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'Waltons' Actress Mary McDonough Shares The Tough Lesson She Learned From A Bad Boob Job (VIDEO)

04/20/2015 10:50 am ET

Growing up on a television show can be a difficult process for a young star. For more than a decade, Mary McDonough played middle daughter Erin on "The Waltons," and says she struggled with her body image as she matured. When the show ended in 1981, the pressure to look perfect didn't dissipate -- McDonough says she kept losing roles to women with bigger hair and bigger breasts. So, the actress decided to get breast implants.

After that, in 1995, McDonough was diagnosed with Lupus, which she believes was a result of her breast implants. She says she never intended to be "a poster girl for bad boob jobs," but has been compelled to become an activist for women's health issues. An important part of McDonough's message is the psychological aspect of breast augmentation, which she openly shares in the above video from "Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra."

"If I had to give advice to anyone who is considering plastic surgery or changing themselves externally somehow, I would say a couple of things," McDonough says. "One... Go inside, be quiet and sit, and really ask yourself, 'Am I doing this for me?'"

It's a question McDonough wishes she had reflected upon more herself so many years ago. "A lot of times, what happens is we change something about ourselves thinking it's going to give us self-esteem, but guess what? You're still there with you," she says.

Her next bit of advice is about women educating and empowering themselves before making any medical decision.

"Do your own research. Take your health by the hands, and just hold it tight," she says. "Only you can help yourself -- with your doctors, with doing research. Find out what the negative implications can be."

Though she is an outspoken activist and lobbyist for informing women of the risk of implants, McDonough insists that she's not against breast augmentation.

"A lot of people think I'm anti-implant," she says. "I'm not. What I lobbied for was a safe implant, so that people who want to make that choice -- or who have had breast cancer and want to make that choice -- have something safe. So, I'm not the crazy person everybody thinks."

On the contrary, McDonough points out she's in a position to give honest advice to anyone considering plastic surgery.

"Of all people, I understand why somebody would want to change. I wanted to change me," she says. "The myth was, if I could attain this unrealistic body image, that somehow I would be happy. It's just not true. Because no matter where you go, there you are."

Related: Mary McDonough recalls the advice from costar John Ritter that helped her stop starving herself before a bathing suit scene.

"Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra" is a web-based spinoff of the OWN show "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", which returns with new episodes on Saturday, April 25, at 9 p.m. ET.

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