The actress and comedian discusses her history with emotional eating and how to overcome criticism from "haters."

Although actress, producer and comedian Rebel Wilson's "Year of Health" officially wrapped up December 31, 2020, it seems like it's time for her to go plural..she's officially embarking on #3 in her "Years of Health."

"Starting the New Year off strong! HAPPY NEW YEAR you legends, love from downunder!" she captioned a sparkling holiday photo of herself on Instagram as Wilson rang in 2022 in Australia.

Wilson has been bringing her fans and followers along each step of the way, documenting her progress through candid Instagram photos and captions:

And celebrating her proud moments. "You have to celebrate—life is short and you just have to love and live it," Wilson recently wrote in her 2021 wrap-up. "You know how I've been theming my years for the past few years? Well this year was the The Year of The Rainbow 🌈… after the storm always comes the rainbow," she adds, likely a nod to bouncing back from a break-up to previous boyfriend, Jacob Busch. (The duo split in early February 2021.)

That relationship faded off into the sunset, true, but Wilson certainly hasn't allowed her health habits to do the same. But that doesn't mean it's always been easy.

During a December 6, 2021 interview with BBC World Service, Wilson says she decided to share on Instagram that she was declaring 2020 her "Year of Health, "because I did want to make a lasting change and I wanted to be accountable for it. Making it very public kind of helped, but it was risky, I guess. Before I had lost weight and put it back on, and you get criticism sometimes for that."

The celeb, who briefly discusses the fact that she graduated from law school in 2009, then went on to star in the movie Pitch Perfect as one of her most popular characters, "Fat Amy." Her size was part of her "comedic persona," the actress and comedian has said on Instagram, and she found herself on a bit of a weight roller coaster since she was about 20; losing a few kilos, then gaining them back.

When Wilson decided to make her health a priority in 2020, "I got a lot of pushback from people on my own team, actually, here in Hollywood," Wilson adds in the BBC interview, noting that her team was hesitant that her career success in films ranging from Bridesmaids to Pitch Perfect to Jojo Rabbit might be linked to her image "probably double the size and sometimes triple the weight of other actresses," with her size 16 or 18 frame.

That didn't slow her down, however: "I knew deep down inside that some of the emotional eating behaviors I was doing were not healthy. I did not need a tub of ice cream every night. That was me numbing my emotions with food, which was not the healthiest thing." (ICYMI, here are 5 dietitian-approved tips to help if you, too, think you might be eating out of stress or boredom.)

Yet all of the attention she soon received as she lost 10, then 40, then 80 pounds was admittedly uncomfortable at times.

"In 2019, I had four pretty successful movies come out and had done all of this other amazing stuff career-wise. But then in the next year, all I did was lose 80 pounds. And the attention that gets, is way more than being in an Academy Award-nominated film, producing a movie and all of that stuff," Wilson candidly tells BBC. "I've noticed that it's been getting a lot of attention…is that what a woman has to do in the world is lose weight to get attention? For me it was about being the healthiest version of me—it wasn't about size or a number or whatever. But it's fascinating! Why are people so obsessed with it?"

It was also enlightening, Wilson says in the same BBC chat, to witness how differently she's treated by others.

"I know what it's like to be a woman who is essentially invisible…when no one holds the door for you, or just looks at you like you almost have no value because you're not seen as good looking to them. You get this bias toward you purely because of your appearance, which you can't deny is wrong."

"There were some people who said, 'oh, well will she not be funny now?" And I'm like, 'check out my new movies in a new year [likely referring to Senior Year, coming to Netflix in 2022] coming out and see what you think, guys.' What it has done career-wise is open up this whole other door of dramatic roles," Wilson says, going on to explain that she may have been pigeon-holed into only comedic roles at her previous size.

As she looks ahead, Wilson is also taking time to reflect on how far she's come—and share what she's learned along the way. Read on for nuggets of wisdom from the rest of that BBC interview, a November 2021 sit-down with Women's Health magazine, plus an hour-long tell-all she shared in Instagram Live back in December 2020.

While we've all witnessed the physical transformation, Wilson says the biggest changes occurred internally. In the past, she's had the "Year of Fun" and the "Year of Love," and Wilson entered 2020 determined to make it the "Year of Health." She had decided to not prioritize work as much—and prioritize herself and her well-being instead, citing her 40th birthday this year as an inspiration.

As she shares what she learned along the way, Wilson admits on the Live, "I'm not a medical professional...I can only talk from my own personal experience and try to share some tips. There's no one book or right product or right thing you can buy; you can just learn little tidbits about what works for you."

Rebel Wilson on a designed background
Credit: Getty Images / Mark Metcalfe

7 Secrets That Helped Rebel Wilson Lose Weight and Keep It Off

1. Be okay with imperfection.

Wilson hasn't been restrictive or working out "like a beast." Instead, she aims to "attack health at all angles" and give herself grace if she takes a day off or eats something not fitting within the framework of her Mayr Method diet plan.

