Jordin Sparks took 'baby steps' to 50-pound weight loss

By Linda Carroll

Jordin Sparks had always been a chunky girl, loving food and comfortable with her plus-sized shape. But a bout of illness back in 2010 spurred her to healthier habits and now, after losing 50 pounds, the singer-actress is showing off the results on red carpets, and the covers of Redbook and Shape magazines.

Sparks talked about her weight loss and her role in the upcoming movie, "Sparkle," with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

“I got really sick in the fall of 2010 right after Broadway ” Sparks told Guthrie. “And I was just like, I am not going to take my health for granted anymore. This changes right here, right now.”

The first step for Sparks was to take a closer look at her eating habits.

“I was really evaluating what I was eating, when,” she said. "And why I was eating it. I love food and so I was just eating because it tasted good. I kind of re-evaluated that. Now I definitely listen to my body first.”

But Sparks knew that cutting back on food wasn’t the whole answer. She decided she would get in shape, and started working out, too.  

“I just took baby steps because I was so fatigued from what I was sick with,” she told Guthrie. “Just doing baby steps and getting more into physical activity and then eventually I found a trainer. And I’ve just been trying to keep it up. It’s a day by day thing. It’s been a year and a half and I feel good.”

While most people are happy for Sparks, there’s been some grumbling on the internet from those who feel they’ve lost a plus-sized role model. "Jordin Sparks' weight loss is a big disappointment," said one headline on the Cafemom blog.

But weight expert Kelly Allison says it’s far better for Sparks to be a role model for getting healthier.

Story: Jordin Sparks calls 'Sparkle' Whitney Houston's 'gift' to fans

“My sense about celebrity weight loss is that if it’s done reasonably it can be a positive motivator for people – and it looks like Jordin Sparks went with a reasonable weight loss program,” said Allison, an assistant professor of psychology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of education at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders. “I only get concerned when a celebrity loses weight and promotes fad diets and radical ways of eating. That can cause people to feel hopeless or to engage in eating disorders.”

Allison says she doesn't oppose the healthy-at-every-size movement.

“I have mixed feelings,” she said. “On one hand you want people to be happy with their shape and size and to not be hampered by a size bias. We want people to be more tolerant of all kinds of weights and sizes, especially since one-third of the country is obese and another third is overweight. We don’t want those people to be treated badly, for sure.”

Nevertheless, Allison said, “if there’s a way to get people to live as healthy a life-style as possible, that’s good.”

Get healthy with these TODAY Health stories:

Joy Bauer answers questions about far-fetched diet claims

Low-fat, low-carb or low-glycemic, which is best?

Star Jones on her weight loss: 'I wasn't plus-size, I was morbidly obese'