Weighing In: A Journey of Self Love


I’ve lost 10 pounds this month. I haven’t been eating all that healthy, and outside of a few hikes in the canyons of LA, I haven’t been working out much. I attribute the weight loss to the progress and the transparency I’ve embraced about being open about my struggles with an emotional binge eating disorder and a warped sense of body image.

In large part, this came about thru a recent panel at Wonder Con that I put together called “All Shapes and Sizes Welcome: Body Image and Women’s Issues in the Entertainment Industry”; which featured Helenna Santos-Levy, Adrianne Curry, Amber Krzys, Lynn Chen, and Miracle Laurie.

All Shapes and Sizes

However, the body image struggle has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and long before I found myself in the most body-obsessed industry and city in the world. I’m not exactly sure what happened or what triggered it. I was a happy, fairly active child, participating in dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, and other sports.

Leah dance

When you look at the above photo, what do you see?   I see a little girl with a belly sticking out. And it was about this age, approx age 10, that that belly started to take center stage in my mind.  Truth be told, I was born with a tiny bit of scoliosis, nothing that could be fixed, but enough of an issue that it caused me to hunch over, be a tad lopsided, and thereby cause my stomach and butt area to stick out slightly.

Somewhere around age 12, I began to feel more and more self-conscious, and although I had been an avid swimmer and loved pools, lakes, ponds, and oceans, I started to shy away from wearing bathing suits, and by age 16, you’d be hard press to find me in anything that didn’t cover my stomach area.

Leah age16

Now, I know as a logical human being that the child and teen in those photos above is in no way, shape or form overweight, but that’s just it, when it comes to body image and eating disorders, there is no logic.

It wasn’t anything major, nothing that kept me from having a happy and social teenage life, as long as swimsuits weren’t involved, but some time in my college years, is when the over-eating really began to take shape.

I had always used food as a way to bond with family.  As a child, I would have competitions with my Pop-Pop to see who could eat more mashed potatoes or Chinese food (Pop-Pop a former Navy man, was fit and athletic, and the mashed potatoes didn’t show up on his hips or thighs.)  But by college, there was a drastic change.

 leah age20

My face had started to get rounder, and my frame larger, and next thing I knew, I was at Jenny Craig, weighing in at 186 pounds.   After joining Jenny Craig, my mom confessed to me that, she had to hold back the tears just a few weeks prior when we went dress shopping together and she saw me in the dressing room.   Isn’t it interesting how those that love us, have a hard time being truthful with us about something so important like our health and weight, yet we have no problems gossiping about celebrities and their weight?

Jenny Craig was successful for me.  I lost 62 pounds in 10 months, and was even featured in mainstream magazines like Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.



Life was good. I was buying shorts, and borrowing clothes off my little sisters.  Things were great, my weight issues were gone.  Or were they?

Flash forward 10 years, and now I’m a working actress in Hollywood, California on the set of HBO’s Deadwood.   I had kept off most of the weight from Jenny Craig,


bouncing around in about a 20pd radius.. but something went awry in my brain while working on Deadwood (a show, cast, and crew I ADORED!). I was introduced to the Master Cleanse. I did it for 40 days straight.  No food and nothing but the cleanse drink for 40 days. Looking back, I realize, although I was working on the show, and was hired for the way I looked, curves and all, the lead actresses on the show were much, much thinner. And I wanted to be a lead actress.


At the time I thought that girl was healthy.  I look at her now, and can see how tiny her face is, and how her neck and shoulder bones are protruding.  I had no idea how tiny I had gotten in just 30 days.  In fact, the wardrobe dept on Deadwood expressed their concern as they had to take my clothes in from a size 30 waist to a 23 waist.

That cleanse threw my body and mind out of whack and for the next few years, I was obsessed with cleanses and detoxes.  Gain 10 pounds. Do a cleanse. Gain. Repeat.  As an intelligent woman, I know this is not healthy for my body, my metabolism, or my digestive system. But I couldn’t stop.

About 3yrs ago, I got it under control, and began using a nutritional program called Isagenix (www.selflove.isagenix.com).  These products made me feel healthy, helped me maintain my ideal weight (130pds at 5’6 ½), and were packed full of vitamins.  I was also in the midst of the busiest career year of my life, and working out regularly.  I felt GREAT.



