Published May 28, 2004
And we're not talking about his record sales.
"People are worried about him," Diane Sawyer said yesterday on "Good Morn ing America" as she watched a video tape of Studdard taking the stage Wednesday night. "Ev eryone wants him to take care of himself."
Studdard, 25, is a for mer offensive tackle at Alabama A&M University and has always been a big guy. But comparisons to photos of him last year — winning the "Idol" title — show he has packed on an alarming amount of weight since then.
The Velvet Teddy Bear, as Studdard is called, has made few television appearances since he was crowned the "Idol" winner last season. So it came as a shock to many when he briefly appeared during the series' two-hour finale to sing.
In an interview last winter, Studdard said he tries to exercise when he can. "I like to work out," he told The Associated Press. "I went to college on a football scholarship, but I got lazy, man, for a little while. . . . Going to the gym, your day might be better."
But when asked whether he was trying to lose weight, Studdard shook his head no.
"I don't want to take anything away from him as a talented person, and he may have many different issues that he's dealing with for the good of human kind," said Cathy Nonas the director of diabetes and obesity programs at Harlem's North General Hospital (search).
"But when you're fat, you kind of wear your problems on your sleeve. It's not like you can smoke in a dark ally where no one sees you — everybody knows he's fat," said Nonas, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in clinical nutrition.
Nonas has never met Studdard and does not know about his specific — if any — medical conditions, but said based on his size and young age, the singer could be suffering from, or facing the possibility of, developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, pulmonary problems, osteoarthritis or even a stroke.
"All of these things can occur because of obesity," she said.
"His environment must be really difficult [to lose weight], he must be always on the road, always being fed, and not have a lot of opportunity to do physical activity — all the things he'd need to do to lose weight and be healthier. It's probably more difficult for him as he's trying to become a well-known singer."
At least one of the people who discovered Studdard — "Idol" judge Randy Jackson (search) — understands the danger of obesity. Jackson took steps this year, undergoing a radical and sometimes dangerous surgery, to make his stomach smaller.
A spokesman for his record company, J Records, did not return phone calls yesterday.