Jennifer Hudson, Kirstie Alley, Marie Osmond: Women and Weight Loss

June 26, 2011

I’ve never met Jennifer Hudson or Kirstie Alley or Marie Osmond and doubt I ever will. None of them are fans of mine as far as I know. And none of them will likely ever read this blog, although I’d be thrilled if any of them did.

That’s OK though. I can admire them from afar. I only mention them here because I’m writing about weight—a topic that has been on my mind lately—and I really admire what these women have accomplished when it comes to this touchy subject.

But more about them later. First, I want to tell you a true story about myself. Many years ago, I was considered skinny even though I loved to eat. No matter what I ate or how much, I stayed thin, really thin. I tried everything I could think of to gain weight and simply didn’t. When I was in my twenties, I can remember filling a salad bowl full of chocolate ice cream nightly and eating it all just before bedtime. I would make and drink big, thick, rich milkshakes. And I never gained an ounce.

People used to tell me all the time: “Just wait until you’re in your thirties. Then you’ll start to pile it on.” My thirties came and went, and my weight jumped from 100 pounds to about 110. Then they said: “Just wait until you reach your forties. It will really catch up with you then.” I would smile nonchalantly, confident that they were absolutely wrong.

The forties hit and my weight topped out at around a svelte 125. I was actually glad to finally gain some real weight. I had hated being skinny for so long. Now I was a healthy size four yet I could still eat anything I wanted. I was convinced this would forever be the case. My mom was always a nice size, and although the women on my father’s side of the family can put on some serious poundage, I figured that I was blessed with my mother’s good genes when it came to weight.

Yeah. Right. Enter the mid-forties. I’ll never forget the summer I went to put on my cute, size four, white jeans from the previous summer. Girl, let me tell you. I couldn’t get those suckers past my thighs. My mouth dropped down past the jeans to the floor. I was stunned. I knew I had put on some pounds that year but I was sure I could still squeeze into last year’s summer things. I took the jeans off, held them up, and eyed them carefully. I wanted to make sure they weren’t actually from my childhood and had somehow slipped in there with my adult things. Nope. They were a size four. Trouble was, I was no longer a size four. Not even close.

What the heck?

I jumped on the scale and could not believe the number staring back at me. We don’t need to go into the details, but I had gained LOTS of weight. And I continued to gain over the years. Since that summer day several years back, I’ve had to redo my wardrobe—twice. I’ve been spoiled. For so long, I could eat anything and now I have a hard time cutting the bedtime snacks.

Now I know how it feels to cringe inside every time you step on a scale. I know how it feels to go shopping and realize you’ve moved up yet another size. I know how the 25 percent of women who are currently on a diet feel about themselves, whether they’re trying to shed 10 pounds or 50 or 100. Although I’m only trying to lose 15 or 20 pounds, even that’s hard as heck. Maybe that’s why I made Lenora Stone, the main character in my latest novel Money Can’t Buy Love, struggle with her weight. These days, I can definitely identify.

And that’s why I’ve come to admire celeb women like Jennifer Hudson, Kirstie Alley, Marie Osmond, Sherri Shepherd, and Valerie Bertinelli. And ordinary women like my Aunt Elaine and cousins Carolyn and Brenda. I realize how hard they have worked to get and stay in shape using various methods of dieting and dancing and exercise. Jennifer Hudson did it despite going through some really rough times and she is now all over the place representing Weight Watchers. Kirstie Alley is rocking it at nearly 60 years old, and we all know that it’s harder to lose as you age. And Marie Osmond has had her share of downs, including the recent death of her son. Still, she now looks good enough to join the cast of The Bold and Beautiful.

Every one of these women is a source of inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others. They did it when they needed to, and hopefully, so can the rest of us.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tonya June 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I was the same way! After my daughter was born 8 years ago, my “oh I can eat anything” rant was suddenly silenced and I’ve been at war with weight ever since. I now try not to put too much emphasis on how much I now eat as opposed to what I eat and the exercise I add to it. It’s been a lesson; a hard one at that. Thankfully, I’ve been winning, but will admit that I still don’t like being conscious about what’s on my plate! So as I look at my counterparts-in-age like Stacey Dash and Janet Jackson (who we’ve also seen publicly battle her weight), along with the other ladies you mention, I’m confident that at this age, I can return to optimum health. I’m also really looking forward to see how Lenora manages it!

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Connie Briscoe June 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

@Tonya: …how Lenora manages it, or doesn’t! It’s a lifetime struggle really, once it hits. You seem to have a good attitude about it though.

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Edain McCoy June 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I just finished “A Long Way From Home” and had to track you down to tell you that it’s been a long time since a story captivated me so much. When I read your author’s note I was just thrilled to discover you created the novel from the lives of your actual ancestors. The push and pull and ambivalence of the slaves and the freedmen about their situations were compelling. While I cannot imagine how horrible it must have been to be enslaved, I had not thought about why some might have actually thought they were better off that way. I just assumed it was human nature to want to be free no matter how difficult it might be. I hope to see more historicals from you from the African-American perspective. This was just a wonderful, wonderful read, and I don’t praise novels often. Thank you for the effort and heart you put into this book. It was a true gift to be your reader.
Blesséd journeys, Edain McCoy

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Connie Briscoe July 4, 2011 at 11:18 am

That’s an unusual take on A Long Way From Home and not one I’ve heard mentioned before. Yes, there were one or two slaves in the novel who were afraid of freedom (it’s been a while since I read it) but many more who craved it. I’m sure all my ancestors and all slaves would have preferred freedom as we know it today. However, my research indicated that as much as some slaves hated bondage they feared the unknown of freedom given the very restricted and difficult “freedom” that black people faced back then–if you could even call it freedom. In other words, some of them seemed to prefer the devil they knew to the one they didn’t.

Still, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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Shelly July 3, 2011 at 9:23 pm

How refreshing to read that one of my favorite authors has had the same struggles with weight gain that I have. I’m 47 years old and I weigh a hefty 116 pounds! I topped the scale at 123, but a diagnosis of brain cancer followed by 5 weeks of radiation took my appetite and ultimately my weight (in 2009). I started chemo Jan. 2011 and so far I haven’t lost a pound.

On another note, I’ve always been inspired by your writing (currently reading Big Girls Don’t Cry) and I’ve decided to write about my life leading up to my cancer diagnosis.

Looking forward to reading your latest: Money Can’t …

Keep up the great work!

Best wishes,
Shelly Farrior-Jackson

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Connie Briscoe July 4, 2011 at 11:22 am

Shelly, I wish you all the best in your brave struggle. Know that my thoughts are with you. I thank you for taking the time to let me know how much you’ve enjoyed my work.

Keep fighting and keep writing!

Best,
Connie

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