08/24/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT
Phylicia Rashad knew she had finally conquered her bad eating habits when earlier this year, during a run on Broadway, she'd get home late and head straight for the kitchen. "I used to sit there and say, 'Maybe I'll have some sherbet.' Or I'd remember I had some cookies in my cabinet," she says. "This time, yes, I'd be hungry—but I'd have asparagus or a clear soup or a light salad. Not my favorite lemon cake!" For her newfound willpower, the 5'6" actress—who is a Jenny Craig spokeswoman—credits the diet company for teaching her portion control. Still, to lose nearly 40 lbs. since last Thanksgiving, Rashad, 61, also hit the gym four times a week, working out with light weights and riding the recumbent bike for 30 minutes. Now she's sitting back and enjoying friends' compliments. "I saw James Earl Jones," Rashad says, "and he said, 'You look like a little girl!'"
THEN SEPT. 2008