updated 05/02/2007 AT 8:45 AM ET
•originally published 05/02/2007 AT 4:15 PM ET
Keira Knightley says she was “devastated” when images of her appeared in magazine articles about the “skinny celebrity” debate.
“When all that blew up, I felt terrible,” the actress, 22, tells the British edition of Elle in its June issue.
“It appeared that I were promoting something when I absolutely was not. I am thin because that’s what I am, and I was thinner at that point because of the work I do. Nothing else.”
In January, when the photos were taken, Knightley had just finished filming the final installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, At World’s End.
“I had lost weight,” she says. “We were filming in searing temperatures and shooting fight scenes in which you were wearing a wetsuit underneath a load of corsets, fighting with heavy weights in the water. Can you imagine a more advanced cardio workout than that done hour after hour?”
Knightley has long denied eating-disorder rumors, and told PEOPLE in July: “Whatever people say about my weight they are all wrong.” And in January, she sued Britain’s Daily Mail tabloid for implying she lied about having anorexia.
“I was completely devastated by all that,” she tells Elle, adding that she even visited her doctor for advice on how to put on weight.
“He told me that for someone of my body type to get to a [European] size 12, I would have to eat a lot of sh– food, stop exercising and drink loads,” she says. “But I don’t want to have to go ‘round eating crap and being really unhealthy in order for people to stop having a go at me.”
She’s also learning to get past her own insecurities about her body. “I wish I had longer legs, but I haven’t,” she says. “What I have does its job. Ironically, I’m learning to become more happy with myself as a result of all this.”
Knightley, who dates actor Rupert Friend, her costar in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, also says she may eventually quit acting: “I can see myself in five years or whatever just giving the whole thing up. I made a decision recently that I want a life instead.”