I’m mad as hell

about the way our society obsesses about weight, and about women who maintain their unnatural thinness via Red Bull and cigarettes.

Hollywood has always gone to extremes when it comes to appearances.  This is nothing new.  Judy Garland was labeled fat as a teen star and provided with amphetamines so she could lose weight – according to her biographer.

When Jennifer Aniston showed up at some function last year with a little pooch, the ubiquitous rumors flew about a pregnancy.  Nope.  She’d been trying to quit smoking and put on a few pounds – according to her publicist.  And here all this time, I thought she kept her weight down with rigorous workouts.  No, apparently like almost everyone else in Hollywood, she keeps her appetite in check with nicotine in addition to her workouts.

You see, I get my fill of celebrity gossip whenever I get my hair cut.  I can read a People Magazine in five minutes flat, cover to cover.  Us in maybe three or four.  What is it Jeff Goldblum said in The Big Chill?  I don’t write anything longer than the average person can read during the average dump.

All right, so I’m reading about Demi Moore, who made the mistake of marrying a young man with the approximate emotional maturity of the average fifteen year old boy instead of just having a fling with him, and I read how she’s been living on cigarettes and Red Bull for months – oh yeah, and some prescription medication for ADD (for kids) which is now the appetite suppressant of choice for those in the know.  For fuck’s sake, the woman looks like a corpse.  According to the paramedics, when they arrived at her compound after a 911 call, they thought they were dealing with a terminal cancer patient.

Eating disorders aren’t news – they’ve been accurately identified by the medical establishment for at least two generations.  Don’t tell me Moore’s friends and family members failed to notice that she’s trying to starve herself to death.  This photo makes me sick to my stomach, and not just because I’m a fan of the woman Moore used to be, but because I know women who do the same thing.

Honey, I have been down this road myself.  I was a suffer-er-er.  I know how it is.  I know how it feels to weigh 86 pounds yet walk past a mirror and see a hippo looking back at you.  That’s how distorted your body image becomes when you suffer from an eating disorder.

But I worry about the influence the cult of celebrity has on our daughters.  These unrealistic expectations shape our collective gender self-image.  Yes, I’m quite aware of the obesity crisis – I’m a nurse – I deal with the consequences of obesity on a daily basis.  I can’t even begin to tell you how dangerous both of these extremes are.

Let me show you a photo.  And if you believe this model stuffs her face with pizza, kebobs, cheeseburgers, fries… as she claims to do, well then, I have this bridge in Brooklyn…

Nothing personal, no insult intended, but sorry, I ain’t buyin’ it.

Believe me, this is not schadenfreude.  This is fear about how insecure we have become about our bodies.  Either we’re slurping up those Big Gulps and giving ourselves diabetes or we’re starving ourselves into oblivion.  Get a grip, ladies.  Real women eat real food.



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36 Responses to I’m mad as hell

  1. Sara Stephens (@thecookiemomma) says:

    Excellent point. Right on.

  2. Thanks you, Sara. Burns me up.

  3. Katalina Leon says:

    I stopped buying the magazines that exploit and abuse children, by which I mean Vogue and Bazaar, (which has become bizarre.) When will the drug-addict, emaciated-look, fashion tragedy pass? Does the Fashion industry need an intervention or a trip to rehab? It looks that way to me.
    Recently, I was enraged to hear that Nosferatu-like vampire Karl Langerfeld complaining Adele is too fat! She’s gorgeous and it’s absolutely none of Karl’s business. He wears winnie bikinis in public for god’s sake. Karl is planting the seeds of body-image shame in millions of young women who identify with Adele. Shame on him.
    The glamorization of starvation and substance abuse is a very weird thing that people a hundred years from now will see as sick. I wish we could get back to a model of health is beauty and find a more balanced aesthetic.
    XXOO Kat

  4. anny cook says:

    And then there are those like me who eat healthy and due to medical issues still struggle with the weight. Snacks? Ice cream? Sweets? Noooooo. Bread? One half piece of toast for breakfast with my egg. I wish we just saw people for the inside…

  5. Jaye says:

    I can’t read the “ladies” magazines anymore because of this. If there was one with a focus on how to be a better person (as opposed to prettier, thinner, sexier) I’d go for it. This nonsense is just sad.

    Good post, Julia. And wherever did you find that freakish image of the woman in red? Tell me that’s not a doctored photo.

  6. Penelope says:

    Do you know who America Ferrera is? I saw this photo of her and I thought “Finally! An actress who looks healthy and gorgeous and not like a scarecrow!” I love her!


  7. Lori says:

    -Oh my heck. I seriously went angry throwing things the other night on twitter for the same reason.

    For fucks sake Etsy had Plus Sized ear rings.

    and a size 12 was labeled plus sized.

    i was -pissed-

    it is truly something that gets me stupidly angry

  8. Lori, thanks for stopping by. Apparently size 12 is the new Plus size. The Devil Wears Prada did us no favors with that – size 6 is the new 14 comment.

  9. Yes, Penny, I know who she is. This is also why I love Queen Latifah, she looks fantastic!

  10. Hi Jaye, the model is real, sad to say. This is the strange disconnect or dichotomy – since Women’s Liberation (and I am a bra burner) our body images have become more distorted and it’s almost as if as our success as grown we try to diminish our physical persona. Can’t quite put it into words.

  11. Anny – the thing is health. Good health. I think we have to stop using words like weight, diet, exercise and simply think – good health and activity and eating real food. Not chemicals… real food. I just read an article about how Splenda now comes complete with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber. So… apparently all I need to eat is Splenda.

