Kelly Osbourne 'I Feel Like a Different Person'

updated 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kelly Osbourne was only a few days into rehearsals for the new season of Dancing with the Stars when—in the middle of one of her four-hour sessions with partner Louis van Amstel—"I started to feel so sick," she recalls. "My hands started to feel a bit tingly. I had to sit down because my heart was beating really fast." But it wasn't excitement or even nerves that had the star out of sorts; she simply hadn't eaten any breakfast. "Louis goes, 'Idiot!'" Osbourne says, adding that the ballroom dance champion told her he "goes through this with every single partner" he has been paired with on the show. "They start to lose weight, and they want to lose more—so they stop eating."

Osbourne has, indeed, lost weight: In only a month she has dropped 14 lbs. and two dress sizes to get to a size 4. But after years of trying to change her body with bad habits—including starving herself and abusing prescription drugs—Osbourne, 24, has finally gotten slim by adopting a healthy, well-balanced eating plan that consists of five small meals a day (see next page.) "When you do something the right way, it's such a different feeling from shoving your face full of diet pills," she says. "I feel like a different person."

Osbourne was only 16 years old when her family's MTV reality show The Osbournes debuted to instant success. With the spotlight, however, came much criticism—especially about Osbourne's full figure. "I was compared to people I never wanted to be like—I was suddenly like the girls from The Hills, and I'm like, I'm nothing like those girls," she says. "And then I used to think, 'Why am I not like those girls?'"

Osbourne says that reading blog postings describing her as "fat and ugly" prompted her to seek comfort, both with drugs (particularly Vicodin) and food. "I would take a bunch of pills and order whatever I liked," she says. "Mashed potatoes, chicken pot pie from the Cheesecake Factory, Chinese food. I would just sit there and eat and eat. And cry while I was eating."

Over the next few years, Osbourne's weight fluctuated wildly as she alternated between binge eating, crazy diets ("In my delusion, green tea ice cream was good for you because it's an antioxidant!") and starving herself, once not eating anything for three days. "I swear, if I opened my mouth I could hear my stomach gurgling because I was so hungry!" she recalls. Osbourne even tried purging ("I didn't like the way it made me feel") and diet pills, which, she says, "made me crazy pretty quickly."

It was in 2007 that Osbourne hit her low point. Cast in the London stage version of Chicago, she popped "anything I could get my hands on that would keep me from eating," including the ADD medications Aderall and Ritalin. "When I started to feel shaky, I'd have a little bit of candy because the sugar would make it go away," she says. As the weight came off—she eventually got down to a size 2—"it felt so good not to be called fat," she says. "I became obsessed with the compliments."

Today, however, she is obsessed with the way it feels to be fit. Instead of skipping meals or chowing down on hot dogs and spaghetti Bolognese, Osbourne has cut out white carbs and carbonated drinks. She also allows herself one cheat day a week. (Her weakness: McDonald's french fries.) Gone, too, are the pills. "If I was on downers, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing," she says, referring to her Dancing gig. "You have to be completely clean and focused."

Part of her focus involves exercise, something Osbourne calls "a new thing for me." In addition to four-hour-a-day rehearsals, Osbourne now does Pilates twice a week and has even gone kayaking with Van Amstel and her boyfriend Luke Worrall, 19, a model. "Every single day, I get out of the shower and and look at myself and I'm like, 'I never knew I could have a muscle there!'" she says.

Even better than the changes in her body, however, are the changes in the way she feels about herself. "I wake up happy every single day," she says. "I went through a horrible patch in my life—but I had to go through that in order to be like this."

HOW SHE EATS NOW

With guidance from her Dancing with the Stars partner Louis van Amstel, Osbourne has been eating five small meals a day:

BREAKFAST

Osbourne tries to start her day with some fruit, stopping by Jamba Juice on her way to rehearsal for a fruit smoothie with a protein boost. "I need that energy," she says.

LUNCH

To keep fueled for her four-hour dance sessions, Osbourne goes for a large salad piled with lean protein, usually from the L.A. restaurant La Scala, which offers one topped with turkey and salami. "It's my favorite chopped salad in the world," she says.

DINNER

"I'm hungry after rehearsals!" admits Osbourne, who'll pick up takeout such as baked chicken with steamed greens.

TWO SNACKS

If she's craving something crunchy, Osbourne skips the chips and opts for cucumber or celery; otherwise it's almonds and raisins.

FOR MORE ON KELLY, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/KELLY_OSBOURNE

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