When Celebrities Lose Weight

Deja Moo_When you know you've experienced this bullshit beforeThere’s a lot of talk going on about a certain songstress’s body size manipulation. This happens a lot so I wanted to talk about it in a more general way, rather than discussing the particulars of this specific incident.

First of all, yes, everyone has a right to do what they want with their bodies/lives. But those decisions do not happen in a vacuum. Part of being a celebrity with the privilege and platform that come along with that is being responsible for what you promote through your words and actions. You can’t support intentional weight loss without supporting fatphobia, because the idea that a thin(ner) body would be in some way better is at the root of fat oppression.

When celebrities uncritically accept the positive attention they get for (at least temporarily) manipulating their bodies to be smaller, it can feel like a betrayal to those in Size Acceptance community because when these stars are fat(ter), they use our community, our work, our language as a shield against the fatphobia they experience – talking about how they love their bodies, how they don’t want to look like some photoshopped picture in a magazine, how all bodies are beautiful, how health and weight are two different things etc. And they lean on our support as fans – to appreciate their work, promote them, defend them.

So of course we can feel a major betrayal when they (at least temporarily) become smaller and suddenly can’t seem to prove fast enough that they were just using us until they could move themselves out of the marginalized group and become one of the marginalizers, waxing poetic with the same diet-culture language that had been weaponized against them, basking in the approval from the same people who were fat-shaming them before they became thin, and will fat-shame them again when they regain the weight.

And if, like almost everyone, they do regain their weight, history shows they’ll likely come running back to us – our support, our  (limited) resources, our work, our language. For those who choose to continue to attempt intentional weight loss this can end up becoming a cycle – or they may try to remake Size Acceptance in their own image as something that can include their desire for, and celebration of, weight loss (maybe co-opting the originally fat activist term of “Body Positivity” and watering it down even more.)

Often they complicate the situation by claiming they lost weight for their health. Again, they are allowed to conflate weight and health, but the reality is that it can also make things more difficult for those of us who understand that weight and health are two separate things and that intentional weight loss does not meet the criteria for an ethical, evidence-based health practice. While people are allowed to buy into a weight-loss paradigm, their choice to do that publicly from a big platform makes life harder for those who are trying to get ethical, competent healthcare in fat bodies. Or they may claim that they did it to avoid health issues or disability (despite the fact that people of all sizes deal with those issues.) Adding healthism and ableism to fatphobia does not improve the situation.

Paradigm straddling (wanting to be part of Size Acceptance and be supported in intentional weight loss, for example) is a really common thing  in oppressed communities. Being oppressed sucks and it’s normal to fantasize about how things could be different.  I think something to think about is whether we fantasize about an “ideal world” that accommodates us (and everyone,) and pursue that, or if we fantasize about shrinking ourselves into something less to have our “ideal body” (often built not just on sizeism but also healthism and ableism) and pursue that.

To reiterate, while people – including celebrities – can do whatever they want with their bodies, their choices have meaning and consequences. And choosing to participate in intentional weight loss, or to celebrate weight loss of any kind, supports weight stigma and perpetuates eating disorders by promoting the idea that a thin(ner) body is a better/more attractive/healthier body, which is at the root of fatphobia.

If you want to read more about the Adele situation, I recommend this piece by Da’Shaun Harrison for Wear Your Voice.

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8 thoughts on “When Celebrities Lose Weight

  1. I don’t care so much that celebrities attempt weight loss. Like you said, it’s their choice. What bothers me more is the media manipulation of celebrity weight loss. Celebrity weight loss tends to go like everyone else’s – the celebrity loses a bunch of weight, keeps it off for a little while, and then gains it all back, possibly regaining more than they lost. However, the media all too often uses its platform to just straight-up *hide* the second part of the equation, taking and spamming pictures of the celeb at a low weight and writing a bunch of gushing “inspirational” articles about their weight loss, and then when the celebrity begins to regain, they just… stop. They stop taking pictures of them. They stop writing articles about them. They push them fully out of the public’s eye, so the last the public saw of them, they were thin and dancing around in a bikini on a talk show, telling you what number to call to enroll in their diet program.

    This creates the illusion of permanent weight loss through selective editing. The celeb’s weight loss didn’t stick any more than anyone else’s, but the media creates a situation where nobody knows that. I mean, I’m sure people know it in the back of their heads, they see the “where are they now” articles that briefly mention the weight regain, maybe they even see a low-res paparazzi photo in some “lol wurst beach bodiez” article in a tabloid… but without having the weight regain constantly shoved in their face the way the weight loss was, they can just kind of mentally jettison it from their “weight loss miracle” narrative, leaving a nice, tidy fairy tale about a fat girl who was transformed into a thin girl through Good Deeds and stayed that way forever and ever. They can then apply that fairy tale to every fat person in their lives and just decide that if those fat people aren’t getting transformed into thin people and staying that way, they must not be doing enough Good Deeds.

