Richard Simmons is battling severe depression despite the public relations “spin” his rep has tried to put on his recent disappearance, say friends. Simmons is devastated after the recent death of his beloved dog, Hattie, and after suffering a crippling knee injury.
“If Richard is really OK and is aware people are extremely concerned about him, he’d pick up the phone and tell them to relax,” a friend told TMZ. “But he hasn’t, and we’re worried sick.”
Simmons’ rep, Thomas Estey, had told the NY Daily News that Richard is not depressed but is merely sad, and has not become a recluse. “He has a knee injury, and it’s serious enough to keep him from doing what he loves most: exercising and motivating others,” said Estey. “He is not clinically depressed or a shut-in or a recluse.”
The rep’s statements contradict remarks made by Simmons’ circle of concerned friends, who are worried because the weight loss guru hasn’t been seen in public since March 2014. What’s more, friends said Richard has totally abandoned his Beverly Hills exercise studio, where he used to teach three days a week for the past 30 years.
Simmons’ friends said Richard hasn’t contacted any of them since January 2013. In a Facebook post Nov. 13, Simmons thanked fans for their concern and said he’s determined to exercise again after his knee injury:
“I am so touched by the outpouring of love and concern I have received. I have had a tough time dealing with this injury, as it is keeping me from doing what I truly love to do and that is to teach classes around the world.”
Richard, who has helped thousands of people lose hundreds of thousands of pounds during his career, previously said he has no plans to retire. Until recently, Simmons taught a 90-minute exercise class three days a week and worked out every morning at 4 a.m. before starting his day.
Like supermodel Elle Macpherson, who maintains her sizzling bikini body at 50 with rigorous workouts, Richard called exercise the fountain of youth. As a result of daily exercise and low-fat, portion-controlled diet, the 5-foot-6 Simmons maintains his weight at 135 pounds. Richard, who was obese as a child, once tipped the scales at 268 pounds.
After battling bulimia, anorexia and abusing laxatives for years, Simmons became a fitness coach, opened his own exercise studio in the 1970s, and has since helped millions of obese people lose weight and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Richard has said helping others is his life’s purpose.