Stars — they really are just like us. For women in Hollywood, the subject of their weight is often a big topic, like it is with the rest of us. And it can be frustrating to carry on a few extra pounds when it affects your quality of life. So for a variety of reasons, health being a major one, a number of plus-sized celebrities have made big transformations in their bodies. Each of them has followed her own path, but all are pretty amazing. Like for Shonda Rhimes — learning how saying yes to things helped her change her body. And for Rosie O’Donnell — she got a real wake-up call thanks to a major health issue. Oprah Winfrey says she has “finally made peace with food.” Read on to see how these celebs changed their lives.
Shonda Rhimes said yes to getting healthy
TV producer Shonda Rhimes decided to change her life after her sister Delorse confronted her in 2013, saying, “You never say yes to anything.” Those words were the basis of the Grey’s Anatomy creator’s best-selling book The Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, where Rhimes started to change that way of living.
Rhimes told Oprah Winfrey on the show Super Soul Sunday in 2015 (via Parade) that she thought at the time: “I really need to start saying yes to the things that scare me. If I never say yes to anything, I need to start saying yes to things that I would always say no to automatically.” So one thing that was important for the mother of three to say yes to, she said, was good health, so that she could be there for her kids.
And her eventual weight loss of over 125 pounds was she called a “byproduct” of saying yes, and also of “having an epiphany,” she said. “I work so hard at everything that I do. I work my butt off at work and I work hard at being a mother, why do I think losing weight would be easy?” Just realizing that made a big difference for her. Rhimes also acknowledged that she wouldn’t like it, telling Extra (via Popcrush), “I changed everything I ate — and I hated all of that — and then I hate exercising and I did that, too. I hated it the whole time.” She admitted she still hates it, but she keeps on track for her health and for her family.
Melissa McCarthy wants to dress women of every size
Actress Melissa McCarthy has been making people laugh for years on the TV show Mike & Molly and movies like Bridesmaids and Spy. She has also been what Refinery29 calls a “role model” for plus-sized women. But she told the website in a 2016 interview, “It never occurs to me in terms of being a role model, though, because I don’t know any perfect women. If I, off the top of my head, name 20 of the most amazing women in my life, it’s all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, jobs.” Besides, as this Hollywood insider knows, even the perfect are not so perfect. “I know some of those women in those magazines who get called perfect or whose butt is supposedly better,” she shared, “and often they don’t even look like that in person.”
As of this writing, the Ghostbusters actress has lost a significant amount of weight that In Touch Weekly estimated to be 75 pounds, although McCarthy has not revealed the exact number. When Refinery29 asked her about it, she shared, “I have, but I’ll be back again. I’ll be up, I’ll be down, probably for the rest of my life. The thing is, if that is the most interesting thing about me, I need to go have a lavender farm in Minnesota and give this up. There has to be something more.”
In 2014, McCarthy started a fashion line for women of all sizes. She told WWD that she has been “every size on the planet,” noting, ” I have experience dressing me as a 6, a 12 and more. And when you go above a size 12, you don’t lose your love of fashion.”
Kirstie Alley is in an on-off relationship with Jenny Craig
Actress Kirstie Alley once got up to 219 pounds, but she was in a little bit of denial over her weight loss until the tabloids not-so-helpfully pointed it out to her. “Honestly, I didn’t know how fat I was,” she said on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006. “Thanks to the tabloids I went, ‘Damn, girl, you’re fat!'” Ultimately, Alley lost 75 pounds, and kept a promise she made to come back on Oprah and wear a bikini, albeit with some pantyhose under it.
Alley “broke up” with Jenny Craig shortly after that. Unfortunately, within a few years, she had gained all the weight back and then some. Then she started her own weight loss company, Organic Liaison, lost 100 pounds, and went on Dancing With the Stars in 2011. But, according to an interview with People magazine, Alley found herself getting back together with Jenny Craig in 2015 after she put on 30 pounds.
“I love that you have a consultant,” Alley told People. “It’s like being an athlete. No athlete is going to do well without having a coach. We have to equate that to life.” By 2017, Alley had lost a total of 50 pounds, and has kept it off. She revealed to People in January 2017 that she avoided her three top trigger foods, cheese, linguini with clam sauce, and sugar cookies, watched her calories, and kept up with exercise. And she’s still enjoying life. “I can have anything I want, I’m just counting the calories,” she noted.
