Diet Hall of Fame

updated 10/16/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/16/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ricki Lake
Talk about sensitive. While filming next year's romantic comedy Mrs. Winterbourne in Manhattan in August, the 5'4" talk show host, padded to appear pregnant, angrily chased off a photographer. The reason, according to a crew member: "She didn't want the papers to say's fat again. "Who could blame her? Though Lake, 27, once saw her 250-pound girth as a gimmick to help get roles, by 1991th star of Hairspray and Serial Mom couldn't get work. A low-fat diet and stints on the StairMaster and Nautilus machine took off 130 pounds, and she shed 17 more to costar in Winterbourne. Now a svelte size 8, The Ricki Lake Show host hasn't forgotten her roots. She and her husband, illustrator rob Sussman, 28, plan to collaborate on a novel about a fat girl. "All I had growing up," Lake has said, "was Judy Blume's Blubber. Our book would be beneficial to lots of kids."

Janet Jackson
As a kid she had the cutest little cheeks. Then she became a teen pop star, and the vamp within remained hidden under 15 extra pounds. "Ever since I was little, I loved to eat," Jackson admitted in 1990. "I started eating when I wasn't hungry. So I constantly watch my weight." The 5'4" dynamo, now 29, lost the fat in 1988 with a diet of fish and vegetables, and she maintains a workout schedule that would make a Marine cry uncle. To prepare for a video, Jackson rehearses her frenetic dance routines six hours a day, five days a week, in addition to pumping and crunching daily at her Malibu home with personal trainer Doug Yee. And if you think that's disciplined..."I always stand around eating French fries and cake," says her choreographer Tina Landon. "But I never see Janet eat junk food. Never."

Elizabeth Taylor
She's had as many dress sizes as husbands. In any given year she can look gorgeously thin or grotesquely fat. She has tried diet pills, liquid lunches, starvation. "I'm five feet, four and a half in my bare feet and look and feel my best when I weigh between 120 and 122 pounds," she wrote in her 1987 book, Elizabeth Takes Off. Lately, the zaftig 63-year-old star has been following the book's 1,000-calories-per-day plan to get back to fighting trim—and a good thing too. Since her recent hip-replacement surgeries, she can't exercise much, and the upset of separating from Larry Fortensky has done nothing to slim those hips. Her humor will help. Taylor once put a photo of herself on her fridge and told friends, "If you think a picture of Miss Lard will inspire you too, go ahead."

Susan Powter
"EAT, MOVE, BREATHE!" It's the message America's lean, mean, selling machine has peddled in three bestselling books, a syndicated talk show and those unforgettable infomercials. Her point: Eat plentifully but light, work out and practice stress reduction. Beginning in 1985 that mantra transformed Powter, 37, from a frumpy 260-pound Texas homemaker into a sexy, 127-pound Bel Air fitness queen. Though she still craves Mexican food, the 5'7" mogul insists, "Quote me on this! I've smashed that vicious cycle. Only two things will make me fat again. I have to start eating tons of fat, and I have to stop moving. What are the chances of that? ZERO!" Now, now, no need to shout.

Jennifer Holliday
"I thought losing weight would solve my problems," says the Tony winner. "I found out thin people get it just as bad." With 330 pounds on her 5'4" frame in 1989, the star of Broadway's 1981 hit Dreamgirls shed almost 200 pounds over three years, thanks to a 1,200-calorie daily diet combined with StairMaster sessions. "I used to have four whole pieces of fried chicken, now I just have one." Newly svelte, the singer-performer married—and then divorced—twice. With both husbands, she says, "I didn't love myself enough." Four years of psychotherapy later, Holliday, 34, who is currently touring with a gospel show, hopes to get down to 122 pounds and marry again one day. Says she: "I'm a new woman."

Oprah Winfrey
What does it take to get it off? In Oprah's case, it took cash: In 1991, the bulge-battling TV talker hired a chef, Rosie Daley, to concoct low-fat feasts, but she still "bleeped up" (as she puts it) to 235 pounds two years later. In '93 she hired personal trainer Bob Greene, and the pounds began to melt away. To maintain her 150-pound goal weight, Oprah, 41, must, well, work her butt off. She rises at 5 every morning, usually runs some seven, nine-minute miles and does 350 stomach crunches, then trains with weights twice a week. "I never want to do it," she says. "There isn't a day I wake up and think, 'Oh, great!' " But she has grown to love her stripped-clean diet and the rewards are worth a little sweat. "I've changed my lifestyle," she says. "It's one of my proudest accomplishments."

We know she can do it. Why, just two years ago, the 5'3" comedienne weighed in at a relatively sleek 170. Then she divorced Tom Arnold and gained some 30 pounds. Subsequently pregnant with new hubby Ben Thomas's son Buck, she put on another 50 pounds. Will the queen of the bouncing scales ever sustain a happy medium? "I have lived the majority of my life in a flesh prison that I was always trying to blow up, break out of or whittle away," she told PEOPLE in '91. What works best for Rosie, 42, is a low-calorie diet, daily exercise and no-holds-barred psychotherapy. "The braver I get," she has said, "the more weight goes off." How brave? "Some days on the set she'll have sushi or a salad," says a Roseanne staffer. "Other days there's doughnuts and junk and she's right there in it." And ready to profit from the habit: Roseanne and Thomas plan to start a national chain of Roseanne's Big Food Diners. Watch out for those loose meat sandwiches, Rosie.

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