Jennifer Hudson talks about her book and control over weight and image

Staff - - 01/22/2012
Success Stories

Hudson, who recently lost 80 pounds, became a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.

Jennifer Hudson says she always believed that as she built her career, her talent would speak for itself.

But time and time again — before her 2004 American Idol run and after her 2007 Oscar win for "Dreamgirls" — show business proved her wrong, she writes in her new book. She lost jobs (notably one singing with Barry Manilow) because of her size. Reporters on the red carpet would nag her with questions about being a "big girl" in Hollywood. And even after she would lose weight and land at a comfortable size 10, she would be asked to put it back on for a role (such as the lead in 2009's Precious, which she turned down) because she was already pigeonholed as a plus-size actress.

Image, she learned, was everything in the business.

Hudson — who recently lost 80 pounds and became a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers — chronicles her struggles with weight and image in "I Got This — How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down" (Dutton, $25.95). Part biography and part fitness inspiration book (it's sure to get people showing up to Weight Watchers), "I Got This" is about Hudson's journey to better health after giving birth to her son — not, she emphasizes, about her trying to fit into Hollywood.

"I am telling you the absolute truth when I say that I genuinely loved my body — fat, thin and everywhere in between," she writes.

Somewhere between appearances on Dateline, Today and Dr. Oz, she chatted with us earlier in the week about her book, her family and the many ways her weight loss changed her.

Question: Celebrity diet spokespeople before you have failed to keep their weight off. Now that you've written the book, do you feel extra pressure to keep the weight off?

Answer: I feel like the pressure came as soon as I committed myself to the journey. I did it for myself, so I don't really pay too much attention to the pressure. Because Weight Watchers is ... a lifestyle change, I feel like I have that control. I'm not that concerned with it.

Q: The subtitle of your book is, "How I changed my ways and lost what was weighing me down." In a nutshell, what was weighing you down?

A: I guess if anything, I would say the mind frame that we all doubt ourselves. We defeat ourselves before we even try ... I am changing my way of thinking.

Q: In the past, you write, you refused to gain weight for a movie role. Would you be willing to now?

A: I definitely would gain it for a role ... if it was done in a healthy time frame, maybe.

Q: You don't write at all about dealing with what you call "the tragedy that struck my family" (the murder of her mother, brother and nephew in 2008). Why did you choose to leave that out?

A: Certain things are off-limits and should be respected.

Q: But you do talk about how 75 members of your extended family have started Weight Watchers. How are they all doing?

A: They are doing amazing. I am so impressed and proud of them. They have always supported me, and to see them take this challenge blew me away. With the oldest — she's over 70 years old and in the book (Aunt Bae "Baby" Mae) — to see her take on such challenges (makes me think) if she can do it, I have no excuse. To see them accept challenge inspired me.

Q: Are you still counting your Weight Watchers "points"?

A: Of course! I have an iPhone, and so that's my everything. I have my music, pictures and my Weight Watchers app on there ... I at least write down what I eat on my notes app.

Q: You write that you'd lost weight successfully in the past through strict diet and lots of exercise. Now that you have the money for surgery or anything else, why did you choose Weight Watchers, which is more of a "slow and steady" way to lose?

A: I always say if it cannot be done naturally, it cannot be done. There's nothing man can do for me that God cannot do better. As far as picking Weight Watchers, it's OK; this is what I've been trying to do. It was the most natural, the most realistic (program) to keep on. It teaches you and prepares you to have control.

Q: How did you deal with any disappointments or plateaus along the way?

A: I really had a good journey ... but you do get to that plateau and get discouraged. I had — I have — the best Weight Watchers leader. I listen to her words, and it's all about trusting the plan. Even if I fell down, I didn't fall off. I just followed direction. I just say try, that's all ya gotta do.

Q: How hard was it to adjust, emotionally, to the physical changes in your body?

A: In the beginning of the transition, my mind had not caught up to my body yet. I don't think it's something that people realize is ahead; you just don't see it coming. It takes a lot to get adjusted. At least to me in my mind, I was the same as before ... I would go shopping with someone and I'd pick up an extra large, and they'd be like, "you need medium or small." One time I remember turning around in a store looking for someone else, thinking, "Who are they speaking to"

Q: How has your weight loss affected your singing or your stage presence?

A: I'm so glad you asked that! I was just with a close friend I met when I started "Dreamgirls." I was playing him a recording, and he said, "You did that a month ago." I was like, how did he know? He said, "I could tell your voice has such more clarity now." I didn't even know that. A producer from "Dreamgirls" who recorded my latest album says my voice is clearer, stronger and more powerful. It's helped in a good way.

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