Slow and steady works for Wendy Williams
Daytime talk show host Wendy Williams has struggled with weight all of her life. She told People magazine, “My first diet was in the first grade! Tuna fish and mustard with yogurt on the side. Weight was a big thing for me to overcome.” The host has gradually shed 50 pounds over three years and kept it off. “Slow and steady is the name of the game,” she shared. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I no longer believe in fad diets, crash diets. I don’t believe in diet pills. I don’t want my heart to race and pop out of my chest.”
Williams said she no longer eats meat. She also works out regularly, saying “I go to the gym because it’s not about me losing weight at this point, it’s about me trying to fight heart disease.”
She talked to E! News in 2017 about her fitness journey and how her fans inspired her. “I did it on my own and I love it because I no longer have to do that fight with clothing. ‘Wah, wah, wah, I don’t wanna wear sleeveless… does this make my butt look big?'” she noted. “Those things get in the way of being a good host for the people.” Now she’s feeling great about herself in segments like gossiping with Shady Shallon.
The host also said she prioritizes eating breakfast now. “I’ve learned to be extremely healthy regarding morning eating,” now choosing things like green juices and fruits. “I was doing it all wrong before.”
Lena Dunham has no use for tabloid coverage of her weight loss
Actress/writer Lena Dunham is very philosophical about her weight and how it relates to her happiness — or not. “I feel I’ve made it pretty clear over the years that I don’t give even the tiniest of s**** what anyone else feels about my body,” Dunham said on her Instagram account in 2017. “I’ve gone on red carpets in couture as a size 14…. I’ve accepted that my body is an ever-changing organism, not a fixed entity—what goes up must come down and vice versa. I smile just as wide no matter my current size because I’m proud of what this body has seen and done and represented.”
She has worked out with celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, but told People that it was about wanting to be healthier and stronger, not thinner. “I came to her and was like, ‘I have endometriosis, I have chronic physical pain, I just want to feel stronger. I just want to have a stronger core, I want to feel like I have more power throughout my day, how do I get there?'”
Dunham did lose some weight in 2017, and when she showed up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (via Self) with a slimmer body, she talked about how she got called names for losing weight. “I had this experience of my body changing and suddenly I got all these people being like, ‘You’re a hypocrite! I thought you were body positive! I thought you were a person who embraces bodies of all sizes!,'” she said. She replied, “I do, I just understand bodies change.”
Dunham later mocked tabloid coverage of her weight loss, insisting that her “20 slimdown tips” came from things like health issues and stress, as well as “marching your ass off” and “a quiet rage that replaces need for food with need for revenge.” She may have lost weight, but she hasn’t lost her sense of humor.
A heart attack was Rosie O’Donnell’s wakeup call
Comedian and former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell struggled with her weight her entire life. She said on The Dr. Oz Show in 2015 (via ABC News) that she had even tried the vegan diet that former president Bill Clinton lost weight on, but “I just couldn’t do it” over the long haul. Finally, a heart attack when she was 50 made her consider gastric bypass surgery.
O’Donnell then got the gastric sleeve procedure in 2013 and started to lose weight. But she acknowledged that weight loss wasn’t a panacea for her real-life problems. “It’s not like all of a sudden you change and, boom, you lose the weight, everything’s fine, you got on a size 10, life is great. You’re having amazing sex. Nothing is wrong. It doesn’t work that way,” she told Dr. Oz. “So all of the stuff that you carry with you as a heavy person in the world will still be there when you’re a thin person in the world.” To that end, she decided to alleviate stress and ended her time on The View, as well as her two-year marriage to Michelle Rounds.
By 2016, O’Donnell had lost over 50 pounds. “In my opinion, [this surgery is] something that needs a little more attention for people who have suffered with morbid obesity their whole lives,” she told People. “This has really, really helped [me].” but added that the surgery was “not a magic pill.” She also said she was happy she got the surgery to help her health. Fortunately, she’s been doing great.
