Life hasn't always been easy for the 36-year old Grey's Anatomy star, but all that she's learned along the way has helped her grow. Raised in working-class Everett, Massachusetts, by her father and older siblings (she has five in all) after her mother passed away when Ellen was four, Pompeo appreciated everything she had. She credits her upbringing for her enthusiasm and inner peace.
"I'm the person I am and have the compassion I have because of it," she said. "I try to go out and be the best person I can be, and feel I have to try and live the life my mother never got a chance to live."
As for her physical health, you may have noticed her thinness. Well, don't assume it's a result of any disorder. Contrarily, the 5'7", 100-pound brunette requires 3,000 calories a day just to keep the pounds on. The only problem she has is her metabolism, which is simply too fast. During her 14-hour days on the Grey's set, Pompeo eats every two hours just to maintain her energy. A nutritionist keeps her in line during the week, but on weekends, Ellen says, she "eats whatever she wants."
While she fights exhaustion on a daily basis and is working harder than ever at 36, Pompeo considers herself blessed with the opportunity. Ten years ago she was tending bar in New York City, wondering how to go about becoming an actress. Many small and forgettable roles later, she gained recognition for roles in Moonlight Mile (2002), Catch Me If You Can (2002) and Old School (2003). After an ABC pilot starring Pompeo as the head of the U.S. Secret Service never got off the ground, the network gave her a second chance -- as Meredith Grey.
It's been a roller coaster ride since. Yet despite the long workdays, media obligations and increasing fame, Pompeo finds time to work out.
"Yoga clams me down. It's the one time during the day I don't have to think about anything but being good to myself," said Pompeo, who also goes to the gym as regularly as she can. "Patrick [Dempsey] is the same as me, in that if we don't go to the gym, we feel weak."
A family history of cancer provides additional motivation for Pompeo's wellness. She's certainly keeping herself busy -- she recently bought, and is renovating, a 3,000-foot home in Los Angeles, where Grey's Anatomy is filmed. She lives with her boyfriend of two years (music producer Christopher Ivery), and her two dogs.