Brooke Burke on keeping her brother Tommy’s legacy alive after obesity battle: ‘He should still be here’

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Brooke Burke is determined to help others kick off a healthy lifestyle, especially after losing her beloved brother.

The star’s younger sibling, Tommy Burke, affectionately known as “Fatcat” by his loved ones, passed away suddenly on July 20, 2021 – one day after his 44th birthday. According to a GoFundMe created by Tommy’s family, he left behind a wife and 10 children.

The former “Dancing with the Stars” host later cited her sibling’s death as morbid obesity.

“I’m determined to begin and continue this conversation because losing my brother to obesity a year ago – I feel it should not have happened,” the 50-year-old told Fox News Digital. “I wish I had a better understanding of the disease back then. I wish I knew what I’m experiencing now. And I think as we begin to open up the dialogue, we can have the conversation and encourage people to understand their body, so they can create change.”


Brooke Burke with her late brother Tommy.

Brooke Burke with her late brother Tommy. (Courtesy of Brooke Burke)

“It’s not about losing for me,” she shared. “It’s about living, and that’s part of my commitment, in addition to the tragedy that I went through with my own family. I feel committed to having this conversation, and it goes far beyond the type of work that I do in the health and wellness space. This is really about educating ourselves. It’s about living.”

Burke is joining Queen Latifah as a panelist on the “It’s Bigger Than Me” tour, which aims to spark conversations about “how we can all support and empower anyone at any stage of their health journey.”

It cited that more than 40% of adults in the United States, or two out of every five, are living with obesity, which is associated with “at least 60 health conditions.” It stressed that obesity is “a health condition, not a character flaw,” which is why it’s so essential to uplift those yearning to take charge of their health journey.

During an appearance on the “Tamron Hall Show” in October last year, Burke said her brother was never overweight as a child. He dealt with obesity later in life due to lifestyle and economic struggles. Attempting to cope with their father’s addiction was another factor, among others.


The fitness guru revealed that at one point, he managed to lose 70 pounds while living with her at various times in his life. She described heartfelt conversations they shared when he admitted to being afraid of losing his life. More than anything, he wanted to live for his family.

Burke revealed that many misconceptions still exist regarding obesity. It’s much deeper than food.

“There are many misconceptions,” she explained. “There are medical conditions that sometimes stand in the way of people living a healthier life. So this whole campaign is about educating ourselves and understanding the medical issues that are related to obesity and understanding that obesity is a disease.

“A lot of people don’t look at it that way. We want to create a comfort level so that people can talk about it and learn… We want to create a safe space with compassion so that people can start educating themselves about their own body and be inspired.”


Celebrity host and fitness expert Brooke Burke teaching a pelvic fitness class at The Midtown Loft on Jan. 25, 2017, in New York City.

Celebrity host and fitness expert Brooke Burke teaching a pelvic fitness class at The Midtown Loft on Jan. 25, 2017, in New York City. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Poise Pelvic Power Class)

Burke noted that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging in itself even after shedding the pounds. That’s why practicing self-care is so vital, she pointed out.

“I think you have to find things that you enjoy,” the mother of four explained. “I like to inspire people to focus on things that they can have rather than what they cannot have. I think building a support is important in the self-care space. I think it’s about changing your inner dialogue and the way that you approach things and developing your self-confidence and body confidence, which is a big part of this campaign.”

“It’s not about body confidence in your size and shape,” she continued. “It’s the confidence that you can do the things that you want to do in your life, that you have the energy to live a long life, that you can do things that you enjoy. That’s a big part of the philosophy that I have in my fitness approach. I want to encourage and inspire people to develop a lifestyle that they can maintain to create those desired changes.”

Before Tommy’s tragic death, Burke launched a fitness app called Brooke Burke Body in 2017. It offers a variety of workouts that can be done from home for all fitness levels. She is known for using objects around her home to show how surprisingly simple an at-home workout can be.


In 2017, Brooke Burke launched Brooke Burke Body, a fitness app that offers workout routines that can be done anywhere with our without equipment.

In 2017, Brooke Burke launched Brooke Burke Body, a fitness app that offers workout routines that can be done anywhere with our without equipment. (Aaron Poole/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“We’ve had so much fun using a stable chair to do step-ups, using water bottles or wine bottles if you don’t have weights, using poles from a mop or broom,” she said. “The goal is to use your own body weight with no equipment… We’re trying to eliminate the excuse factor so that people can come into a program and conquer it. I think that creates self-confidence, as well as the desire to want to get up and do it again.”

Burke said she also created “a very extensive free PDF” that features recipes to complement a revamped lifestyle.

“If you were to go through my fridge, you would find lots of greens, vegetables, a lot of nut milks, cheese, avocados, fresh meat, salmon and tea – I love tea,” she said. “There’s vinegar, Dijon mustard, olives, eggs, spices, lots of spicy sauces. You would also find pre-made quinoa. It’s about being organized and prepared. On Sundays, I’ll make soups and grain bowl supplies. That way we can have everything individually packed for the family so they can pick and choose. They can make a homemade grain bowl. For example, we’ll put greens in there, some chopped-up avocados, mushrooms, olives, sprouts, and vegetables – things already prepared and on hand. It makes it easy for my family and it encourages them to get creative in the kitchen.”

The star noted that she keeps sugar cravings at bay with cacao, dates and nut butters that can be added to a morning smoothie. Keeping hydrated throughout the day is also important she said, adding it “plays a big part in the hunger experience.” She also encourages people to find a workout routine that speaks to them.


Brooke Burke, Sugar Ray Leonard and Denise Austin attend the 10th annual Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk on Oct. 28, 2018, in Manhattan Beach, California. 

Brooke Burke, Sugar Ray Leonard and Denise Austin attend the 10th annual Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk on Oct. 28, 2018, in Manhattan Beach, California.  (Rachel Luna/Getty Images)

“I think fitness can be fun,” she said. “But we have to strengthen that mindset. We have to look inward and not be so judgmental, so hard on ourselves for what we see on the outside. On days when I don’t feel my best, I just make myself do it. I have an understanding that when you push through it, you’ll feel really good afterward. It gives me energy and a sense of accomplishment.”

“I teach classes, so that keeps me honest and committed, but I sometimes schedule workouts with friends,” said Burke. “Finding an accountability buddy can help. And it’s all about how I feel that day. Maybe one day I’ll take a yoga class where I can do lots of stretching or go on a walk the following day. The digital space is also helpful. The goal is to keep moving.”

Burke is feeling hopeful about her future and how she can use her platform to help others. And Tommy has always remained on her mind.

Brooke Burke is determined to keep her beloved brother Tommy's legacy alive by helping others. 

Brooke Burke is determined to keep her beloved brother Tommy’s legacy alive by helping others.  (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

“I think it’s important for people to understand what the issues are,” she said. “When we think about obesity, we have to go inside and understand why someone might be struggling. There are other issues we may not be aware of. What works for someone may not work for another. It’s a process.”

“I miss him,” Burke said of her brother. “I’ll always miss him. I wish he was still here. He should still be here. The movie that plays in my mind is long and beautiful memories of our family and children. That will never fade.”

Stephanie Nolasco covers entertainment at


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