    It is, basically, exactly the same thing The Biggest Loser did to its contestants.

  2. I saw that, and smelled it coming. Post Break Up Body Love. How long do we have to see it smacked on magazines lining the check out gauntlet of celeb gossip, diet touting magazines, candy bars, batteries, toys at child eye level, hand sanitizer. Sorry, no hand sanitizer. Was inevitable. Only “Success Stories” are sold here. Wonder how much it really contributes to album sales? Wonder if after the “Lifestyle Change, it becomes harder to maintain the slimmer figure, if Anorexia as a Lifestyle Choice becomes an option?
    That and, Jesus, who cares. Some celebrity, on the other side of the planet, who I will never meet, did something with their adipose tissue. BFD. Let me drop everything and get on that…

    1. I’ve heard more than one person insist it doesn’t matter if weight loss miracle stories are partial or even total fabrications as long as they “inspire” more people to diet, because it’s okay to tell a little lie in the service of a “bigger truth.”

      Riddle me this: what do you call a “bigger truth” that is constructed entirely of little lies?

      1. Then of course there’s the almost inevitable weight gain, which will be reported about in the tabloids and “worst body” website. But then they’ll temporarily lose weight (again) and that will be featured in mainstream media (again) as a “success” story. They’ll dutifully blame themselves for regaining the weight and thank diet-of-the-day for their current “success.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

      2. Wash rinse repeat… Pahahaha! Good one LadyR.

        All the little lies… Maybe, social cognitive dissonance? It has to be a shared experience, or the magazines touting the “Lifestyle Changes” touting the ‘not a diet diets’ wouldn’t sell so very very well.

        Someone’s selling the crap, someone’s eating the crap. Everyone is covered in crap, but very few of us are richer for it…

        Maybe it is like a global conspiracy Everybody knows about, but the desire to be one of the Haves or more likely, Halves, recent magazine cover: “Half their size” photo, All Women, is too potent a poison to resist.

        Seriously, dieting and shape shifting for women is as common as menstruation, being talked down to, breathing…

        Wash, Rinse, Repeat indeed…

  3. I just read your blog abt celebrity weight loss and I thought back to reading “Wake up, I’m Fat,” by Camtyn Manheim, that came out in 1999. Reminded me that since she lost weight (if it was intentional which of course I don’t know if it was or wasn’t) she negates her words and her current story to me sounds like…”wake up, you didnt Really Think I was ok being Fat, did you?” Pisses me off. That being said, my experience reading her book, when I was 29 yrs old when it was first published, was the first time i had personally heard or read anything other than a fat woman should feel disgust, pity, unhappiness, or “limited by” weight. I’m not excusing the flaws or her words and actions since it was published. For me personally, at that moment in time, it did get me thinking about another way to work, love, think and feel. That was hugely significant for me.

    Thanks for your blog posts. You always challenge me to learn and/or re-learn to be a better person in the world.

    Maggie

    1. I wonder about it too. Like Ragen says, “There not my underpants”. Celebs can do what ever they like for what ever reason (or no reason at all) with their own bodies. Why should I care? Mostly I don’t, but being human, and female and having it hammered home daily that I SHOULD BE SOMETHING ELSE, less, other, obey… I feel sort of betrayed when another fat celebrity, (Celebrity With Fat), stops being with fat. Whether all of it, some of it, or most of it, it just feels like another kick in the gut. Like they are saying, ‘Oh, yeah, by the way, I’m not a fat, useless pig anymore, you can like me with out reservation now.’

      The pressure in being a public figure must be enormous. I am not sure of many who rode out the storm of abuse to the end of their lives being fat? Kate Smith, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Dom DeLuise? I honestly don’t know. But for a woman today, living under constant, belligerent, abusing censure and battering pressure from loved ones, friends, staff, business acquaintances, mates, fans, haters etc. In the digital age of shot and scold on social media, I imagine weight loss is the step to take over suicide. Really. I think it is probably That Bad!

      If it wasn’t. If it was really OK, that we can all just be who we are and admired for our talents regardless of our body type, why do “fat female celebs appear and disappear like a mirage over and over and over? Should we star counting the days till LIZZO is on the other side? I know she is part of a new generation and the talk surrounding her is both racial i.e. ‘How dare you!’ and modern ‘We’re not doing THAT anymore!’ “Body-Shaming is Bad!”

      Have we really gotten over the hump, so to speak. Can a woman, esp a public figure, really be regarded for herself outside her figure, or is this going to devolve down into the ruts of…yeah but, your health, love yourself enough…? Probably. Patriarchy isn’t dead and this is a too beloved object/issue of ire for angry, insecure men who believe a woman’s primary duty is to be approved of by men.

      Guess we’ll just have to stay on the Kiss My Ass bus a bit longer.

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