Thorne-Smith Drops Dieting Obsession

ByABC News via via logo

N E W  Y O R K, Oct. 3, 2001 -- After years of trying to keep pace with her skinny co-stars, TV actress Courtney Thorne-Smith decided it was time to stop dropping pounds, and instead lose her obsession with weight loss.

A longtime television series actress, Thorne-Smith is now starring with Jim Belushi in the new ABC comedy According to Jim, where she plays Belushi's wife, a sophisticated counterpart to his character's all-American guy persona.

The actress is best known for her roles on two hit shows on the Fox network, Ally McBeal and Melrose Place.

While acting on those dramas, Thorne-Smith, 33, said she was dieting relentlessly. To stay skinny, she would eat only small meals of salad and fruit, which added up to about 1,000 calories a day. Then she would exercise obsessively, burning about 700 calories day by running.

"I felt terrible," Thorne-Smith said on Good Morning America. I was exhausted: 300 calories don't give you a lot of energy," she said.

Slimmer than Recommended

Thorne-Smith was not fat by any measure. The recommended weight for a woman her size (5 feet 6 inches tall, with a medium frame) ranges from 130 pounds to 144 pounds. She maintained her weight at about 120 pounds, but she wanted to lose 10 more.

No one told her she had to lose weight, but ever since the actress got a role in her second television series in 1988, the short-run sitcom Day by Day, she felt she needed to stay very thin.

The pressure to be Hollywood-thin intensified as soon as she landed the role of Alison Parker on Melrose Place in 1992. She worked alongside slim co-star Heather Locklear and other ultra-thin actresses. When she moved onto Ally McBeal, she had to share scenes with Calista Flockhart, one of the skinniest actresses in Hollywood.

A Life-Changing Doctor's Visit

In preparation for her character's almost-nude scene on Ally McBeal, Thorne-Smith ate only fruit for a whole week. At one point she had lost 15 pounds, and went to a nutritionist, explaining that she was exhausted and was not sure why. The nutritionist said she was starving herself and exercising too much.

Then Thorne-Smith came across an article about Hollywood actresses who seemed too thin. Her name was in it and she was struck by the prospect of becoming a role model for young girls. "I thought, I hate the thought of a 12, 13 or 14 year-old girl seeing a picture of me and thinking she'll do what I did," she said.

The actress said she started eating well and exercising to be fit. But when she didn't feel thin enough, she ate even less and exercised even more. Thorne-Smith feared that other young women would get on the same unhealthy cycle when looking at so many pictures of ultra-thin women.

At that point, she realized she needed to step back from her work, and allow herself the freedom to eat.

Thorne-Smith now eats five small meals a day, a healthy diet consisting of mostly lean protein, vegetables and fruit. She works out daily, completing about 90 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise, along with yoga and weightlifting. She is also putting energy into another creative pursuit. She writes about exercise and healthy living as a contributing editor for Self magazine.

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