Don't Feed the Stars!: Celebrity Bodies and Gossip's New Schizophrenia
"It's sort of awful. Yesterday for lunch? Spinach... and some seeds."
"I swear by almost nothing for breakfast. Mugs of hot water!"
"The other day I realized as long as I'm in this business, I'm going to be hungry."
"I hate dieting... I'm hungry all the time."
These quotes aren't from a medical journal. They're not from a psychology book on body image in modern society. They're not from a Lifetime Channel docudrama on eating disorders.
They're from an Us Weekly Magazine half-page celebrity puff piece (Sept. 13, 2010, Page 18), titled "Don't Feed the Stars!", on how "these celebs admit it's a diet struggle to keep their fab figures."
Encapsulating the celebrity gossip magazine's bone-deep schizophrenia about dieting and body size... in one neat sentence.
I read celebrity gossip magazines intermittently. Mostly on airplanes and in hair salons. I always check them out at the grocery store, if only to see what's on the covers this week. And for some time now, I've been noticing an interesting sea-change.
For years, celebrity gossip magazines were uncomplicatedly pro-diet and pro-thinness. Any articles about the eating habits/ diets/ body sizes of the stars were straightforward and unabashed: Thinner Good, Fatter Bad. Thinner Pretty, Fatter Ugly. Thinner Sexy, Fatter Disgusting.
But ever since the highly publicized rash of anorexia and other eating disorders among famous women, the celebrity-industrial complex has taken a bizarre turn: one that screams "cognitive dissonance," one that contradicts itself in every issue. In some cases, on the very same page.
The gossip mags will have scare stories about disgustingly fat celebrities... cheek by jowl with scare stories about dangerously thin ones. They'll have puff pieces on celebrities with unconventional bodies (i.e., larger than Size 2), praising them for rejecting body-hatred and loving themselves as they are... side by side with Diet Tips From The Size Zeroes. They'll rail against eating disorders and the impossible beauty standards expected of women in general and famous women in particular, they'll even beat their breasts and search their souls about their own role in perpetuating these standards... and in the same issue, indeed on the previous page, they'll mock and humiliate famous women for being too fat. (In this same Sept. 13 issue of Us Weekly, on Page 17, one page before the "Don't Feed the Stars!" piece, they ran a full page of unflattering wide-load photos of Jessica Simpson, berating her for her poor self-packaging, and reporting that, while she "brags about body acceptance," she is secretly "desperate to lose weight." Since her size, after all, according to this same article, "fluctuates between a size 4 and 6.")
And—as we see in the "Don't Feed the Stars!" piece—the gossip mags will tell ugly stories of women going hungry and making themselves miserable to stay employed in the fame industry... and will give this story a headline about these famous women's "fab figures."
Regardless of your attitudes about body size and weight management, I hope we can all agree on this: Eating nothing but spinach and seeds for lunch is Not Good. Drinking mugs of hot water for breakfast is Not Good. Being hungry all the time is absolutely, positively, 100% Not Good At All. I've been reading a fair amount of medical literature on healthy weight management (see below), and while this is an evolving field loaded with controversy and disagreement, something every medical expert agrees on is that, in order to lose weight and maintain weight loss in a healthy, sustainable way, the one thing you have to do is Eat, Already. No matter what your position is on weight management—whether you're a fitness nut who's passionately keeping your weight within a one-pound range, or an ardent fat-positivist who thinks nobody should consciously control their weight for any reason, ever—I hope we can agree on this: People are animals, and animals need to eat. Starving is not what evolution designed our bodies to do.