I love Sara Ramirez! She’s gorgeous and an awesome actress. Me being Formerly Fluffy, I never noticed her size. I commented to my daughter about how cute she was on Grey’s Anatomy one night and my daughter said “she’s kind of chunky”. I guess when you are used to being a smaller size these things stick out more to you. I had never thought of her as “big” prior to that.
And by most standards she is “average”. However when you make your living as an actress and competing against anorexic, nazi concentration camp survivor look alikes ……….I guess she does appear “chunky”.
Chunky? Maybe. Adorable? Definitely! Sara Ramirez rocks her size 12 body!
Getting Over Myself: I’m a Size 12 in a Size 0 Town
How Grey’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez put an end to her dangerous cycle of diet pills and yo-yo eating.
*As told to Laurie Sandell
When I was eight, my parents divorced and my mother and I moved to San Diego from Mexico. Between the culture shock of coming from another country and the stigma of having an accent (I heard my share of “Do you have a green card?” jokes), I always felt like I stuck out. On top of all that, I was a lot taller and bigger-boned than most girls my age. My mom did a great job of raising me; this story is not about her. But I think she was very critical of her own body and projected that onto me. There were times when she felt she needed to lose 20 pounds, and therefore I also needed to lose 20 pounds. The mentality was, we should lose weight. As a result, I grew up wanting to look like someone else rather than appreciating the body I had.
Then in tenth grade, my teachers found out I could sing, and the seas parted. I got cast in my first musical and was suddenly catapulted into this place where I was getting a lot of attention, admiration and praise. I even got accepted to The Juilliard School, a prestigious performing arts school in New York City.
The school was full of actresses, singers, dancers…and a lot of them had eating disorders. For me, the body-image issues came in waves. I would diet hard-core, lose a lot of weight and feel really good about myself. Then I would have moments of unhappiness. My way of dealing was to eat and eat and eat; I’d gain lots of weight and feel really crappy. Somewhere along the line, all the self-esteem I’d felt went out the window. My weight constantly yo-yoed—at my slimmest I was a size 6; my biggest, a 14.
Right before graduation, I was cast in Paul Simon’s Broadway musical, The Capeman—the story of a Puerto Rican gangster in New York City. It was one of my bigger phases, but people were so supportive of my singing that size didn’t matter. (I do remember an agent or a casting director I met saying that, when it came to weight, “New York tends to be more forgiving than Hollywood.” I thought, wow, that’s interesting, what exactly are they forgiving me for?) The truth is, unlike TV and film cameras, the theater stage doesn’t add 10 pounds.
After the musical ended, I made a conscious decision to break into television. I basically starved myself, living on a stick of celery, some peanut butter and two protein shakes a day and working out. Sure enough, I lost 25 pounds and booked a TV pilot—scary, because it was almost like a reward for treating myself in an unhealthy way. The pilot was not picked up though; eventually I fell back into a regular eating pattern.
Then I decided to move to L.A. to see if I could land more roles. When I walked into an audition room, there would be a lot of petite women with giant boobs. I was almost always the largest girl there. The pressure to be thinner got to me immediately. My old insecurities came flooding back. I started taking these crazy diet pills. They came in a blue bottle that said “ephedra-free.” I didn’t know what was in there (maybe caffeine?), but I did know they were horrible for me. They made my heart race. After six months, my body had had enough. I could feel myself getting shakier, and I grew more and more scared knowing I was putting my heart in danger. Addiction runs in my family—my grandfather was an alcoholic—and realizing that I was getting hooked on the pills was difficult for me. So I just stopped. I threw out the pill bottle. I was still vulnerable, still hating myself, but I had definitely taken a step toward a healthier place.
May 2004, I got cast [as the female lead] in the musical Spamalot and moved back to New York. We did eight shows a week. It was the most I’ve ever had to sing, so I learned to take care of my voice—a lot of sleep, a lot of rest, a lot of water. But it turned into more than just taking care of my voice. It was taking care of all of me. I started to eat when I was hungry and to not eat when I wasn’t. I took yoga classes and got healthy. The show gave me confidence that had nothing to do with how I looked; I won a 2005 Tony Award for that role.
Now I’m a regular on Grey’s Anatomy as orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres. On the set, there’s catered food everywhere you look—I gained 25 pounds in four months! My energy level was low and I felt unhealthy, so I decided to get a trainer. What’s funny is no one from the show ever said, “You’re getting a little heavy.” Instead they wrote scenes for me to dance around half-naked in my underwear! I went to the executive producer, and said, “Do you really want me to do this? Why me? I have so much cottage cheese here and there!” She just looked at me and said, “Work it.” That was all I got from her. And sure enough, doing that scene helped me get over a lot of my issues. I had to accept my body.