After years of being bullied about her weight and appearance, Gabourey Sidibe made the decision to undergo weight loss surgery last May when natural diet and exercise weren't working.
The Empire actress made the decision to have laproscopic bariatric surgery after she and her brother were both diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
"I just didn’t want to worry. I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes," she told PEOPLE. "I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes."
She says that she struggled with the decision because she was trying to lose weight naturally first, which proved difficult during weight loss plateaus.
"I took a long time to do [the surgery] because I really was trying [to lose weight]. I outlived my first trainer! He died of cancer. He was so great. I lost a ton of weight with him, then I didn’t; I really, really tried — I gave a valiant try," she said.
Now, the 34-year-old wishes she would have gone through with the surgery earlier, and discounts those who say weight loss surgeries are "cheating."
"So I’m glad that I finally realized that the surgery wasn’t the easy way out. I wasn’t cheating by getting it done. I wouldn’t have been able to lose as much as I’ve lost without [the surgery]. I spent years trying to lose this much weight, and I didn’t do it. I wish I’d done it sooner."
These days, Sidibe exercises with a trainer three or four times a week and follows a meal plan that consists of five small meals per day.
"I eat about five times a day — I use meal plans that are really, really good, especially for when I’m busy. I cook a lot more. I talk to my nutritionist a lot...We keep in touch," she said. "I have all these apps to help me keep a food diary."
When she's not working out with her trainer, she's swimming in the pool at her Chicago apartment building.
"I work out with my trainer three to four days a week," she said. "If I’m not working out with a trainer, I get up, and I go swim...So I have a protein shake, I just go down, and I swim for 20 laps, I come back upstairs, I have breakfast, later in the day, I see my trainer for an hour."
She even has two tricycles to stay active: one at her home in L.A., the other on the set of Empire in Chicago.
"During my lunch break, I ride my tricycle around the block or I’ll ride it around set. I stay as active as possible. I’m stronger, and I’m able to move more, and I’m not worried about losing my f--king toes anymore. That’s my life now."
She says one of the best benefits of having the weight loss surgery, other than the obvious, is that she has learned to love her body after fighting against it for her entire life ("My entire life, I have been conditioned to believe that I was ugly, from everybody outside of my tribe," she said.).
"I think I saw my body as being outside of myself; it was like an enemy, beside me not in me. And now I’ve won. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time being mad at it. Because if I’d started treating it better sooner, I wouldn’t have spent so many years hating myself, I wouldn’t have allowed that negative energy to be around me. Life is really, truly all about choices and decisions. I wish I’d made the choice to love my body sooner. But I finally have."
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