Jennifer Hudson doesn’t let pancakes intimidate her
Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson is known for her 80-pound weight loss nearly as much as she is known for winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the 2006 film Dreamgirls, a role she had to gain 20 pounds for. She initially started to lose weight for the title role in the 2011 film Winnie Mandela. “Whatever it takes to morph into the character, I’ll do it,” she told People. However, “I wasn’t going to starve myself for anyone.”
Hudson first hired Harley Pasternak, a top celeb trainer. Then she started doing Weight Watchers. Hudson admitted that she had tried to diet in the past, but this time it took thanks to it being less restrictive. She also started working out regularly. In 2014, when she stopped doing the ads, she said (via People), “My experience with Weight Watchers has truly been life changing. I am grateful for what I have learned throughout the process and will always take it with me.”
And she’s also managed to keep the weight off. JHud explained one of her secrets to Yahoo! Style, “I throw the pancakes across the room! I don’t let the food intimidate me,” she said. “If it’s too much, I just get rid of it, but I make sure to watch what I put in my body. And I make sure I know what it is. It’s all about portions for the most part. I don’t work out a lot, but I do like to be active.” She does admit to still indulging on chocolate. “I always have to have chocolate around — it’s my cigarette,” she shared. “I don’t smoke, but it calms me so well.”
Gabourey Sidibe rides a tricycle for fun
Since she rose to fame in the 2009 film Precious, Gabourey Sidibe has seemed very comfortable in her own skin and with her weight, although she points out that “it’s not easy.” She admitted in a speech (via Vulture) that “It’s hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight.” And the comments on social media can be very vicious. “There’s always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that pitcher of Kool-Aid that says, “Oh, yeah!” she notes. Harsh.
But when she found out that she had type-2 diabetes at age 32, Sidibe knew she had to change her life. She quietly got bariatric surgery in 2016 and has been on a weight loss journey ever since.
“I just didn’t want to worry,” Sidibe told People about her health. “I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes. I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes.”
She hasn’t yet revealed how much she has lost, but she has shed a good amount of weight so far. “The surgery wasn’t the easy way out,” she notes. “I wasn’t cheating by getting it done. I wouldn’t have been able to lose as much as I’ve lost without it.” She’s also started working out, eating better, and even riding an adult tricycle!
Ricki Lake has mixed emotions on weight loss
Actress and former talk show host Ricki Lake shot to fame in John Waters’ 1988 movie Hairspray. She got the part because she was overweight. “Being fat worked, and I think that was what was confusing for me for a long time in my career,” she told ABC News. She said that she had put on the weight in the first place because of being “sexually abused as a child.” She said “it was my way of, you know, protecting myself, I think,” she shared, “and maybe stuffing my feelings with food.”
When she reached 260 pounds and her acting roles dried up, she decided to take drastic measures. “I was starving myself. I mean, it was really not the way to do it, which is why I continue to say I’m not an expert on weight.” But it did relaunch her career. She got her own talk show and more acting roles. And she kept the weight off for a long time. “To have almost 130 pounds on top, I mean, almost twice what I weigh, I can’t fathom what that feels like today,” she said. “Being a size 6 feels better than being a size 24.”
But the struggle continued for her. After being thin for over a decade, she started putting on weight, but then lost it in a more healthy way while filming Dancing With the Stars in 2011. Lake still continues to battle with her weight, and explained her struggle to Oprah Winfrey in 2015 on Where Are They Now?. “I became famous for being a certain size, and I was a role model for so many young women. But I loved when I lost weight and felt good about my body. I loved telling the world!” Lake shared. “At the same time, I felt like I was perpetuating this obsession that we have with weight.” She noted, “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”
Oprah Winfrey’s struggle shows what women in Hollywood face
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most accomplished women in the world. The billionaire talk show host/actress/mogul has been living her best life, as she would say, for decades. But as powerful as she is, she still has had issues with food. Winfrey wrote about it in Food, Health and Happiness, her 2017 cookbook. Winfrey shared that her “powerful need to please everybody on a never-ending basis” led her on the road to weight gain. Even when she became famous as the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she had to deal with Joan Rivers asking her about her weight on The Tonight Show. How embarrassing.
