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The Skinny on Celebrity Weight Gain

The Skinny on Celebrity Weight Gain

Unless you are living under a rock (or don’t own a TV, computer, or read any magazines, newspapers, or blogs) then you must have heard this week’s breaking news:

Jessica Simpson is FAT!

This is obviously trivial news, trust me I know, but it speaks loads about the our society’s obsession with body image and for me fueled my disgust of the warped definition of what it means to be beautiful in Hollywood: Being thin, thinner, and thinnest!

It’s no surprise that the news of Jessica’s weight gain made headlines. We have become so conditioned to judge and critique women’s bodies, especially celebrities, that we expect people to write and talk about it. There is even a blog–the Skinny Website–that is dedicated to solely discussing celebrity weight, diets, body, and exercise. The website is page after page of celebrity pictures and captions like:

  • “Not everybody could get away with wearing those tiny shorts … Apparently all of those recent gym visits are paying off…” (On Amanda Bynes)
  • “…and what day would be complete without photos of skinny Nicky Hilton in short shorts?”
  • “…it doesn’t seem like she’s lost all of the baby weight yet!” (On Gwen Stefani)

And that’s not all. After a quick search I also stumbled upon the Celebrity Body Gossip, Skinny vs. Curvy, and the Celebrity Diet Doctor, which is run by an actual doctor that likes to, um, weigh in on “the good, the bad, and the ugly” behind Hollywood’s body battles.

This obsession with examining celebrities’ bodies is epic and so dangerous because we measure celebrities against impossible standards and then measure ourselves against the celebrities. Lose-lose.

The media explosion that ensued after pictures of a “fuller-figured” Jessica Simpson surfaced was so far-reaching it bumped President Obama and his family off the cover of Us Weekly (granted it was Us Weekly, but come on!)! The news was also covered by NBC’s Today Show, the San Francisco Chronicle, Fox News, Chicago Tribune.

Let’s get something straight though–Jessica Simpson is not fat!

Look at the facts:

  • The average American woman is 5’4″, weighs 140 lbs, and wears a size 14 dress. 
  • One-third of all American women wear a size 16 or larger. 

Jessica is a size 8 (some report 12, but that’s not fat either!). But by Hollywood standards this is unacceptable. Ask fellow singers Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera . They each received criticism for their weight gain and were promptly congratulated after slimming down.

It would appear, however, that this pressure to be thin only applies to women. When the men start packing on the pounds it’s a non-issue and reporters find other news to print. Vince Vaughn, Matt Damon, and Russell Crowe all flew under the radar when they recently gained weight.

Why is it that we are more forgiving of men and their bodies but the same is not true for women?

Body perfection is expected of women so much so that the slightest gain is cause for a media storm of criticism. With the ever-expanding possibilities of the internet the critics are endless and impact so widespread.

It’s a good thing Jessica isn’t fixating on the negative attention the media is hurling at her (no press is bad press, right?). Unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time before the media finds its next weight gain victim.

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Photo by John VanderHaagen used under a Creative Commons license.

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35 comments

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8:33AM PST on Mar 5, 2009

apparently I live under a rock and don't know or care about such shallow undertakings. maybe I will go back there now...

3:01PM PST on Feb 21, 2009

I agree with Richard Golding. A line has to be drawn in the sand somewhere about how much "body acceptance" we will, well accept! :P

sarie

2:57PM PST on Feb 21, 2009

Gina S. , i totally agree with you! there is a marked difference in being "body positive" and being complacent with being obese. my best friend "Steve" is always trying to "fatten up" me and our mutual friend "Sheila" (both of us are 30 and 10 lbs. overweight, respectively) cuz he is convinced we're anorexic.

meh, i blame websites like this: http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/

6:54AM PST on Feb 12, 2009

I'm one of "those" people, I've always been slim, it's actually pretty hard for me to gain weight. And I've been just as verbally abused and criticised over my life as my brother, who has always been a little on the heavy side. In school I was accused of being anorexic, bulemic, on pills, on drugs, whatever, you name it, just because I'm small. As of today I am 25, five feet tall and weigh about 100 pounds. I don't think Jessica simpson is fat. However, at the same time, I don't think we should give a green light to all obesity. Sure there are lots of factors; and for people with thyroid disease there is no easy way. But girls shouldn't feel SO good about themselves that they don't want to be healthy. Think of all the obesity-related health problems in this country! It truly is a double edged sword; I don't approve of the media's over-glamourization of people who are painfully skinny, but I also think that we should encourage people to do what they can to lead healthy lives.

