Ricki Lake: From Size 24 to Skinny

VIDEO: Ricki Lake discusses how her weight affected her acting and talk show careers.
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Ricki Lake weighed 200 pounds when, at age 19, she was cast as the happily heavyset Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 John Waters movie, Hairspray. The now-svelte Lake recalls how, at the time, she was proud of her size.

"Being fat worked, and I think that was what was confusing for me for a long time in my career," Lake, 42, said.

Today, Lake says she looks and feels better than ever -- she's lost more than 130 pounds from her peak weight and has kept it off for 15 years.

"To have almost 130 pounds on top, I mean, almost twice what I weigh, I can't fathom what that feels like today," she said. "Being a size 6 feels better than being a size 24."

But getting there was far from easy, and to understand her journey means going back to her childhood.

At age 6, Lake saw the musical "Annie," and it was "life changing." It was then she said she knew "I wanted to be on stage."

But it was also at that age that Lake suffered abuse, which she believes was at the root of her intial weight gain.

"I was sexually abused as a child, as a young child. And I think that is what contributed to my being overweight ... and obese, in the later years," Lake said. "I, even subconsciously, did not want to be attractive to men. And it was my way of, you know, protecting myself, I think ... and maybe stuffing my feelings with food."

She said her weight started to "creep up" at about age 9 or 10.

"I was still kind of cute, so I could pull it off, you know," she said. "Through my adolescence and, you know, later teenage years, I got bigger and bigger and bigger."

The way she was taught to eat, Lake said, also contributed to her weight gain.

"I had the worst, the worst eating habits," she said.

Lake said that she didn't want to blame her parents but added that "we did not sit down as a family."

"We ate out a lot and then when ... we didn't eat out, I would eat alone," she said. "And I would sneak food. Hungry Man dinners were a staple, sometimes I'd eat two. You know, I mean it was sort of pathetic."

Talking about this issue on "Good Morning America," Ricki Lake mistakenly used the term "juvenile diabetes" when she meant "type 2 diabetes in children." Click here to read Lake's statement to "GMA":

Lake: I Was 'Stuffing Candy in My Pajamas'

Lake said she became obsessed with food.

"I was a secret eater," she said. "I remember like, stuffing candy in my pajamas and saying good night and running to my room and wrappers would be under my mattress."

Meanwhile, her mother, Lake said, was on a diet for most of her childhood -- and even while she was pregnant with Lake.

"She was on a cantaloupe diet. She gained 11 pounds," Lake said. "I was a full-term baby, and I was 5 pounds."

"That's what people did then," she said. "Doctors put people on diets, so I don't blame her."

By the time Lake was in college, she had ballooned to her Tracy Turnblad weight.

"I wasn't really conscious of how out of control I had gotten," she said.

Lake remembers living in Los Angeles, having lunch with her actress friends, including Jennifer Aniston.

"All of them are having salads with the dressing on the side and, you know, a Diet Coke, and I'm, you know, the one with the cheeseburger and the shake, and the extra fries with gravy on it," she said.

After "Hairspray" the roles kept rolling in. She was on the television series "China Beach" and played Johnny Depp's sister in the movie "Cry-Baby."

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