The Rev. Al Sharpton is truly a shadow of his former self.
In the past four-and-a-half years, the 5’10” civil rights activist has gone from 305 lbs. to 129 lbs.
“I actually lost more weight than I am!” Sharpton tells PEOPLE, adding that he did it without surgery.
The reverend, 60, has gone through several body transformations throughout the years, first losing 30 lbs. while on a 43-day hunger strike in jail in 2001 and then putting the weight back on during his presidential run. The real turning point for him was getting criticism from his daughter.
“Around 2006, my youngest daughter Ashley poked me in the stomach and said, ‘Dad, why are you so fat?’ That kind of hurt my feelings. I grew up in civil rights and politics, so I’m pretty thick-skinned, but when your daughter says it, I started being conscious.”
The MSNBC host started losing weight by weaning himself off of meats and starches, then became more strict about his diet in recent years.
On a typical day, Sharpton’s breakfast consists of three slices of whole wheat toast along with a Juice Press “Doctor Earth” green juice and English breakfast tea sweetened with Stevia. Lunch is a basic salad with a banana and more tea.
“It’s always the same salad: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, two or three [hard-boiled] eggs cut in and balsamic vinaigrette dressing,” says Sharpton of his only solid meal of the day. “My doctor said to me, ‘You’ve got to have some carbs and you need protein,’ so he put me on whole wheat toast.”
At night, he might have another piece of toast with a second Juice Press juice, this time opting for the brand’s watermelon flavor. On weekends, he incorporates a small serving of fish for more protein at his doctor’s suggestion.
‘The Key to It Is Determination’
“I think the first week, maybe week and a half, I would get hungry every now and then. But the key to it is determination,” says Sharpton of keeping cravings at bay and staying within the “normal” weight range per the National Institute of Health’s BMI calculator.
And Sharpton says he doesn’t miss any of the foods he has given up, even his formerly beloved fried chicken.
“I was a fried chicken junkie,” he jokes. “I used to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but after about three or four weeks, I didn’t have a longing for that either.”
Sharpton also added exercise to his routine, walking on the treadmill for 20 or 30 minutes five days a week.
“I’m not trying to run the marathon, just tone up,” he says. “[I work out] just to keep my blood flowing and to stay active. I didn’t want to be flabby since I lost a lot of weight.”
Sharpton has no plans on changing his new lifestyle, as he’s enjoying the perks of weight loss.
“The best part is the energy and the focus,” he says. “I feel like I’m totally in charge of myself. And I’ve been able to get a very nice new wardrobe! I can wear a lot of stuff that I couldn’t wear before.”
And that’s why he says Saturday Night Live should rethink who plays him.
“Kenan [Thompson] needs to lose weight, or they need to get somebody in shape to do me,” he says of the actor, who often portrays him on the show. “I might break into the studio one night and do Kenan because Kenan is too fat to do Al Sharpton. Kenan is doing an outdated Al Sharpton!”