She admitted, “When I feel emotionally depleted or deprived, when I’m overwhelmed by life’s pressures, food has always been my drug of choice — the way alcohol or gambling or shopping might be for someone else. But none of these are fixes,” she noted. “They’re all just empty promises. They don’t actually fill you up inside. They’re like junk food for the soul.” It’s humbling to know that the most powerful woman in American feels that way — sharing the struggle that millions of women in this country face as well.
In 2015, Winfrey bought a share of Weight Watchers and finally started changing her thinking about food for good. “When I manage to nourish myself with the stuff that really matters, food tends to be much less complicated,” she writes. “These are the moments when I’m just genuinely hungry for a wonderful meal, a good sipping tequila, and a long talk with a few old friends.” She told People in 2017 that she had lost 42.5 pounds on the Weight Watchers plan, saying “I finally made peace with food.”
Mama June turned her weight loss into a reality show
When we first met the reality star during her Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers and Tiaras days, part of her hilarious appeal was her laid back relationship to food. She was overweight and she knew it — according to E! Online, Mama June weighed 460 pounds at her heaviest. But in 2017, she started a new reality TV venture in an attempt to get healthy and lose weight. Her show Mama June: From Not to Hot followed her weight loss journey through a gastric sleeve surgery and skin removal surgery along with a new diet and exercise plan. In an interview with Wendy Williams, Mama June revealed that she lost over 300 pounds (and spent $75,000 on it along the way).
Rebel Wilson tried a weight loss retreat
Wilson told Telegraph that when she first started out in the entertainment industry, she noticed that being fat somehow earned more laughs from the audience. “I saw my size as being an advantage,” she said. However, she told Cosmopolitan in 2015 that she’s committed to living a healthier lifestyle. “Living in LA you learn a lot about health. I now drink green juices and I’m trying to do gluten-free.” In 2016, she even attended a fitness retreat where she lost eight pounds in just four days. She’s not too strict on herself, though, and says she realizes she’ll never be that stick thin woman on the screen. “I wouldn’t ever want to compete with what I call ‘the glamours’ — the really gorgeous people. I’m about the brain, the heart and what’s on the inside. I feel really lucky to be the body type I am,” she told Cosmo.
Chris Pratt put in hard work at the gym
Pratt rose to fame as the chunky Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation — a role that he actually purposely gained weight for. “I would eat four burgers at every read. I became really fat and got up to almost 300lbs,” he revealed to Men’s Health in 2015. But then, when he starred in Guardians of the Galaxy, he showcased a thinner, fitter figure thanks to a strict diet and workout regimen. According to Pratt, the secret to his weight loss is moderation. “I keep close to what I need to be, but I have to live my life as well,” he said during a press event for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Jonah Hill turned to his actor friends for inspiration
Hill’s weight loss journey has seen tons of ups and downs over the years we’ve known him. When he appeared in 2007’s Superbad, he was definitely on the heavier side, but began to shed a few pounds over the years. His weight loss journey reportedly began in 2011 when he was working on the set of Moneyball alongside Brad Pitt, who Express says inspired Hill to start getting into shape. In 2016, Hill faced a setback when he gained weight for his role in War Dogs. But now, Hill is looking better than ever — and this time, he has his actor friend Channing Tatum to thank. Hill told Jimmy Fallon that he called Tatum and asked him, “if I eat less and go to a trainer, will I get, like, in good shape?” To which Tatum apparently replied, “of course you will.”
Kelly Osbourne danced the weight off
Osbourne’s spent much of her life in the public eye, thanks to her famous dad and family’s MTV show. For her, life in front of the cameras wasn’t easy, especially when the media focused on her weight. “Having your local radio station talking about how fat you are? It really hurt,” she told People. She turned to drugs to numb the pain, but luckily attended rehab in 2009. Once she left rehab, however, she told Shape that instead of drugs she turned to food.
But when she appeared on a season of Dancing With The Stars later that year, she says her partner helped her get her health on track. “He made me eat turkey burgers and salads and explained to me that a high-protein, low-carb diet would keep me energized,” she revealed. “Then I started losing weight and realized, ‘Oh, it’s true what they say: Diet and exercise really work!'”