Sasha Pieterse Recalls Gaining 70 Lbs at Age 17 While Filming 'PLL'

Sasha Pieterse discussed the challenges of gaining 70 pounds at age 17 — while filming a hit TV series — due to her experience with polycystic ovary syndrome.

“This is part of the health issues that I was speaking of while I was going through Pretty Little Liars. The changes that were happening to me were documented on camera,” Pieterse, 27, said during the Wednesday, August 9, episode of Taylor Lautner and wife Taylor Dome‘s “The Squeeze” podcast.

Pieterse recalled having symptoms of PCOS during her time playing Alison DiLaurentis.

“I never had a regular period ever and I was just always told by gynecologists that I was just young. Like, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll regulate,’” the actress, who appeared on PLL from 2010 to 2017, noted. “ It was probably around 15 or 16 that I started noticing a difference in just my metabolism in general. At 17, I gained 70 pounds in the year, for no reason. There was no explanation for it.”

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Pieterse visited “over 15 gynecologists” but wasn’t able to get a proper diagnosis. According to Pieterse, doctors accused her of lying about the weight gain and insinuated that an unhealthy lifestyle was to blame.

“It was the most frustrating experience and disheartening because no matter what I did, no matter how well I behaved, no matter how great I treated my body, things were actually getting worse rather than better. It was very very confusing,” she continued. “So after a long process, someone recommended that I go to an endocrinologist.”

After being diagnosed with PCOS, Pieterse was finally able to understand her body’s changes. (PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes symptoms such as irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain and infertility.)

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“I was like, ‘What’s that?’ I’d never heard of PCOS before. And it’s a disease, it’s not curable. It can be dormant, that’s — at this stage — that’s what they know,” she explained. “And the most frustrating part about this is that it’s fairly easy to diagnose. And really what it is, it’s a hormone imbalance, it’s a hormone disease and it’s so easy to see because your testosterone or your estrogen will be really high, you’ll have really low vitamin D levels, you’ll be deficient in a lot of things.”

Pieterse continued: “You won’t have a regular period, but the catch is, a lot of other things look different, so every woman — everyone has a different experience with it. It could be your period, it could be weird hair growth, it could be major gastro[intestinal] issues, it could be crazy cysts on your ovaries, it could be weight gain. I had a lot of those outward symptoms that everyone could see.”

While competing on Dancing With the Stars in 2017, Pieterse spoke to Us Weekly about how learning ballroom dance helped her lose weight amid her PCOS journey.

“To be honest here’s the thing, I was exercising like crazy and was eating the best that I could before. This just heightens it,” she told Us about losing 15 pounds while rehearsing with partner Gleb Savchenko. “It’s a combination. It’s a combination of me finding out what I have, and then Dancing with the Stars helps me tremendously. Having Gleb as a partner. He’s amazing. But just the process in general — how hard we’re working and how healthy I feel. I really feel like myself again.”

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At the time, Pieterse said it wasn’t easy to reveal her condition on national television.

“I’ve never really done that before. I’ve never really been on a show like this. I’ve never had that experience. Having Gleb and everyone at Dancing with the Stars be so supportive of me and having that outlet means a lot,” Pieterse, who shares 2-year-old Hendrix with husband Hudson Scheaffer, added. “The fact that I can open up and share this with people and hopefully bring awareness to PCOS is really all I can ask for. This has been an amazing experience.”

For Pieterse, it was important to raise awareness and encourage other women to get tested.

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“There are all these things that seem somewhat normal sometimes depending on your lifestyle, but I feel like you have to just go and get it checked,” she told Us. “If you have a hormone imbalance, it can definitely be PCOS and that can lead to ovarian cancer and breast cancer and thyroid issues and many things later that could’ve been avoided. More than half of women have it and they don’t even know. It really is a huge issue that I want to share and hopefully help even one person deal with it.”

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