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May 3

Fine, Ill Say It: I Hate It When Plus-Size Celebrities Lose Weight – Allure

Welcome back to theLearning Curve, a monthly column where we unpack the complicated experience of accepting your own body in a world that doesn't seem to want you to. This month, Nicola ponders the unease she feels when a plus-size celebrity suddenly becomes thinner despite their body being none of her business.

I cant look at Mindy Kaling anymore. Or Rebel Wilson. Or Adele.

Yes, its only because theyre significantly thinner. A wave of unease crashes over me every time I lay eyes upon a formerly plus-size famous person despite the fact that neither they nor their body have anything to do with me. Seeing a woman above a size 8 on a red carpet was nearly unheard of until the early 2010s, when Melissa McCarthy got promoted from dowdy sidekick to leading lady andOrange Is the New Black became the most talked-about show in the country. Still, comparatively few plus-size women have been allowed past the exclusive gates of fame, but when they thrive in that traditionally thin space anyway, it makes my own successes feel possible and my own body feel worthy.

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But every now and then, Ive woken up and one of the people I once felt proudly represented by onscreen suddenly felt like a stranger with more chiseled cheekbones, a flatter stomach, and a thigh gap.Theres something wrong here, my subconscious nags every time it happens,not with them with you.

Celebrities and weight loss itself arent my enemies here. People lose (and gain) weight for a wide variety of reasons and its not always under a persons control whether or not they do. Sometimes its healthy, sometimes its not, and sometimes its neither. Regardless, those reasons or the fact that it happens are none of my business usually.

They become my business when headlines and social media posts refuse to let me gloss over Wilsons year of health, during which she reportedly lost more than 80 pounds by eating high-protein meals, or how Kaling managed to become unrecognizable by losing weight allegedlywithout any dietary restrictions. Adele apparentlylost 100 pounds just by lifting weights and doing circuit training, according to what my phone tells me. Sure.

These are conversations, by the way, that the celebrities actively participated in by posting about weight loss on social media and/or allowing journalists to interview them about the topic. But whether or not the celebrity participates in it, the mainstream narrative surrounding any bigger, famous person who has lost a significant amount of weight is that they lookso much better now, dont they? And theyrehealthy now!

If influencers or different people are sending a message that we can modify our bodies simply through exercise and diet, the science simply doesnt support that.

This is where the problem starts, especially when the stories are presented with pictures of celebrities before and after their transformations, as many of them are. I think [before-and-after imagery] offers people an opportunity to think that achieving weight loss is something thats worthwhile, saysPhillippa Diedrichs, PhD, a research psychologist who specializes in media and body image. The issue really lies in the fact that it is often suggested the after image is the better of the two. It sends the message that a larger body type is not ideal and could and should be changed.

If youve ever tried to lose weight the old-fashioned way (diet and exercise), you know how impossible it can feel simply because you dont have time to hit the gym every day before or after the commute to your nine-to-five job. You might not have the budget to buy food that hasnt been processed. You dont even know where to begin with working outor eating because theres an endless sea of information about weight loss on the internet and little of it is realistic or trustworthy. You have these struggles because youre a normal person, one who probably has not sold hundreds of millions of records or written half a dozen hit television shows.

Thats reality. Celebrities dont live in reality. Imagine how much easier losing weight would be if you had a full gym at home or access to a private fitness center where the machines are clean, functioning, and always free to use, where men dont openly leer at you, and where you have your very own instructor telling you exactly what to do not to mention a work schedule that allows you to indulge in all of these things several times a day (or perhaps even a job that literally pays you to do so). At home, your personal nutritionist prepares post-workout smoothies and perfectly proportioned meals. You might even have an appointment with a doctor to discreetly discussliposuction or going onOzempic.

My imaginary scenario isnt stone-cold fact (though I will presentthis interview with Rob McElhenney as evidence), but theseare very rich people were talking about and rich people can afford a lifestyle that just makes things easier and that includes weight loss by any means necessary. But when the celebrity or the media outlets covering said celebrity depict drastic weight loss as something that can be achieved simply and quickly, you feel like a failure when you cant lose weight after you ate nothing but chicken breast for a week and bought a treadmill desk.

Just because young people know most media images are retouched doesnt change the fact that they feel impacted by their presence.

Those feelings of failure can cause a cycle that impacts ones overall well-being in the long run, according to Dr. Diedrichs. People can have unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve with weight loss, particularly if it is being marketed as a result of managing diet as well as exercise. That presents a very simplistic view of how a persons weight is determined. And she notes, a persons weight often comes down to a variety of factors such as genetics, biology, and socioeconomics, things that are perpetually glossed over in marketing and other online conversations about weight. If influencers or different people are sending a message that we can modify our bodies simply through exercise and diet, Dr. Deidrichs adds, the science simply doesnt support that.

The science proves that most dieting practices do not result in sustainable weight loss (if any weight is lost at all), so those of us who see a celebrity lose weight and try their reported regimens for ourselves are immediately buckled into a roller coaster of self-hatred we cant get off of. The basic diet response can be restricting what youre eating, setting up unrealistic rules that are impossible to follow, that dont lead to the result that you want, Dr. Diedrichs elaborates. That leads you to feeling lazy and undisciplined, or feeling like these standards are impossible to maintain and that your body is not good enough. From that point, she adds, dieters are more likely to overeat out of frustration, which leads to more feelings of self-loathing, which leads back to square one with food restriction. In the most extreme cases, that can mimic or be a symptom of having an eating disorder.

