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Gabourey Sidibe on her dramatic weight loss: 'I did it so I can walk around comfortably in heels'

Gabourey Sidibe’s significant weight loss is not your imagination. With a book about to come out, the “Empire” actress is talking about the weight-loss surgery she had nearly a year ago and has kept a secret until now.

A diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes apparently helped Sidibe make up her mind about getting laparoscopic bariatric surgery in May.

“I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes,” she tells People, which is exclusively excerpting “This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare,” her first memoir.

“I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes,” says Sidibe, who goes by the nickname Gabby. In the book, she also writes about her battles with depression, anxiety and bulimia, People reported.

It’s unclear when that diagnosis occurred, but she writes that after more than a decade of trying to lose weight naturally, going under the knife wasn’t taking the easy way out.

“My surgeon said they’d cut my stomach in half. This would limit my hunger and capacity to eat. My brain chemistry would change and I’d want to eat healthier. I’ll take it! My lifelong relationship with food had to change,” she writes.

Since getting surgery, she’s made changes in diet and exercise (like she said, so much for the easy way out). In October, she became a model for Lane Bryant. In January, Sidibe posted a shot of herself heading to the gym.

Fans started noticing the 33-year-old’s shape changing in pictures posted to Instagram, with BET calling attention to one particular selfie in early September. Still, she was keeping her weight loss off the official radar, offering advice that same month to the mother of an overweight 12-year-old girl on a “Watch What Happens Live” after-show that basically said, help your daughter to find something she truly loves about herself and stick it out.

“I went through school and I realized how much it prepared me for real life. I’m still dealing with the haters,” Sidibe said before revealing, “I didn’t get good with myself until I was like 25 years old.”

At that age, the breakout star of “Precious” was dealing with the heat of Hollywood’s awards-season publicity. “I faked my way through it very well,” the Oscar nominee told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. “Thank God I was 25 and not 15. That would’ve been insane.”

Since “Precious,” her resume has grown to include roles on “The Big C,” “American Horror Story” and most recently “Empire.” That last one, by the way, was originally slated to be filled by a boyish, petite white girl.

But during that “Precious” period and for years afterward, the topic of weight loss seemed to be a nonstarter. Talking with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, she defended her size. Having embarked on her first diet at age 6, she had finally decided, “I loved myself no matter what my body looked like and what other people thought about my body. … I got tired of feeling bad all the time. I got tired of hating myself.”

Sidibe was OK with herself, and others were happy to come to her defense — with the notable exception of Howard Stern, who said on his show that the spotlight was hurting her. She didn’t have a future in Hollywood because of her size, he said bluntly, and was endangering her health.

Sidibe’s mother, singer Alice Tan Ridley, defended her daughter after Stern’s attack. “She’s a big woman, so what’s wrong with that? She’s not like everyone else in the world," Ridley told “Inside Edition.

Years later, Sidibe has addressed her weight not for appearance sake but for reasons along the lines of what Stern highlighted so bluntly: It’s about health.

“It has taken me years to realize that what I was born with is all beautiful,” she writes in her book. “I did not get this surgery to be beautiful. I did it so I can walk around comfortably in heels. I want to do a cartwheel. I want not to be in pain every time I walk up a flight of stairs.”

“This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare” comes out in May.

cdz@latimes.com

@theCDZ

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