Jessica Simpson says trashing her scale helped shed some pain from a lifetime of body image struggles.
In her first personal essay on Amazon Original Stories, the star, 40, details her very last weigh-in — three weeks before giving birth to daughter Birdie in 2019 — and the eight words she spoke to the future hunk of scrap metal as she tossed it in the trash. It was a huge deal for someone who as a young pop star saw her "weight measured like the value of a stock" and who grew into a woman who watched as her mom jeans were a national discussion, with even then-President Obama commenting on her "weight battle."
Simpson wrote that she's "constantly" asked to do interviews about her post-baby weight loss, even though Birdie is now 2, with reporters trying to get the exact answer to the question, "'How much did you lose, anyway?" However, "The truth is I don't know, because I threw out my scale," calling it "part of the work on myself that continues."
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She wrote, "Not knowing my weight to the pound is something I couldn't imagine in my teens. As a pop star, my weight was measured like the value of stock — insider knowledge to be passed on to the higher-ups to determine the worth of investing in me."
Simpson, who took diet pills as a teen to appease a music exec, said, "I was consistently assigned a number to lose by the same men who would determine the budget for the time I had in a recording studio, how much of an ad buy I deserved for a single or album, and what 'direction' I was going in as an artist. I would hit the number because I wanted my music to be heard. I'd drop from 118 to 103, train myself to sing on a treadmill, so I could have the stamina to what I loved —performing — at what was an unnatural weight for me as a teenager."
The songstress, who now heads a billion-dollar fashion brand, recalled being on the treadmill asking herself, "You want to be great?" Or staring at her body in a mirror and "pinching the smallest bit of skin on my belly until it left a welt" she'd have to cover with makeup "because they signed me for my voice but demanded I wear crop tops. This is what it takes."
She said the weight "fixation continued" when she starred in 2005's Dukes of Hazzard as Daisy Duke, who's "known for the perfection of her body." She "set the bar high for the rest of my life" by getting in such great shape. "How I looked playing Daisy was held up as the gold-standard 'before' photo in side-by-side comparison shots for eternity." However, she admits that when she looked at those photos, she did "not even see me, but Daisy. She would wear the short shorts and bikini top — I was the one throwing on a robe or even a blanket the second the director yelled cut."
Four years later, of course, she was publicly ridiculed over her size four mom jeans.
"I was perceived as breaking some sort of social contract because I was photographed in mom jeans," she wrote. "I still don't understand why those pictures of me merited exhaustive discussion on CNN and headlines like 'Obama Weighs in on Jessica Simpson's Full Figure.' I was 120 pounds and size 4, something I only wrote in my journal and refused to reveal publicly because I knew exactly how that would be used against women whose numbers were higher."
Simpson later became the face of Weight Watchers to get her body back after her first two children back-to-back with husband Eric Johnson — while behind the scenes she secretly had two tummy tucks, one leaving her very, very ill due to infection. Getting sober in November 2017 gave her a "renewed clarity" and she began a period of reflection, much captured for her best-seller, Open Book. She said it was while writing her memoir in 2019 — three weeks before giving birth to Birdie — that she decided it was time to trash her scale.
She recalled standing on it and not being able to see the number due to her belly, so husband Johnson read it out loud to her. "This has to be broken," she recalled saying, before making him get on to check his own weight for accuracy.
"He did," she wrote. "The number was accurate. And less than mine. I weighed more than my husband, a 6-foot-3 former tight end in the NFL."
There were tears, she wrote, and reflection of how hard her pregnancy had been with "hospitalizations and incredible discomfort," as we all saw her ankles. It led her to stand in front of her mirror and say, "I am what matters. Here I was, creating life, this miracle baby that we didn't expect… My heart literally beat for hers." So she asked Johnson to pick up the scale because she couldn't bend.
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"I carried that darn thing downstairs, put it in a trash bag, and brought it right to the garage," she wrote. And while she is sentimental about all things, "This was like a Ouija board at church camp — had to go."
She continued, "Goodbye I told the scale, "I don't care if you're broken. I'm not."
Simpson said she "worked hard" to lose the baby weight with Birdie, "not because of a number" — though she did celebrate shedding 100 pounds — but to feel comfortable in her body. "This has been, finally for me."
And she says she doesn't keep track of whether she's a few pounds up or down, noting, "Even at the doctor's office now, I stand on the scale backward." (On the Today show Thursday she said, "I have no idea how much I weigh. I just want to feel good and be able to zip my pants up. If I don't, I have another size. I have every size.)
In the essay, Simpson wrote that during her life she had "plenty of fears to choose from to hold me back." She noted, "There was the shame of the sexual abuse I endured for 7 years as a child, which I never spoke of. I stayed in relationships" — exes include Nick Lachey and John Mayer — "to distract myself, where what mattered most was what the men thought of me, not what I knew about me. I allowed the media's fixation with my weight to take my lifelong joy of performing away from me, so I retreated from the public eye."
However, this year is one spent "focusing on letting go of my fears — big and small, one by one — to get where I need to go."
Something she tackled recently was doing a photo shoot, for the Jessica Simpson Collection, with a horse — at the behest of her daughter Maxwell, who rides. (Fun fact: Maxi, almost 9, now fits into Simpson's Daisy Duke cowboy boots from the film.) Simpson said she had a fear of horses, due to her cousin Sarah — who Open Book is dedicated to — being killed in an accident at 17 when a horse ran into the road. (Simpson was 15 at the time and Sarah was like a sister to her.)
In the essay, Simpson wrote that, while she spilled many secrets in her memoir, she had one more she hadn't shared. "I thought that publishing a memoir meant that I was going to die. It might sound ludicrous to you, but Sarah had recorded her life so beautifully in her journals," which were shared with the family when she died. "I had felt Sarah so close to me as I wrote, her presence at my side becoming stronger and stronger leading up to the release of the book, that I thought she was there to take me home too."
However, she said she realized her cousin's presence inspiring her to live freely, openly and "to dare" — and that her cousin's message was really, "We're just getting started." And that's her new mantra.
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