These days, Jennifer Hudson is getting as much attention for her dramatic weight loss as she has in the past for her chart-topping R&B tunes and big-screen acting, but there was a time when the 30-year-old, who spent her teen years as a size 16, didn't even realize she was overweight. Maybe because growing up in her family -- where a typical dinner plate was filled with large portions of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy-laden pork chops -- she was considered the "skinny one." Her plus-size figure, Hudson tells Good Housekeeping, "was normal in Chicago. But then I'd go to another city, and it was real culture shock. I'm like, Huh? Wait a minute -- I'm a big girl?"
When she embarked making a career for herself in the music industry, Hudson realized that people weren't just listening to her voice, they were looking at her body. Though she recalls that she "killed it" at an audition to be a backup singer for Barry Manilow when she was 19, she was passed over for the gig. "It took me years to finally realize that I didn't get the job because of my size," Hudson recalls in the February issue.
After becoming a breakout star on "American Idol" at age 23 and fast-forwarding to achieving her dream of becoming a successful singer, Hudson began focuses on losing weight and started down a path of extreme dieting -- from detox programs to weeks of just eating chicken, rice, and broccoli -- which, not surprisingly caused her to drop and gain the same 25 to 30 pounds multiple times.
Finally, the madness ended after she gave birth to son David Jr. in 2009 (his father is Hudson's fiancé, WWE wrestler David Otunga) and she suddenly realized she was back to over 230 pounds. Acknowledging that being overweight was not exactly setting a good example for her child, Hudson decided to make a change once and for all.
"Motherhood brought tremendous responsibilities -- but none greater than the obligation I felt to get healthy and be there for my son. David deserved to have a mama who could run after him without getting winded or getting tired, to have a role model who could teach him to make healthy food choices," she explains. "I needed him to grow up with a mama who always would be there for him by caring enough about herself to take control of her health and her eating."
Hudson -- who will star in the film version of "The Three Stooges" this spring -- turned to Weight Watchers. The program eventually helped her not only shed pounds, but reeducate herself about portion control, which foods were actually smart choices, and which supposedly "healthy" items (like that chicken wrap Hudson used to think was healthy, for example) were actually fat traps. She eventually dropped 80 pounds and became a spokesperson for the company (but you probably already knew thanks to a slew of TV commercials that are currently on-air).
The busy mom's successful strategies these days? Making exercise a big part of her life (which includes working out four days a week), snacking on healthy treats like Popchips, cashews, and apples, and, when it comes to splurges, focusing on quality over quantity.
"What people need to know is that if you don't eat what you want, then you'll just continue to eat, because you're not fulfilled," she implores.
Now, this former "big girl" is still getting attention for her figure. And that's clearly fine with her.
"I feel like a doll that I get to dress up!" she gushes. "It's crazy. They have to drag me off the red carpet! Because now it's like, 'You're going to take a picture of what I'm wearing? You're looking at me?' I live for it."
The February issue of Good Housekeeping hits newsstands on January 10.More Celebrity Features on Yahoo!:Reese Witherspoon Opens Up About HusbandMischa Barton Flaunts Bikini Bod in Miami
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