  12. Just perfect, Kat. You say it very well. A balanced aesthetic. What we have now is extreme. And here I thought the fashion industry was trying to rein this crap in. All talk…

  13. I think people have brainwashed themselves into thinking if you are not skinny you are ugly..Examples, you go into a store and sizes are made small..When you go to a plus size section the clothes look like potato sacks..People have lost all sight of what beauty is..

  14. Amarinda Jones says:

    My mother instilled in me that there were certain things I could be. Rule the world? Yes, she expected that of me. All he kids had that potential. Be thin? Genetically no – ain’t gonna happen. Be beautiful? No – but smart is so better. I think if you grow up with realistic goals then you cope better in life and you have the ability to move on from the crap that crosses our path.

  15. I think ruling the world is a good thing to aspire to, Amarinda. Unfortunately in my family we were split – half brains, half appearance. As I grew up, the brains won out – for the most part.

  16. Savannah – yes, right. The average woman in America wears a size 12, which is absolutely fine. Yet often you can only find clothes up to a size 8.

  17. Sandra Cox says:

    Eating disorders are very real. Its such a sad disease.

  18. Tom Stronach says:

    Saw that last photo over here the other day and nearly did a post on it too.

    Thing is about cigarettes and your my friend now so don’t have a go at me, had it already from 5 yr Holly earlier today who gave me another lecture about it, but I have been smoking since I was 11 and it never dispels my hunger pangs. I also have a fairly good palate in terms of taste and swear to give it up every New Year, but never do….

    But is also not so much the cult of celebrity we should be worried about. It is the crap magazine owners and papers who print this stuff , who really cause the harm, as so many people read it and some live and breathe it and try to emulate what they read….

  19. Tom, you are an exception to the rule. Every rule!

  20. It’s true, Sandra.

  21. Casey Wyatt says:

    Great post Julia. I recently saw an episode of Taboo on National Geographic about body image. They did a story on a model in Paris, Isobelle Caro, who was 86 pounds and gained notoriety for posing nude and emaciated on a billboard in Milan during fashion week. She was so thin and frail. It still haunts me. Even worse, she died several weeks after filming. And her mother committed suicide two month later. Absolutely tragic.

  22. I read about that, Casey. Such a tragedy.

  23. Stephanie says:

    It used to be people were who they were. I have an appetite. I don’t eat much between meals and I like to eat veggies. When I eat a meal I eat it. Never fails that if I eat a whole salad, plate of steamed veg and rice, someone will comment on it. “Good Job” they say when they mean “fat pig!”

    I can eat veg and fruit all day. I think we should be less concerned about what others do and more about ourselves. Having been bulimic I can tell you that my own appraisals are fed by others’ comments.

  24. Well, yes, Steph. Sort of. Seems to me a lot has changed within a couple generations.

  25. anny cook says:

    When I was a teenager, diet wasn’t a word… :-)

  26. Anny, I’d like to see the word diet deleted from the English language!

  27. Evie Balos says:

    Celebrities live in a whole other world–not a very safe or positive place for the weak ones. Take Whitney Houston for example (just heard the news today). What a shame. Hollywood still suffers from a host of delusions, specifically regarding physical appearance. To make all you lovely ladies feel better, most men (statistically proven) prefer curvy women and they enjoy watching us eat with healthy appetites.


  28. This is so sad, Evie. Yes, I agree with you about men preferring curves. When Heath Leger died, wow, that floored me. Such a waste.

  29. Kayla Graham says:

    I agree, for the longest time I thought I was fat because I wasn’t skinny like girls I saw on TV, and my Mom was very skinny also like those celebrities. Now that she has quit smoking she’s not. I came to terms that I love myself the way I am and that I am by no means fat just healthy and not starving myself. I see my friends suffering from thinking they’re fat and trying to loose weight when they aren’t fat at all. It’s really sad what teenage girls think that they should look like, I have given up trying to “loose weight” although I try to eat healthier and exercise. Great post Julia, this is so true!

  30. Thank you for sharing, Julia. I too saw that doc. I didn’t know she’s passed but I’m shocked she was even still alive. Demi, well. Who am I to judge? Just because someone makes millions doesn’t make them smart or able to handle themselves emotionally. People need help in many ways.

    I’ve been lean and athletic my whole life, yet still curvy. My mom thought I was some sort of alien, taking me to the doctor as a baby because I had these hard “balls” on my legs — funny family story — because she didn’t understand muscles, being soft and womanly herself.

    What’s interesting was that even as a gymnast and cheerleader, I was always the curvy one, the one told to lose five pounds — even though I weighed under 100! My relationship with food has been a rocky one. Though I never resorted to more extreme tactics, I can’t say I didn’t suffer guilt with every bite of food for years. Therapy helped immensely as did throwing away the scale.

    With pregnancy I got gestation diabetes with both kids and gained 60 pounds with my first and 80 pounds with my second. Now back down to my normal weight, it was interesting to see how people treated me differently when I was heavier. These experiences are making their way into a book and several essays.

    Society is hard on women. Welcome to earth.

  31. Rachel, since I got better, I refuse to have a scale in my house nor will I allow the doctor to weigh me. Whatever I weigh – if it’s over 119 (and it will be) could cause me to backslide. Its like being an alcoholic.

  32. I think you’re beautiful, Kayla! And your perspective is interesting because you are a college student so you know what girls are doing today.

  33. Nina Pierce says:

    What I don’t understand is these actresses don’t even look good. They look like flesh covered skeletons. Not even pretty. Everything is so scewed with our feelings about our bodies. I’m not sure if it’s the magazines or just people in general. I just know it’s not good.

    I’ve had family members and friends with eating disorders, it’s a difficult road to travel and one with constant landmines along the way that are looking to trip you up. It sounds like you’ve figured out how to enjoy the journey despite the challenges.

  34. I know, Nina. They don’t look good, but they think they do and the people they work with must tell them they do.