5:29AM PST on Feb 11, 2009

Are you kidding me?

Look at the facts:
* The average American woman is 5'4", weighs 140 lbs, and wears a size 14 dress.
* One-third of all American women wear a size 16 or larger.

These facts follow the theory "if everyone else jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?"

The question should be, what constitutes unhealthy weight? Not, where do you compare weight-wise with everyone else?

Once that gets resolved, then we can explore the media attention to unhealthy weight.

BTW, unhealthy weight goes both ways...too high and too low.

7:23PM PST on Feb 10, 2009

Yes the skinny time started with TWIGGY in the 60's. Volumptious is BACK only the fashion industry & hollywood will not accept it. Unfortunately the camera puts pounds on us & the fashion industry likes a cat hanger to display their clothes. Many designers do not design for size 16 +. Anyway Jessica does not look fat to me at all. She looks healthy. All the skinny actors must get sick of eating lettuce & lettuce & lettuce.

5:58PM PST on Feb 10, 2009

The average American is fat... When you go to the so-called third world,at least in the parts I have been, people start looking like Americans as they spend more time in cars,watching TV,and eating a Western diet,or living as many Americans do.I am sure there is a climactic reason for some weight differences,but, there is also an angry prejudice against people who don't carry a lot of body fat. I have been through it both ways. Many if not most pharmaceuticals have a side affect listed in the placebo test of weight gain. Given Doxipan(sp) for a serious head injury, the doctors never told me that the average weight gain was 35lbs.,until after it was on me.Do I know that there is something wrong with that ? Yes. Often there are genetic reasons for extra body fat, but, for most of my life, low body fat people,like I was are openly & vocally discriminated against by people like you. The only eating problems I have had to overcome were the result of drugs legally given me for severe chronic pain. Unlike most Americans, I prefer not to drive,eat until I cannot eat more,eat junk food. There is nothing wrong with that, no matter what you say. People should just be comfortable at their weight,& understand if they don't want to start putting on pounds,they have to slow their eating as their metabolism slows, or, speed their metabolism back up, & I do know that is not easy. Americans,& those who chose the "American" lifestyle, should understand,on average,you will become

7:15AM PST on Feb 10, 2009

This sick obsession with skinny really is the real epidemic. If someone is discrimated because of colour, religion, sexual orientation, it is not accepted by society. But god forbid you have extra weight, well it's open slather to rude, discrimitory comments. Why is sizism not being recognized. The only thing that the medical field has done with weight problems is blame the individual for the past 50 years. however with all the growth hormones in the food and chemicals it's not a big surprise. The sad thing is the more you try to lose the more you will end up gaining in conventional diets. oprahs a good example take off 20, start living a normal life and put on 40. The scarry thing is they know what yo-yo diets are the real killer and the eating disorders that come from the low self-esteem. It's amazing they can invent viagra and allow 60yr old women to have children, yet there is nothing to help people lose weight(not proven.) I wonder how many fatty's have thryoid disease?? though i got to say i did find a natural herb supplement that helped me feel better and lose weight but it was taken off the market, i guess the drug companies weren't making money, so it must be bad. It know a lot of natural medicines disappeared because someone abused the product and died. yet we are never told of the thousands of people who die from drug companies pretty pills.

3:18AM PST on Feb 10, 2009

i say good on you jessica, as long as you feel good about yourself who's place is it to but in;everybody schould take a look at themselfs first before commenting on others!and you are not fat at all!

12:45AM PST on Feb 10, 2009

The way we get beyond this double-standard weight gain (men vs women) is to vote with our dollars: don't buy publications that glorify poor nutrition in a rich country and bully women into starving themselves. Its just sick.

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