And then… in 2010 I experienced a bout with emotional binge eating unlike anything I had ever experienced.  I found myself going to Starbucks ordering sugary drinks and breads 3-5x a day, AND going thru drive thrus 2-4x a time. I could NOT stop.

I remember thinking that I would like to choke and die on the French Fries as I shoveled them down my throat.  My head was saying… you’re not happy… eat… but you’re really not happy when you’re fat… oh well…keep eating.. .maybe you’ll choke.

In a matter of about 3 months, I put on 60 pounds.  And a few months later I put on another 20 pounds.  I hit an all-time high of 206 pounds.

And here I sit. And have sat, since 2010.

In 2011, I took some time off from LA, and went back east.  I started seeing an acupuncturist and a spiritual healer. I used aromatherapy, and yoga to get my balance back.  I feel like the happy, normal, productive Leah again… yet the weight hasn’t come off.

And now, it is.   Because I am being open about this struggle, because I am talking about it, and involving groups of women at panels, and you here at Ms. In The Biz.  And because… I think, I am finally starting to love the little girl inside with the tiny belly that sticks out because of her scoliosis, and the woman who she’s become.

The other night, I was at a charity event, and I walked by this gorgeous mirror. I stopped. I looked at myself. And even though I knew I was tired and hadn’t had time to do my hair or makeup.  I looked at myself, and I paused, and I thought, “Wow. You are beautiful. I love you.”  And I was filled with emotion and love for the soul in the eyes looking back at me.

It’s a long journey back to self-love and recovery.  I am still struggling with binge eating, but I am doing much better, and I have all of you to thank for that. For holding space, for listening, for just being. I hope to keep you all updated on my progress.

*Live Love. Love Life* 

A body collage 2006-2012

The Many Shapes & Sizes of Leah (2005-2010)

Leah Cevoli

About Leah Cevoli

Actor / Producer / Writer / Public Speaker - Leah Cevoli has worked in-front of and behind the camera as an actress, host, and producer of film, television, and web, including appearances on high profile tv shows like My Name is Earl, and Deadwood. As a voice actor, she is most notably known for having voiced 30+ characters on Robot Chicken. A professional live event host, Leah has hosted 1000s of rock n roll concerts and charity fundraisers. Leah is a regular panelist at workshops and conventions, and the founder of “All Shapes and Sizes Welcome! Body Image & Women’s Issues in Entertainment.”, a travelling group of women who have been interviewed on FOX News and CNN and speak at conventions nationwide. Leah also offers practical one-on-one sit-downs to discuss your career road-map, point you in the right direction, and get you moving via her Coffee Chat Consultations, and has a reputation for crowdfunding success and social media magic. To date, Cevoli has managed 15 campaigns and has raised over $1,000,000. She is also an experienced yogi, a beginner fire dancer, and a certified Reiki master practitioner.

  • Being a larger girl who is very conscious about the fact that we do live in the most weight obsessed city in the country, I have to thank you for your posts. No matter how many people, male or female, repeatedly tell me I’m attractive, or cute, etc., it’s still hard for me to look around at all the tiny people I see, hang out with, and am friends with and not wish I was more like them. I’m currently trying to make me the person I can say I love and, your journey, (and the WonderCon panel) are helping. I know for me it’s going to take work, but I hope I get there. Good luck on your journey as well. And thank you.

    • Thank you Angelique! It definitely is a journey, and I’m right here alongside you. Please if you ever need someone to vent to, or a hiking partner, or a “put down the large and get the small french fries” pal… don’t hesitate to reach out!

      • I’m actually thinking about doing a weekly dance class in NoHo if you (or any other of our amazing Ms. girls) are interesting. I love dancing, and I need to realize just cause I may not be my “ideal” size, I can still enjoy myself.

        • YES YES!!! I wanna do a dance class so bad!!

  • Wow, Leah. Thank you for sharing this with us. I, too, struggle with food issues and body image, and I’m glad to see that so many of us are going to be supporting each other here.


    • Thank you Teresa! And thank you for sharing your journey on your pound by pound block! I’m right here with you girl, and will be joining your saturday hikes now that my weekend commitment is finished! 🙂

      Thanks for the love girlfriend!

  • I applaud you endlessly for sharing your story.

    It’s so important we share our stories, struggles and ongoing issues, because girls need to see them. They need to know that they too aren’t alone.

    You are a geeky inspiration!

    • Thank you Ashley!!

