Book Excerpt: Ricki Lake's 'Never Say Never'

I'm not comfortable being a role model. I'm well aware that what works for me does not necessarily work for everyone else. And I find nothing to be less helpful to my own personal growth and development than having to listen to some well-known person preach about how good he or she is at doing something really, really hard—something that people all over the world are struggling with. What's more discouraging than being told that someone else has found the answer to a dilemma you've never been able to solve? It just makes you feel like even more of a failure.

Take what many refer to as my weight-loss "success."

Instead of thinking of my shape shifting as a success—something I've already accomplished—I see staying fit as more of a process. It's a practice that will never come to an end—meditation for the body rather than the mind. Controlling my weight requires compromise and sacrifice, but I don't mind the ongoing effort to keep my body healthy and comfortable—a place I actually want to live in. In fact, I feel lucky to have the strength, stamina, and support to keep improving my physical condition and the capacity to forgive myself when I slip up and gain a few pounds. I've finally accepted that there's no such thing as "finished" when it comes to being fit. Even the most immaculate house requires regular cleaning, and you have to keep training your muscles and appetite in order not to lose ground in your fitness battle.

I am so far from being "perfect" (thank God for that—"perfect" people bug the shit out of me) that it amazes me whenever anyone asks me for advice. I've made so many mistakes. Perhaps you're familiar with one or two of them? Maybe you noticed my name while you were scanning the tabloids in the grocery checkout line. I've gone on crash diets. I've tried crazy exercise regimens. Once, while working on a film, I ate so little in my effort to slim down that I became dehydrated and was forced to check into the hospital until my blood chemistries stabilized. In the film I was working on, I was playing the role of a cancer patient, and I was doing my best to look like one. Sick. I still get just as desperate and insecure about my body as anyone else, even though I achieved what many call a weight-loss milestone many years ago when I lost over 100 pounds.

When I talk about my experiences with weight loss and the transformation, inside and out, that can result from it, I'm not presenting myself as an expert. I'm trying to offer solidarity and maybe an insight or two. This book is my effort to be totally candid and honest about my experience gaining, then losing,and finally recapturing control of my own body.

First and foremost, there was no one magical moment—no trick, no fluke of chemistry or psychology. Many things came into play that enabled me to finally feel empowered, rather than hopeless, when it came to my weight. It was a perfect storm of need, luck, and determination.

I credit my initial weight loss to sheer professional desperation: I needed to work, and I was too fat for anyone to hire me. My career as the lovable fat chick had run its course, and executives and audiences needed something new to market. So I lost all my money, went into hiding, starved myself, worked my butt off, and scored my very own talk show.

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