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In July 2008, uber-toned Dancing with the Stars pro Cheryl Burke was snapped in an unflattering bathing suit pic by paparazzi. Web lurkers were cruel, and the "fat" comments cut her deeply. The 26-year-old fought back, telling People magazine, "You don't have to be anorexic to be beautiful," but behind her brave face, Burke was crushed, resorting to anxiety-inducing diet pills and a near-starvation diet.
Now, Burke is back in the spotlight with her new book, Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life (Wiley, 2011). In it, she reveals more about her body image struggles, as well as her history of sexual assault and molestation at the hands of a family friend.
She’s not the only celeb to undergo a physical transformation while on DWTS – far from it. The reality show seems to be a more reliable way to lose weight than The Biggest Loser. Scads of women (men, too) have watched their figures morph as the hours of practice added up. But along with trimming down, it seems like DWTS has shored up many a self esteem, Burke’s included. Other examples:
Celeb: Kelly Osbourne
Weight lost: 20 pounds
Having already battled drugs and alcohol, Osbourne has turned to extreme weight loss methods in the past, including restrictive fad diets and the ADHD drug Adderall. She credits DWTS partner Louis Van Amstel with teaching her how to eat and exercise properly. "You sweat and you stink, but then you're done -- and you see that just taking an hour three times a week can change you so much. It becomes addictive."
Body image lesson: When funneled into the proper outlet, our obsessive tendencies can work to our advantage.
Celeb: David Alan Grier
Weight lost: 26 pounds
Initially, Grier doubted that dancing would help him shed pounds: "I was like, ‘We’re not going to lose weight – we’re waltzing!’" But he learned that a combination of intense daily practices, aerobics and core work meant he could get fit in unconventional ways.
Body image lesson: You don't have to chain yourself to a treadmill to get in shape.
Celeb: Marissa Jaret Winokur
Weight lost: 60 pounds
Winokur has spoken out about feeling helpless over her weight, but DWTS showed her that commitment pays off. "I think this show promotes the fact that if you just dance every day and if you feel good, it’s a win/win situation. When you start feeling good, then you start looking better. Then you start feeling better. And you work harder to feel good because you’re looking better."
Body image lesson: True health comes from the inside out.
Celeb: Jennifer Grey
Weight lost: N/A
Grey has battled chronic pain ever since 1987, when she injured her neck in a serious car crash. Multiple surgeries later (including one to remove a cancerous thyroid), she made her way to – and won – DWTS…but not before rupturing a disk in her lower back while competing. After a final corrective surgery, she says she is now "completely pain free."
Body image lesson: Feeling healthy trumps feeling thin any day. And with hard work, any obstacle can be surmounted.
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