2. Nail down your "why."

Wilson's "why" was to get healthy before freezing her eggs to potentially have children later. (Wilson was diagnosed in her 20s with polycystic ovarian syndrome.) It was also to feel better and conquer her emotional eating—while staying true to herself.

3. Get real with yourself.

At the start of 2020, Wilson wrote a letter to herself to make the commitment to her health feel more tangible.

4. Find your favorite way to get fit.

She gets the majority of her activity from walking. "That is free, it's safe," Wilson says in the Live. She'll put on a podcast or book and just walk around whatever town she's in. Six out of seven days each week, Wilson aims to do 60 minutes of exercise (walking or working with one of her personal trainers). One day per week is for rest. Wilson has also gone on Instagram to show off how she gets an on-the-go arm workout with a vodka bottle!

Now that she's hit her goal weight, Wilson is sticking with mainly walks, and treats her muscles well between them by soaking in her bath with Epsom salt or bath oil, she tells Women's Health.

5. Dial in your nutrition.

"You can't outtrain a bad diet, which is something I should have known but didn't really know until this year," Wilson said. She used to eat fast food several times a week as a kid, or would think one tough workout gave her the green light to eat 3,000 or 4,000 calories that day. During the "Year of Health," her goal was to stick to 1,500 calories or less when losing weight, and now that she's in maintenance mode, Wilson's adjusted up to 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. After some experimentation, Wilson discovered that she feels best on a high-protein diet. She doesn't "eat clean" every day, but concentrates on how her body feels after she consumes everything she does—and aims to eat everything mindfully.

Since she's not trying to lose any more LBs, Wilson tells Women's Health that she's incorporating more snacks, plus occasional ice cream and chocolate, into her menu to make it more "maintainable." She's also incorporating more healthy ingredients into her favorite entrees, for instance, tucking shredded carrots and avocados into her tacos.

"The biggest lesson I've learned is how to deal with my emotional eating, learning to process my emotions and deal with my emotions better," she tells Women's Health. "That's what's really changed my life for the better."

6. Love yourself.

"I'm a very confident, skilled, accomplished person, but I still suffer from having low self-worth and just not loving myself," she says on the Live. Purge emotional writing was massively helpful, Wilson said. She sets a 12-minute timer, then writes down all of her emotions so they're not being held within—then ends with one to five things she's grateful for that day.

During those reflections, she's realized the number on the scale has absolutely nothing to do with it. To BBC, Wilson says, "I'm proud that the message has gotten across that it wasn't just about losing weight, it was just about me being healthier overall. That's what I'm trying to encourage other people out there…that should be the goal, not to fit some sort of beauty standard that society deems is the beauty standard of that year."

7. Try meditation.

If she feels stressed out, Wilson flips open a meditation app (here are five we love here at EatingWell!) to "come back into her body," she says in the Live.

"Guys, get out there, walk, walk, walk. Drink water, find out what foods are best to fuel your body, and if you're like me and suffer from emotional eating, look into that and how you can help yourself in that area," Wilson concludes in the Instagram video. Wise words from a woman who now deems herself "Fit Amy."

The Bottom Line

True, losing weight is a challenge. But keeping it off post-"Year of Health" might be even more of an impressive feat, explains Victoria Seaver, M.S., RD, registered dietitian and EatingWell's deputy digital editor.

Among those who lose a substantial amount of weight, about 80% of them regain most or all of it within 5 years, according to 2019 research in the journal Medical Clinics of North America.

"A lot of the time, people lose weight too quickly and quick weight loss doesn't equate to lasting weight loss. Sustainable, healthy weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, max. If you lose more than that, your body will eventually try to compensate by making you crave high-calorie foods, so it can get the energy it needs to function on a day-to-day basis, as well as replenish its stores. We see this a lot when people follow really strict, restrictive diets. Once they stop the diet, they gain back the weight and then some. That's why it's important to follow a diet or eating pattern that's sustainable and something you can do easily for life," Seaver says.

Take the Mediterranean diet. It's easy to follow, full of flavorful building blocks and "because it includes so many low-calorie vegetables and high-fiber foods, you can lose weight the healthy way when following it," she adds.

If you're feeling inspired by Wilson's continued success but aren't quite sure where to start, Seaver suggests working with a dietitian or your doctor to customize your approach to achieve your wellness goals in a sustainable way.

"Hopefully, you'll find that feeling energized, having a more positive outlook on life and enjoying the meals you're eating—rather than stressing about them—is a better marker of health than the number on the scale," Seaver says.

Wilson echoes a similar sentiment in her BBC interview: "I've grown into my looks 100% and feel like at 41 I'm looking better than I ever have before, which I think is rare. Most people peeked when they were like 20! Maybe for me it was like my life journey coming into line, and for me it only clicked at like 40. But what I try to do is share just enough that people can understand some of the struggles that I've been through…and to help people," she says. Ultimately, Wilson says it's important to remember, "you can be whatever size you want, just try to be the healthiest version of you. And that can look different for different people."