If one were to list the most cringe-inducing moments in body shaming history, it'd have to land pretty darn close to the top.
Because it's hard to imagine in our year 2019 that a woman would receive so much flack for wearing a pair of high-waisted jeans. And yet, way back in 2009, when Jessica Simpson took to the stage at a chili cook off in Pembroke Pines, Fla., her choice of denim was headline news—and it wasn't good.
"Jessica Simpson: This Is How She Rolls," proclaimed TMZ while Fox News chimed in with, "Jessica Simpson Shocks Fans With Noticeably Fuller Figure". Never mind that, as the 5-foot-3 multi-hyphenate later pointed out, she was a size-four at the time. Or, you know, that her waistline isn't really anyone's damn business. The "Mom Jeans" incident as it would be known became a full-on scandal. And for the woman at the center of it, an actual real human being with feelings, it was super hurtful.
"People [were] talking about my weight for an entire year," she noted in a 2010 interview with Oprah Winfrey, no stranger to being the subject of fan's body obsessions. "It's like people just couldn't stop talking about my weight fluctuating."
How dare she fail to maintain the Daisy Dukes standard she'd set in her twenties.
"It wasn't really my priority to please the public and make them feel like I'm supposed to be looking like I did when I was 25," she would reflect on Today years later.
And yet, having what felt like everyone on the Internet blast her for gaining a few points was tough. Asked to name her lowest point in the previous couple years (a time that also saw ex John Mayer detailing their sex life to Playboy) she didn't hesitate to call out the body shamers.
"It would bother any woman, I would think. I had to get to a place where I had to guard myself," she told Winfrey. "The fact that I was famous last year for gaining 10 pounds, it's ridiculous, and it's really sad."
While most stars are reticent to share the cracks in their Instagram-ready facade, Simpson, time and time again, has busted the whole thing wide open. The 39-year-old mom of three has admitted that, like a lot of people, she has a range of sizes stacked up in her closet. And that maintaining a shape that feels good to her can be tough in a world where fried chicken and a brownie-cookie dough-Oreo hybrid she dubbed the slutty brownie, exist.
And if the whole world is going to key in on her waist line and famously toned legs, well, then she was going to make the most of it. Following the 2012 arrival of eldest daughter Maxwell Drew Johnson, 7, she inked a reported $4 million deal with Weight Watchers and took steps to insure her already successful billion-dollar Jessica Simpson Collection brand was fully size inclusive.
Because who would know better than her how vital it is to have clothes that flatter every figure?
"It's very important for me to let every woman feel included. Like, every person needs to feel included. If I make a shirt, I'm going to make sure every size is available," she reasoned during a May 2017 appearance on CBS Sunday Morning. "Because I have been every size, trust me."
Her latest shape sees her down 100 pounds following the March birth of her third child, daughter Birdie Mae Johnson—an impressive accomplishment that eclipses the 50-plus pounds she dropped after having Maxwell.
"6 months. 100 pounds down," she shared on Instagram Sept. 24, trumpeting her now-140-pound shape. "My first trip away from #BIRDIEMAE and emotional for many reasons, but so proud to feel like myself again. Even when it felt impossible, I chose to work harder."
Her methods, albeit rigorous, are by no means out of reach. Once her doctor gave the exercise all-clear, trainer Harley Pasternak was at the ready with their tried-and-true plan: 45 minutes of circuit training every other day, meals that contained a mix of protein and either fiber or fat for maximum satiety and walking with her ever-present Fitbit. So much walking.
"Some days she was doing up to 14,000 steps a day," the founder of Sweetkick, a mint designed to curb sugar cravings told E! News. "It might sound like a lot but she's not sweating, she's not huffing and puffing, she didn't have to put on performance clothes to do this. She is going for a walk with her family."
And, yes, at times she'd find herself on the treadmill, cranking out an extra 15 minutes of strides so that she could send Pasternak a successful report.
"It's been a lot of hard work," she admitted during a Sept. 26 appearance on HSN. "I have to say that I have worked very hard. Everything that I've been eating is mostly made with cauliflower."
That's not to say there was no room for splurges, as she admitted on air, "I just ate a bag of Cheetos in the back."
She selected a similarly measured plan of attack when she signed on with Weight Watchers. Nothing is truly off limits with the famed points-counting program, but Simpson stuck to nutrient-rich picks such as oatmeal, egg white omelets and chicken satay, a diet that was supplemented with hikes around her hilly, Los Angeles-area neighborhood.
Though the pounds eased off, she told USA Today her goals remained realistic. She was never going to be one of those women showing off a six-pack two months postpartum. "I'm not a supermodel. My body is not bouncing back like a supermodel," she admitted. "I'm just your everyday woman who is trying to feel good and be healthy for her daughter, her fiancé and herself."
Her slow and steady approach worked, with Simpson working the program not once, but twice, extending her contract after she learned she was expecting son Ace Knute Johnson, 6, mere months after having Maxi. And she credited the years of experience with making her much wiser when it came to food choices.
Still, every good eating plan requires a bit of wiggle room. So while she swore she wouldn't allow herself to lean hard into carbs again, pregnant or not ("I'm a Southern girl and I like Southern food—fried chicken, mashed potatoes—" the Texan joked to Redbook, "but instead of having that three times a week, I'd have it only one time,") when she was carrying Birdie, she didn't wrestle too much with her cravings.
Growing a human takes energy, y'all.
"You are creating a life, and honestly it's not easy," she noted on Good Morning America in 2014. "It is a really hard thing to go through. And you deserve to eat your ice cream, you deserve to have your pancakes. Do whatever you want to do and then afterwards just know that you have to work really hard."
That mantra allowed her to give herself a bit of break during her most recent pregnancy. "When you're pregnant, I gain a lot, I mean, a lot," she shared on HSN. "I didn't expect to gain as much with my third. I thought I'd learned my lesson, but apparently that's just they way God mad me, very hungry and pregnant."
And if that meant occasionally getting stuck between two cars or the accidental destruction of a toilet seat, well, so be it. Each confession only made her more endearing, with one fan commenting, "I've never related more to a celebrity before. Pregnancy is wonderfully awful."
Besides, after two trips on the baby weight merry-go-round and more than 12 years as Pasternak's star pupil, she knew she'd find her way back to herself. "She lost a lot of weight in the past, so her body knew what to do," a source explained to E! News. "The minute she was cleared to exercise, she started walking around her neighborhood. She worked very hard and really never stopped moving."
She's darn proud of her progress, sharing the first hint of things to come in a June post touting the return of her ankles, before her current slate of body conscious Instagrams. They've garnered the requisite fire emojis and virtual high fives, and yet for all of her progress, there are certain items of clothing Simpson feels she's retired for good.
"I don't think I'll ever get back to [my skinny jeans]," she shared during her HSN appearance. "I save them and say, 'One day.' But after having kids, I don't think your hips really ever go completely back. Your body changes!"
So ex-nay on the denim skinnies for now. Though, should the mood strike, her namesake collection does make a high-rise pair. How's that for laughing all the way to the bank?