Actor Ethan Suplee may have one of the most amazing body transformation stories in Hollywood. Do you recall him as the big guy from Remember the Titans or My Name Is Earl? Well, he’s absolutely not that anymore. His journey to health and happiness is actually a fascinating one. And now, the very different-looking Suplee is revealing all.
Suplee was noted for his weight in the past. In fact, he claimed in his podcast American Glutton in January 2020 that it was actually advantageous when it came to securing roles. There was a sense in which his size was a bonus in Hollywood, because it meant he got cast in what you could call “fat guy” parts. Suplee appeared in some high-profile movies and TV shows – including American History X and Road Trip.
But despite the fame, Suplee wasn’t happy, and nor was he healthy. The actor’s weight issues had started from a very early age. And despite the intervention of his parents, nothing had really worked. His early years then set him up for some bad habits which followed him into adulthood.
Suplee’s relationship with food was basically at the root of his problem. It was an addiction, something he used to numb himself to life, and it wasn’t even the only one he had. Suplee got sober in 2002, but the food and weight problems remained. And things would need to change eventually.
The acting industry didn’t help, either. Once Suplee became known for “fat guy” characters, that was all Hollywood apparently wanted him to do. Losing weight and then gaining it again for roles also wasn’t healthy at all, but that was the pattern Suplee got stuck in. Finally, though, he decided to take control.
Many people who have lost a lot of weight will tell you: it’s all about changing your mindset rather than throwing yourself into start-stop diets and exercise which might not work. Finding someone who supports you will also help. And slowly but surely all these things happened for Suplee – taking him into a brand new life.
So, how did Suplee do it? Well, he first had to find the root cause of the problem. Despite the best intentions of his parents, Suplee revealed on his podcast that their interventions just made things worse. They tried to make him walk every day for exercise, but that only served to make him dislike the very concept.
Suplee explained on American Glutton, “I had this idea now that food was something that people didn’t want me to have. So if I wanted to have more, I needed to do it privately, and it became something that I was withholding from people.” Sometimes, he would apparently eat three fast food meals in one go.
In September 2020 Suplee wrote in an essay for Men’s Health magazine, “Diets were something done to me. And what I really craved when I gulped back a milkshake was my independence. Diets only ever offered me the illusion of control, but I was too young to know that yet.” By the time he was 24, Suplee explained that he weighed over 500 pounds.
Suplee said on his podcast, “I definitely had a lot of trouble, you know, like, flying Southwest was a nightmare because they didn’t have first class. I had to get seatbelt extensions. I remember once I got a seatbelt extension and even with [that], I couldn’t get it closed. I’d always buy two seats.”
But before the event which triggered his fitness journey, Suplee was determined his weight wouldn’t be the most important thing about him. In 2020 he told People magazine, “I never wanted to do something where I was the fat guy who was the butt of a fat guy joke. I told my agents to look for roles outside the box that could work for me.”
Suplee went on, “There were instances where somebody would want to add a line about me being fat and I would just say, ‘Hey, no, we’re not doing that.’” As a child he’d kept fat jokes and snide comments at bay simply by being up for a physical fight whenever anybody tried it. The lack of acceptance was an issue – would anyone ever see past the weight?
Yet it seemed Suplee was stuck in “fat guy” roles. In 2002 he appeared in the film Vulgar and the LA Times newspaper called him “an actor often exploited for his appearance” in their review. But then a few years later My Name Is Earl came along.
Before My Name Is Earl, Suplee had been quietly devoting himself to losing weight and was even working out with a trainer. Something had majorly changed his mindset, it seemed. Unfortunately, once the show got going and was a massive success, Suplee’s weight loss journey had to be put on the backburner.
When asked by a reporter for the website IGN in 2006 whether he was still losing weight, Suplee said, “It’s slowed down. It’s weird.” Time constraints were apparently an issue. He explained, “When I started working 12 hours a day, you get a half hour for lunch and at lunch you want to eat and take a break. You don’t want to go exercise because then when are you going to shower?”
The conversation then turned to the issue of food. To that end, Suplee said, “There are certain aspects and parameters of my diet that I won’t break no matter what – like eating bread. I haven’t had bread in over three years. It’ll be four years in August. I haven’t had refined sugar, rice, pasta [or] anything like that.”
But was this another of Suplee’s eating regimes that was doomed to fail? Tellingly, he told IGN, “If I break my diet, I have red meat or some cheese and then I feel awful. And I have to like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to do that again.’ It’s a nightmare this… dieting, man. It sucks.” He was going through the motions, but his mindset wasn’t right.
Suplee was also embarking on starting a family, which obviously takes up time as well. Asked how long he’d been married, the star answered, “We’re not actually married. I call her my wife because I don’t want to call her my baby mamma. I have [stepkids who are] eight and nine years old… a ten-month-old daughter. I’m surrounded by women at all times and I’ve figured out that they are right and I am wrong and that life is much better knowing that.”
As time went by, Suplee jumped into another form of exercise: cycling. This turned out to be a massive boon in getting him to lose weight, because as it turned out he loved the sport. The media started to sit up and take notice – there were definitely some major changes going on. But would they last?
The Daily Mail newspaper noted in March 2011, “Suplee’s gradual weight loss has been apparent for several years. But when he stepped on the red carpet last October to promote his film Unstoppable, there was no denying there had been a significant transformation. Swapping the baggy tracksuits of old for a slimline pinstripe suit, he looked incredible.” But the star wasn’t done yet!