And seeing someone who once looked like you suddenly adhere to thin beauty standardsdoes subconsciously encourage you to try to lose weight, whether or not that was ever of interest to you. Just by having images [featuring unattainable beauty standards] there, even if we dont think that its achievable, still sends a message that thats something to aspire to. And if we fall short of that, we dont measure up, Dr. Diedrichs explains, citing image retouching as a common instance in which an understanding of reality isn't enough to combat the effects of an unattainable beauty standard. Just because young people know most media images are retouched, she explains, doesnt change the fact that they can feel impacted by their presence.

Ive spent much of my life training myself to notice the way these things negatively impactmy own body image, and yet they still do hence, why I had to leave the room when I recently caught my roommate watching reruns ofThe Office. Just involuntarily picturing Kalings before and after in my head felt like a message that I need to lose weight. I could do it just as easily as she did and therefore Im supposed to, right?

In a fucked-up way, it kind of feels like Im losing teammates with the loss of certain plus-size celebrities. Those of us who do not meet that thinner-than-average beauty standard already struggle with a lack of fair representation in the media we consume. When some of our main pillars of representation fall, that, too, can negatively impact the way we see ourselves. By having a lack of representation, youre sending a message that those people arent welcome or theyre not aspirational or theyre not attractive, Dr. Diedrichs explains. The more likely we are to internalize those ideas, the worse our body image is.

And I do, indeed, internalize that, even though I don't want to. So, yeah. I hate it when celebrities lose weight, especially those who are or once were plus-size. It has nothing to do with who they are or why and how they did it but has everything to do with the ways our society and subconsciouses trick us into believing the fairy tale that everyone can and should be gorgeous and skinny. And it's certainly not that people in the spotlight should feel morally obligated to remain plus-size. It's that media as a whole should continue to highlight people of all sizes without commenting on their weight or asking for their dieting secrets.

If, somehow, there are any celebrities (or their publicists) reading this, I'm not asking you to abandon dieting or exercising or posting photos of yourself at any size. I'm asking you to consider refraining from sharing how you lost the weight the next time a magazine asks (or, as McElhenney did in that aforementioned interview, be brutally honest about how unattainable your results may be for the average person). Because, as Dr. Deidrichs explained, our brains are impacted by the false narrative that anyone can lose weight quickly and easily, regardless of whether or not we understand that its false.

While I believe the responsibility to stop this narrative lies mostly with the media, one also has to consider how the people seeking out and reading weight-loss content at home play into the equation. Media outlets (includingAllure, mind you) determine much of their content based on what their audience is naturally drawn to and what people en masse are typing into their search engines. If celebrity weight-loss content is what brings traffic to a publication, theyll keep making it. If this is a narrative you, too, would like to stop, then simply ignoring this type of content is a good place to start. Even hate-clicking a story about weight loss signifies your interest in it to a media company, and media companies are corporations that rely on that interest to make profits. It all feeds into one viscous cycle of clicks and content creation that wont break until one or both parties make a choice to quit cold turkey.

Being triggered into body shame is not something we can avoid, nor is it something can we expect celebrities or the media to manage for us.

Regardless of how media outlets change or dont change, Dr. Diedrichs says increased media literacy is the solution for people struggling with these unrealistic standards on a personal level. We know from research that if we increase peoples knowledge and understanding of what goes into creating a media image, that can sometimes disrupt the process of comparing ourselves to other people because youve dismissed that as a relevant target thats actually achievable, she says. In other words, keep in mind all that stuff I said earlier about the private gyms and personal chefs and Ozempic.

Many of these conversations about celebrity weight loss are simply another means by which women are objectified en masse, their value reduced to the appearance of their body. (Celebrity weight loss in men ignites similar harmful narratives, but lets be honest in acknowledging that their perceived worthiness is not as closely tied to their weight.) Just by writing this story, I risk objectifying these women even further, but when we collectively fail to address the reality at hand, I think it warrants a conversation. Dr. Diedrichs agrees, so long as that conversation challenges beauty standards in a way that does not reinforce the importance of appearance, to begin with.

So the next time youre confronted with the image of someone who meets a beauty standard you dont, and when that shaky, barely audible voice within you starts nagging at you to be skinnier, please pause for a second and ask yourself a few things: Why is weight the first thing that set me off about this image? Am I dissatisfied with my body or am I trying to control my body as a means of trying to control other problems in my life? What are those other problems? Is forcing my body to change a realistic or healthy way to get rid of them?

I cant answer those questions for you, but I can tell you this: Being triggered into body shame is not something we can avoid, nor is it something can we expect celebrities or the media to manage for us. But it is something we can learn to discuss and dissect to a greater degree than she/he/they look better/worse. Maybe if we do that more often, well feel less pressured to follow in the footsteps of the rich, famous, and increasingly thin.

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Fine, Ill Say It: I Hate It When Plus-Size Celebrities Lose Weight - Allure

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