When Sara Rue reads for a part, there's just one dealbreaker for her. "I'll get a script with a scene at the beach and just instantly pass," the actress says. "I go, 'No, I don't want to go on the audition. I'm not even going to finish reading it. I don't want to deal with it.'" Being seen—or worse yet, photographed—in a bathing suit, Rue adds, "is my worst nightmare."
Feeling anxiety about her body is nothing new for Rue, 31, a veteran TV actress best known for her starring roles as what she calls the "awkward fish out of water" on shows including Popular
and Less than Perfect
. But after several years of trying everything from juice fasts to restricted-calorie diets, Rue has signed on as the new Jenny Craig spokeswoman, hoping to lose 30 lbs. "She's me three years ago," says fellow Jenny Craig spokeswoman Valerie Bertinelli. "She's let herself believe the negatives too often, but that will slowly fade away." Admits Rue: "My weight has been an emotional roller-coaster for me, and I am ready to get off it."
Rue's body struggles began in childhood, when her parents' encouragement to "finish everything on your plate" turned into overeating. "I got picked on by other kids," says Rue, who found it "harder to control what I was eating when things got hard emotionally." But in 2002, after becoming a breakout TV star on the hit sitcom Less than Perfect
, Rue decided to slim down. Limiting herself to only 1,000 calories a day, she cut out all carbohydrates, sticking to a diet of mostly hard-boiled eggs, fruit and salad. "That would be it all day," says the 5'8" Rue, who also diligently hit the gym, shedding so much weight, "one magazine said I was only 112 lbs., which at my height would mean I was dead on the floor!"
But sticking to such an extreme diet, Rue admits, wasn't something she could do "forever." And then in 2006, she split from her husband of six years—a situation she calls "really hard and sad" and which found her once again turning to food for comfort. "The reality is, I had lost a lot of weight when I was feeling really good about myself," she says. "And then my personal life fell flat. It took me a couple of years to recover."
Hollywood, however, didn't welcome back the fuller Rue with open arms. "Last year a network executive wanted me for a show, but then I got an e-mail saying, 'We've seen a recent picture and we're no longer interested,'" Rue recalls. "You get something like that, and it's shocking and sad."
But Rue (who has since rebounded with a role on the show Eastwick
, and a new fiancé, Kevin Price, 35, an education consultant) says the feedback also forced her to finally take control of her body and her life. "I'm at a point where I want to be in control of the roles I do and the lifestyle I lead," she says. "I'm letting go of the past and looking to the future."
- Monica Rizzo/Los Angeles.