off that ride and start thinking of herself in a beautiful, understanding way that she never has before.

You mentioned this briefly, but how has Kate influenced your own relationship with these issues?

I still have things I'm working on. I also have [thought about] the evolution of how I feel about food and what it does for me—if it's not helping me, it's hurting me. But at the same time, not being obsessive or aggressive if I make a decision that I'm like, "Oh, you know, I could have made a better decision." Or, really, intuitively eating as far as like, "Oh, well, actually, I do want that today, and I'm going to feel OK about it," as opposed to beating myself up.

I feel like there's more grace overall in the decisions I've made. If I wake up feeling like, "I don't feel great about myself," then I have to sort of be introspective and question like, is it because I ate something that I knew I shouldn't have? Or am I abusing my body with food? Honestly having conversations and stopping myself before I make a decision I might regret for whatever reasonwhether it's because I'm not hungry or whether it's because I know that if I eat such-and-such, it's not going to make me feel good. Or maybe I shouldn't have a particular cheese because it doesn't agree with me, you know? Just constantly having a conversation about it with myself, and then having grace around that. And knowing that some days are going to be great and some are not going to be.

Just having awareness, because I think for many, many years, I didn't. I didn't even realize, "Oh, I was overeating because I was mad or sad or resentful" or whatever I was feeling. I was literally eating my feelings. And now, it's, "Huh, I see that there. I don't want to do that again." Or, "I feel good about what I'm eating today, and I'm not going to feel guilty for it." I think it's that perpetual cycle that can be really detrimental to not only your mental health but your physical health. Everything starts in the mind, right? So, I've just tried to understand myself more. A lot more journaling and a lot more therapy. Discovering why I did the things I did and why I don't want to do them again. And whether I lose weight in the process, that could be a bonus or that could be a sidebar. But it's not the main thing.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. Catch up now on NBC.com