Four days after she gave birth to her son in August 2009, Jennifer Hudson decided to get serious about getting healthy. She realized that she wanted to be healthier for her son -- to be a more active mom and to make sure she had healthy habits that her son could copy as he grew up. But she knew that diets hadn't been working for her, so she wasn't sure how to start.
"I'm a real girl -- I love to eat and indulge in the things I love to have," Hudson said.
She knew enough about herself to know that a diet that deprived her of her favorite foods wasn't going to work for her. Hudson compared a restrictive diet to holding your breath. "Eventually you're going to be gasping for air," she said. Similarly, in a diet, "eventually you're going to break, and then overindulge."
She said she decided to try out Weight Watchers for just one week, because she had heard that it was easier to follow and wouldn't make her cut her favorite things out of her diet. Over the next couple years, she dropped 80 pounds and became a spokesperson for the company.
"It taught me how to eat, how to measure my portions, and know what I was putting in my body," she said of the program. She said that throughout the program she kept herself accountable, even though she had realistic expectations. For example, immediately after you give birth, it might be unlikely that you'll get right up and work out, but you can start to pay attention to what you're eating.
"Take baby steps, and let it work for you," she said. "Think 'I can't run, but I can walk.'"
She found her motivation in her desire to be the best possible mom for her son. "Your baby's going to eat what you're going to eat," she said.
Not only did she lose the weight, she's kept it off for the three years since. "It's just as hard to maintain it as it is to lose weight," she said. She's continued as a spokesperson for the company, and wrote a book about her weight loss venture, titled I Got This.
Now, Hudson's channeling her success into another venture, working with Weight Watchers as they award a Healthy Communities Grant to Baltimore residents. The grant will provide weight loss support to locals with a body mass index over 25 who also receives and assistance from the local, state or federal government. Hudson will serve as a mentor to new mothers who are trying to get healthy.
Around 36 percent of Baltimore's population is obese, even higher than the country's average. Furthermore, while recent data suggests a plateau in American obesity levels, research has shown that obesity and the diseases that come with it are still growing in lower-income communities, according to a recent study from Harvard University.
"It's pretty parallel to my story and my journey," Hudson said. She understands the women's struggles, having grown up without access to healthy foods and habits.
"Often as a new mom, people can feel overwhelmed and they can feel alone," said Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers. She stressed, however, that it's important to start thinking about getting healthy early. "The motivation to get the baby weight off after a year is a little less -- you're used to it," she said. But it's perfectly healthy for new moms to start losing weight, and Miller-Kovach said that two pounds a week is healthy for non-breastfeeding moms, while breast-feeding moms should aim for a pound a week.
"There's a belief that to eat healthily requires a lot more money, but many people don't know how to make use of the lower-cost things that are available," said Miller-Kovach. She suggested learning to cook simple, low-cost, healthy meals as a viable skill participants might take away from the program.
Hudson said that through her weight-loss journey, she's learned "anything can be good for you and anything can be bad for you." Due to her busy schedule, Hudson said she sometimes finds herself in a situation without healthy options, and she's learned how to make the best of it. If the only food available is a hamburger, she makes sure to control her portion size.
"It's about making the smartest decision and the right decision," she said. "Outsmart food, don't let it outsmart you."
Jennifer Hudson's Weight Loss Secrets originally appeared on Everyday Health