Suplee’s cycling skills improved so much that he even competed in the famous Tour de France – a pretty amazing step forward. That month he talked to celebrity gossip website TMZ about it and said not only was he constantly riding road bikes, the actor was wearing Spandex cycling outfits to boot. Yet many might have wondered: could Suplee keep the weight off, or would he return to old habits?
The now-thinner actor explained, “Spandex is never fun – at any weight. But it’s necessary.” And from there on he went further into the world of competitive cycling. Suplee gave an interview about his newfound favorite hobby to the newsletter La Gazetta delle Granfondo in January 2012.
A reporter for the publication asked, “What made you get into cycling in the first place?” And Suplee answered, “I was training for a [five-kilometer race], but [I] found it difficult to run two days in a row. Joe Abunassar [famous basketball trainer and Ironman athlete] was helping me get in shape for the [it] and told me I should ride a bike on the days I wasn’t running.”
The actor wasn’t at his peak yet, but cycling had been a fantastic boon. Suplee said, “I definitely got into it because I was in need of exercise, and it just turned out to be something I really enjoyed doing.” He’d even inspired a few friends and family members to take it up! The star went on, “They also subsequently changed their bodies as well. It’s inevitable that if you spend several hours each day using your body as a high-performance machine, it’s going to change.”
The cycling definitely helped Suplee lose weight, and it brought him the motivation he needed. But there’s something else the star credits with really helping him get healthier when it seemed like weight loss was beyond his reach. And that is Suplee’s wife: Brandy Lewis.
Brandywynne “Brandy” Lewis is the sister of Academy Award-winning star Juliette Lewis and the daughter of actor Geoffrey Lewis. Being from an acting family, it’s probably no surprise that she married someone in the same profession. Oh, and Juliette even appeared in an episode of My Name Is Earl alongside her brother-in-law.
Suplee told the love story to People (the TV Show!) in January 2021. They had met and become “very, very, very close friends” as teenagers, the actor said. He added, “I was utterly in love with her and she was like, not totally into me.” Then they met again as adults in 2001, and a “miraculous thing” took place.
Upon re-meeting Lewis, Suplee remembered, “For the very first time, I wasn’t getting a deep concern from somebody about my health and I felt totally accepted for who I was versus what I looked like. And that I think was kind of the bedrock that I was successful with my goals at.” Simply put, what Suplee really needed was love and acceptance.
After he’d been seeing Lewis for about a year, Suplee made the decision regarding his weight. The star said, “I became – for the first time in my life – kind of interested in the future and having experiences with her. Like spending a day walking around a museum or going on a trip or hiking that I just wasn’t physically able to do.”
Suplee speaks out at every given opportunity about how much his beloved wife helped him. He appeared on the podcast Tom Talks with Tom Segura in February 2021 and discussed how Lewis had helped him achieve the good health he was currently enjoying. By that point, he’d reportedly lost at least 250 pounds!
Suplee said on the podcast, “I was seeing a girl – who is now my wife, we have four kids… When I started seeing her I was super heavy. So I’m seeing her, she is the first person who is not treating me like there’s something to be real worried about. It was bizarre. She loves me and is, uh, the first girl who wasn’t dating me because I was an actor…”
The actor remembered that eventually he started to wonder, “I’m really happy in my relationship with this girl. Where does it go with me in this state? I can’t do a lot of the things she wants to do, how long do I think I have a shot with her if I don’t make some change? And the first conversation I had with her about this was the most scary conversation I’ve ever had.”
Suplee said that when the conversation happened, “It was almost as though I was telling somebody who didn’t know, ‘Hey, I’m overweight, I’m morbidly obese, you hadn’t seen this but I’m going to let you peek behind the curtain.’ It was complete and utter nonsense the way I was processing it because obviously she knows.”
“And asking her for help in changing was like the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because I felt like I was really… By doing that I could lose her,” Suplee added. “Especially if I blew it, if I didn’t come through, I lose her for sure. And if I don’t change, I lose her.” But we know what happened. He didn’t blow it – not in the least.
These days Suplee is doing – and looking – better than ever. Instead of “just” losing a huge amount of weight, he’s actively making himself super-fit, too. In February 2021 Suplee enthusiastically told Men’s Health magazine how he was doing. The star said, “I want to hit ten percent body fat, and I’m within reach.”
By this point, Suplee had ditched dieting altogether. Instead, according to the magazine, he was doing “an exercise program focused on strength training and an eating plan that was based on consuming healthy foods without demonizing any certain food or food group.” It was obviously working out very well indeed. Yep, turns out that love for another person – rather than a strict regime – was the answer to his troubles!
In addition to the ongoing support of his wife and family, Suplee gets help via his American Glutton podcast. He’s formed a whole community of people who want to lose weight via mindfulness, though the star admitted that he found the word quite “cringy.” And in between acting jobs, he’s also a weight-loss expert.
And Suplee very much does still get acting jobs, even though he can’t be the “fat guy” nowadays. The star apparently used to worry losing weight would affect his career – but not anymore. He said in his 2020 Men’s Health piece, “I look back and can’t reconcile my professional success with my inner turmoil. If faced with the choice of never acting again or remaining healthy, I’d find another way to make a living.”
Also, Suplee’s continued to act even after losing the pounds. You might have seen him in Chance, The Ranch or the aptly named Santa Clarita Diet in recent years. His next plan, he told Tom Segura on his podcast, is to get rid of the flaps of skin which come with losing a whole lot of weight.
But perhaps most importantly of all, Suplee can eat with his family now. Even junk food is fine, apparently. He told Men’s Health, “I spent decades adjusting to periods of suffering through dieting. It worked. I’d get to my goal – and then very rapidly undo my goal. The way more important level for me now isn’t the period where I’m suffering, but the period where I’m in love with my life.”