“Why she decided to get healthy: “It really started when I was pregnant with David, who’s 2 now, and I thought, Hold on—why doesn’t anybody know I’m pregnant? And I wanted to set a good example for my son. Right after I had him, I began trying to change things.”
Was she unhappy with her appearance before? “No, never. I remember one of my first times on a red carpet, an interviewer asked, ‘How does it feel to be plus-sized in Hollywood?’ I looked around, like, Who is she talking to? Oh, me? I’m plus-sized? In the neighborhood I’m from in Chicago, a 16 is normal. But in Hollywood, everyone looks exactly the same, so I stood out.”
Did that realization hurt? “I find the positive in everything. I like my curves, so it didn’t bother me. My fiancé, David’s father [also named David], and I both knew we didn’t learn to eat right and be healthy as kids, so we wanted to for him.”
She’s had significant weight losses before: “I’ve had three different weight losses (new science-backed research).
Before American Idol in ‘04, I lost 60 pounds. Then I lost the 20 pounds I had to gain for my role in Dreamgirls, which came out in ‘06. This is the third time I’ve lost a lot.”
Is it different this time? “Oh, my God, by far. That first time, I was a workout fanatic. I’d go to the gym at 5 in the morning and run for an hour, go home, sleep and be back at the gym at 1 p.m. for another full workout. Then I’d come home and do Tae-Bo.
That was my whole day. Plus, all I’d eat was skinless chicken breast, brown rice and vegetables. What are you going to do once you lose weight (read the latest groundbreaking research)? Eat everything you gave up!”
How she got herself started this time: “Four days after my cesarean section, I began walking 30 minutes every day. It was my therapy, my moment to myself, and it was all I could do. I figured, me walking is better than me sitting on the couch. Even if I can’t climb a mountain or do 100,000 push-ups, these steps matter, and they’re leading somewhere. I started with walking, but before long, I built up to other things. When I didn’t want to be cooped up in the gym, I’d come up with other options. I’d ask myself, What do I love? I love being outside and feeling free, so I would jog or ride my bike. Some days, I’d play basketball and tennis.”
Do people treat you differently? “Yes! You never know you’re being discriminated against until you see what you’ve been deprived of. Everybody wants you to wear this or put you on the cover of that. Before, my career was great, but since losing weight, I haven’t stopped. I have worked every single day of this year.”
How about your fans? “Some love it and say they’re inspired, and others don’t. Some have even questioned whether I can still sing. My voice has gotten stronger! I can’t care about whether I’m too big for some or too small for others. It goes back to how you feel about yourself. I like me the way I am. For anyone who wants to lose: Dude, if I can do it, you can do it. And for those who want to stay the same, I hope I can be an example to you, too; I was proud of being a big girl.”
What was the key to your loss? “It’s like my mother said: ‘Well, honey, when there is a will, there is a way.’ You have to want it, but don’t rush yourself. When you’re ready, you’ll set goals for yourself. Once you do, it’s good to have support, but you don’t need it, because everything you need is in you.
I’m prouder of my weight loss than my Oscar! I hope it has inspired people.”