How JoJo Shut Down The Idea That Healthy Means Thin

Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images.
After going nearly a decade without releasing a studio album, JoJo Levesque is back, and she's here to reclaim control of her career — and her body image. In an interview with Lenny Letter today, the singer discussed the enormous pressure she felt to lose weight when she was a teenager and just starting her career. "When I turned seventeen, that’s when people started talking to me about my weight," she told Lenny Letter. "They’d say, 'Don’t you want to be slim?' At seventeen, I was like, I guess? I always thought that having a thick, curvy body was cute, but if you’re telling me that people aren’t going to like it or that I look bad, I guess I do." That pressure, she said, caused her to second-guess herself and turn to dangerous injectable hormones to lose weight — otherwise known as the "hCG diet." "It made me question everything I ate and drank," she said. "I was on injections called HCG [to lose weight], and I couldn’t believe they wanted me to take such extreme measures. They told me my album wouldn’t come out unless I looked right. To them that meant me losing a significant amount of weight — mind you, I’ve never been above a size four. It really, really messed with my mind." HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a synthetic hormone that is released during pregnancy. Though it's FDA-approved for fertility treatments, it's definitely not approved as a weight loss tool — and there's actually no evidence that it's an effective way to lose weight. However, it's gained a reputation because the idea is that if a person who isn't pregnant injects hCG shots, it'll trick the body into thinking there's a baby on board and thus prepare it to release stored fat. But the shots alone don't prompt weight loss — dieters also have to cut down to a 500-calorie-a-day diet, an extremely dangerous restriction (the calorie recommendation for someone of Levesque's age at the time is approximately 2,000 calories). JoJo revealed that the pressure to lose weight came from her record label at the time, telling Lenny Letter that she was sat down by the president of the label, who told her that he was "just thinking of [her] health." "I put my hand up to silence him," she recalled. "I said, 'Let me stop you right there. I’m the picture of health. I live a balanced life. I’m active, I eat what I want, I get my vegetables in. Don’t try to make this about my health, because you know damn well this isn’t about my health. This is about me looking the way that you think a pop star is supposed to look.'" "He didn’t have anything to say in response to that," she added. These days, she said, she's learned to ignore what anyone else has to say about her decisions — and her body. "I’m the one who has to look at myself in the mirror after I take off my makeup at the end of a long day," she said. "I have to say, 'I dig who I am, and you can go fuck yourself if you have a problem with it.'"

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