It seemed like an "endless flow" of opportunities, Lake said, until it all came crashing to a halt. The excess weight that had served her so well suddenly turned into a burden. Her role on "China Beach" was not renewed, her agent stopped returning her calls and, for a brief time, Lake was homeless.
At 5 feet, 3 inches and a whopping 260 pounds, Lake had hit bottom. She decided then, she said, that it was time to lose the weight, but she did it in a way she would never recommend to others.
"I was starving myself. I mean, it was really not the way to do it, which is why I continue to say I'm not an expert on weight," she said.
Eating little and exercising daily allowed Lake to shrink from a size 24 to a size 12, and lose more than 100 pounds in a little more than six months, but her extreme dieting came at a price.
"I was fainting on, like, the spot. I'd be standing up and then, black out, and not remember anything," she said.
Nonetheless, losing the weight, Lake said, brought her career back from the brink. She landed a daytime talk show that ran for 11 years.
She also got married, had two children and got divorced.
Lake made headlines three years ago when she put out a documentary called "The Business of Being Born," showcasing the home birth of her second son.
After that pregnancy, Lake shed the baby weight and then some. She became about 30 pounds lighter than her prepregnancy weight. When the documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, Lake appeared on the red carpet in a size 4 dress.
Lake said that second weight loss generated even more attention than her initial 100-pound drop.
"That was like me turning into like, the bombshell," she said. "People magazine, Us Weekly, Ok! Magazine and Playboy were all wanting me on the cover. So, I mean, they didn't want me when I was a size 8 on the cover of these magazines, you know? ... It was shocking to me."
Lake ended up showing off her slim figure in a bathing suit on the cover of Us Weekly in 2007.
It was one of Us Weekly's most popular issues, Lake said, because "it taps into what we all are completely obsessed with, even though we know we shouldn't be. We all want to know: What did she do to change her body in that way?"
Keeping her body that way, she admits, takes work.
"My body holds on to every part of every, you know, calorie that there is out there," Lake said.
For Lake, staying slim means eating smaller portions and taking responsibility for her diet.
"If I pig out and eat a big meal, then the next day I'm gonna be a little bit more careful," she said.
"It's really, really challenging for people in this day and age to put healthy food in, reasonable portions on their plates," Lake said, "when we're, we're taught, you know, Super Size me, and Big Gulp everything. ... It's a constant battle."
A former "overeater," Lake said she now feels better when she deprives herself of food.
It's "a sick, crazy thing," she said. "Like, when I go to bed hungry, I feel like I'm accomplishing something."
But has Lake's strict relationship with food gone too far? Lake says no.
"I'm obsessed with weight (and) that's probably unhealthy," she said. "but , no, I do not think I have an eating disorder."