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Jennifer Hudson makes Baltimore appearance to aid city's weight loss program

Jennifer Hudson urged women to chart their own path to better health as she spoke to a gathering of Weight Watchers participants at a West Baltimore senior center Tuesday morning.

"You cannot achieve somebody else's goals," the singer and Oscar-winning actress, who serves as Weight Watchers' celebrity ambassador, told a crowd assembled at Park Heights' Zeta Center for Healthy and Active Aging. "If you didn't do it, they're going to talk.  If you do it, they're still going to talk."

Hudson, who had been in Washington over the weekend to attend Michelle Obama's 50th birthday celebration, appeared in Baltimore to announce an expansion of a city program that allows low-income residents of some neighborhoods to join Weight Watchers for a reduced fee. 

A grant from the United States Conference of Mayors and Weight Watchers will allow the city to expand the health department's B'More Fit for Healthy Babies program.  Both women and men will be able to participate at the Zeta Center and more women will be able to enroll in existing programs near Patterson Park and Druid Hill Park.

Residents who have a body mass index greater than 25 and who qualify for a government-subsidized program such as Medicare, WIC or federal student aid, are eligible for the program, which offers deep discounts on Weight Watchers meetings and fitness classes. 

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that 45 percent of the city's African-American residents are obese as is 36 percent of the city's total population. 

The mayor said that she was prompted to lose a significant amount of weight herself several years ago after realizing that most of the health problems that afflicted her family were tied to obesity. 

"I had to be honest with myself," she said. "I don't want to tell you what my [body mass index] was when I started."

Hudson, wearing a sleek black dress, told the crowd she had "never been this size in my life."  

In 2011, the year after she became a Weight Watchers' ambassador, Hudson told Oprah she had lost 80 pounds. When Weight Watchers approached her, Hudson said, her first reaction was "I can't lose no weight eating no popcorn."

In time, she lost the "diet mentality" and began to manage her weight by making healthy choices, she said. 

Hudson said that between 75 and 100 members of her family have lost a total of 2,000 pounds through the weight loss program. She urged the crowd, which included about a dozen participants in the city-sponsored Weight Watchers group to "take baby steps."

"One of my New Year's resolutions this year was I want help change lives," she said. "I'm starting that by being here. Hopefully, my testimony can help inspire someone else's journey and make a difference in someone else's life."

The former "American Idol" finalist is also finding time to make music. Hudson, who received a People's Choice Award this month for the charity she founded, said her third studio album, set to be released early this year, is a "feel-good album," that is "extremely different from everything I've done before."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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