Feb. 27, 2013 at 12:31 PM ET
For Star Jones, super-sized burgers and a sedentary lifestyle are gone for good. Now, you’ll see leafy greens and fish on her plate and catch the TODAY contributor working out every day.
Jones, whose weight once topped 300 pounds, underwent gastric bypass nearly 10 years ago and has stayed slim. But in 2010 at age 47, she faced another health crisis: After suffering intense heart palpitations, she was shocked to learn she had heart disease and needed open-heart surgery to repair her aortic valve.
“I’m a survivor,” she said on TODAY Wednesday. “And heart health is something I now take very seriously.”
Jones, who works with the American Heart Association, discussed how she spent her February, which is American Heart Month.
“For heart health month 2013, I decided to step it up to a heart-healthy lifestyle,” she said, adding that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and African Americans in this country.
She committed to exercising at least 30 minutes a day and focused on proper nutrition. That meant no dairy, fried food or alcohol.
“Outside and in, it’s a whole new me,” she said. “Right now, I’m in the very best health that I’ve been in in my entire life.”
Her commitment paid off. Jones reduced her total body fat and gained lean muscle, which translated into a total reduction of 8 inches from her waist, hips and arms, she told TODAY.com. “And I’m finally able to touch my toes!” she said.
The changes helped in other ways, too. Cutting out butter, cheese and milk has helped with her digestion and removing cocktails from her diet has allowed her to sleep through the night for the first time in nearly two years.
Jones is so thrilled with the results that she plans to stick with her new regimen indefinitely.
“I’m not gonna lie and say I’ll never have another glass of wine or piece of cheese, but I’m going to be tremendously conscious about it,” she said. “And fast-food burgers are definitely gone forever.”
To make the changes, Jones says, she set the bar high.
Read story: Mediterranean diet can cut heart attack risk
She used a medically supervised nutritional detox program, and starts her day with a protein shake. Her doctor encouraged her to rearrange her refrigerator so she makes smart choices, with the first two shelves filled with foods she can have all the time.
“One of the things that I absolutely love is kale,” she told TODAY. “And don’t forget the proteins, like fish with the good kind of fat.”
She also exercises daily, working out with a trainer and adding Pilates into the mix. “For me, it is a matter of life and death,” she said.
Watch video: Natalie races, Savannah struts catwalk for charity
While Jones is feeling great today, it wasn’t always that way.
"I was struggling with my weight since I was 18 years old,” she said on TODAY. “Fitness wasn't important to me. Nutrition wasn't important to me."
And with food as her vice, her weight ballooned as she got older.
“What was full-figured and fabulous turned into obese and sloppy,” she said.
With her life at risk, she had the gastric bypass surgery.
"I went from 307 pounds to at the lowest, 142 pounds,” she said. “And I’ve kept 150 pounds off and it will be 10 years in August.”
Jones is urging women to become active and eat well.
“Nutrition mixed with fitness is the only thing that’s going to work in the long haul,” Jones said.
The winning combination has left Jones feeling better than ever.
“I have moved from healthy to heart-healthy,” she said.