After a year out of the spotlight, Star Jones Reynolds is once again ready for her close-up and she's finally admitting the secret behind her dramatic, 160-pound weight loss: gastric bypass surgery.
"I had always been this girl out there who said I would die fat and happy," she told ABC's Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America." "What a lie."
The lawyer and former co-host of ABC's "The View" first opened up about her surgery, which she underwent four years ago, in an interview with Glamour magazine. On "GMA," Reynolds explained why she had covered up the truth for so long.
"[I was] scared of what other people would think. … For some strange reason, I thought — and it crippled me — that it would diminish who I was," she said. "Everything about my life was so public, mostly through my own doing. … When I lost weight, I somehow thought I was just going to say I'm going to be private about it."
Though she's a bold and assertive personality on screen, Reynolds said she needed extensive therapy in order to begin talking openly about her weight loss surgery.
"I wish I could explain what emotionally crippling control is," she said. "It took me a long time in therapy to be honest with you, to open up."
To quell media speculation about her plummeting weight, Reynolds used the term "medical intervention" to describe the method she used to shed pounds in a 2006 interview.
"It would have been so much easier to just say I had this weight loss surgery," she said. "But I couldn't do it."
Reynolds also admitted that since undergoing gastric bypass surgery, she's had a breast lift and surgery to remove excess skin on her stomach. A size 26 in 2003, Jones Reynolds now wears a size 8. But she said surgery isn't the sole explanation for her new figure.
A Confession of Convenience?
After years of defending her weight, Reynolds is under fire from critics who say that her confession seems a bit too conveniently pegged to the debut of her new Court TV show. She's been accused of turning her personal experience into a publicity stunt abound, and it's an accusation she does not deny.
"This is a unique opportunity — this new show — for me to turn the page, to actually be who Star is, and I can't carry all that baggage with me," Reynolds said. "I can't carry that vulnerability, or lack of vulnerability, or that worry constantly that someone is judging me."
She said her husband urged her to tell the truth for the sake of her mental health. "As my therapist said, emotional health doesn't always come on a P.R. schedule," she said.
She admitted she was "intoxicated" by celebrity in her early career. "The lights and cameras can make you overly excited and it took my focus away — from what I really came to television to do."
A Work in Progress
Fully aware that the weight can creep back on, she says she is a disciplined gym-goer, an hour a day, six days a week. It's a discipline that comes from watching friends who have also gone through the surgery. She has seen one friend regain weight, one friend maintain the weight loss and one friend die.
"It's a struggle every day and it's a lifestyle change," she said. "The risks are tremendous, but the benefits of being able to breathe, to walk a flight of stairs, to not have to use an inhaler, to just go around the corner, to stand up in church and clap your hands and enjoy the service for the whole song … that for me has given me back my life. And it's the best decision I've made."
"Remember, it's been four years," she said. "Gastric bypass starts you on the path, but exercise, changing eating habits — that's the stuff that will change your life."
Reynolds returns to television Monday with "Star Jones" on Court TV. While she feels more free now that she's revealed the secret of her weight loss, she said she's still plagued by insecurity.
"I walk around free because I don't have that burden, but Diane, I still wake up very insecure and very scared and very afraid that somehow, if I open myself up too much and show that I get hurt, that it will make me too vulnerable."
Looking Back, Thinking Ahead
As Reynolds looks ahead, she reflects on the road that brought her where she is today.
Though she has left "The View," she said she wishes Whoopi Goldberg the best in her new position. "I think she'll bring intelligent diversity to the panel. And I'm glad that they're moving to the next level. I hope they wish me well when I start my new show this week."
She is eager to return to her roots on the new program.
"She'll be big. She'll be bold, but you know what? She'll be yours," Reynolds said of her new role. "It's what my audience used to love about me. And I'm hoping that they give me the opportunity to show them that it's — that she's back."