      Absolutely! The more transparent and open we get, the easier the younger generations will have it. I hope.

  • Theresa

    Thank you for sharing that Leah. I can relate to that 100%! Been going through a lot of the same issues myself. I have lost about 50 pounds with the help of Weight Watchers, (I was 215 at my heaviest), but I have been unfocused for the past few months and not losing much lately because I have found myself falling back on my old bad stress related habits. (Binge eating). I am trying to get myself refocused because I don’t want to gain the weight back. I haven’t even gotten to my goal weight yet! Reading your story has really made me feel that I’m not alone in this journey. So thank you.

    • I know exactly how that feels Theresa. That feeling of pride and success that you *are* seeing results but then that sabotage or whatever you want to call it creeps in and tries to ruin the results you’ve worked so hard for, AND you’re not even at your goal yet, which makes it even more of a crazy situation.

      I’m with you all the way, you’ve got this, you’re doing soo good, don’t give up on yourself!! xo

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  • A terrific article. And not just one that women struggle with, although it’s definitely more pronounced in that direction. I’d like to put forth my own kindred spirit of a life story, if I may…

    While I’ve never been super physically active, I did okay as a kid. I was able to run around with everyone else… just chose to exercise my brain more. I’m not sure when I started really worrying about my body image. I recall the struggles my mother had with getting me to eat more nutritiously (still not a big fan of fruits and veggies, despite going meatless six months ago!) and as a young leading actor in theatre, first in PA, then in Arizona (before I hit double digits), my talent apparently was enough to carry me through.

    The real problems began when I was in high school. My mother was on a health kick and, despite the fact that I walked and biked a lot, she sent me to Diet Center. That was a depressing experience and, despite the fact that I was losing weight (IMO, too much too fast) and allegedly getting healthy, I had no energy and felt miserable often. That planted the seed for a love/hate relationship with me and “diets”, particularly places like Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, and their ilk, many of which I’ve tried over the years. The weight would drop at first, my mood would plummet and then slowly but surely the weight would come back…

    And, lo, has it grown fruitful and multiplied.

    The weight became a suit of armor for me; my sword, a wealth of self-deprecating jokes developed and sharpened over decades of practice. IIRC, shortly before I finished my bachelors degree in 2008, I weighed almost 390 pounds. But because I naturally have a large frame and am tall (thanks, genetics!), it was well spread out so it didn’t look like it. And I was still acting regularly, although not in the roles I wanted. I was relegated to being a sidekick or the buffoon because, of course, “fat people are always funny”. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

    The downside has been, coming to Los Angeles in my mid-thirties to pursue an acting career, realizing and finally feeling the impact of the weight, both physically on my body and professionally. From a physical standpoint, it’s hard to find the energy to move around as much as I used. I don’t sleep well anymore and often wake up far more stiff and sore than when I went to sleep. I’m really starting to feel each and every twinge and ache in my body, amplified by the endless pull of gravity… curse my law-abiding nature! I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never broken a bone and largely come through life unscarred, with one major exception, and as a result I felt more invincible than most… not anymore. For those who have had to pause for breath halfway up a flight of stairs, I feel your pain.

    Professionally, I’m discovering that there’s a huge gap between what roles others think I’m right for and who I am as a person. I don’t like physical comedy; I’m an intellectual, but because “fat people are always funny”, there’s no end of roles where I am the subject of some form of ridicule. I can’t do a lot of background work because I literally stand out in a crowd (thanks again, genetics!), but speaking roles are also few and far between because the geeks and nerds (of which I am a proud member) are, at least on screen, all short and scrawny (e.g., 3/4 of the gang in “The Big Bang Theory”, since Jim Parsons is tall and wiry). I could probably rant and rave for another 3,000 words about the industry and the need to relegate those of us in the “plus-size” category to being the clowns. But I won’t.

    As I said, this is a gender-neutral consideration… as far as TV/film work goes, it affects men (Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Chris Farley, John Candy, Cedric the Entertainer, and so forth) as much as women (Melissa McCarthy & Rebel Wilson jump to mind).

    Thanks for letting me share (and possibly overshare)!

    • Thank you Brian for sharing your journey.

      Absolutely, it affects men and women.

      We have men in the audience at every panel we do for All Shapes and Sizes, and many times they stay afterwards to share their stories.

      Together… we can make a difference. xo


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