Jessica Simpson’s Weight and You
I admit it! One of my guilty pleasures is reading Page Six of the New York Post. I’ve sworn off most other similar celebrity gossip – but for some reason I can’t let go of the latest who’s-dating-who rumors or drunken celebrity spectacles from good ol’ Page Six.
In yesterday’s Post, there was an article about a topic of seemingly endless public fascination: Jessica Simpson’s weight. I don’t really follow Jessica’s career – or her weight struggles very closely. But even I have noticed that this woman’s body is the subject of a ridiculous amount of scrutiny! A quick Google search of “Jessica Simpson Weight” returned 47,400,000 results!!
The Page Six article details Jessica’s apparent 60-pound post-baby weight loss over the course of 4 months. Apparently her “extreme four-month crash diet plan” that features “low-fat smoothies, protein and plenty of vegetables” is working. Now, I know she is a paid spokesperson for a popular weight loss plan, so at least she is being compensated for this craziness, but what kind of message about weight loss is this sending to the rest of us… especially new moms?
And Jessica isn’t the only celebrity put under the weight-and-body microscope. Kim K’s curves, Stacy Keibler’s abs, Miranda Kerr’s post-baby bod, Giselle’s well… everything – these are some of the latest “top stories” to hit the magazine covers in recent months. With a growing model/celebrity-driven media – think TMZ, People, US Weekly)– not to mention the 24/7 buzz of the Internet – we face a daily onslaught of celebrity ‘body’ news. Open a magazine or flip on the TV and you’ll find feature articles or full-blown discussions over a pound gained here, baby weight lost there, sculpting, toning, and my all-time favorite — the inside scoop on the ‘cellulite of the stars’! Yikes!
I am a realist. I know we live in a highly visual world. Often people (especially women) are judged as much by their physical appearance as by their capabilities or personality. I don’t expect our cultural fascination with beauty (however beauty is defined) to fall out of favor anytime soon. Nor do I think that the occasional perusal of a fashion magazine or gossip site is inherently bad. But is there a downside to this body and weight obsession? Are we putting our health at risk – mental as well as physical – by continually focusing on size and shape and buying into an esthetic ideal (something under Size 4, if not Size 0! Yes, even for you new moms!) that is not attainable for most women?
I was curious to see what the scientific literature says about the impact this ‘body blitz’ might be having on women. In the last decade, researchers have tried to understand the relationship between media images, body satisfaction, and even eating behaviors.
The findings are fascinating… and in many cases consistent. In one analysis (using data from 25 studies), researchers found that body image was significantly more negative after viewing thin media images than after viewing images of either average size models, plus size models, or inanimate objects. And dozens more studies have concluded that media exposure does have an impact on body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, as well as disordered eating, particularly for teens and young adults.
I’m not suggesting that we should all throw out our fashion magazines, stop reading People, or eliminate TMZ from our channel surfing. Sometimes looking at fashion and celebrities can simply be fun — or at least a mindless way to pass the time on a long flight. I think that what’s important here is that we learn to become critical consumers of the media and put the images that we see into what I like to call a “perspective filter”. First, know that much of what we see is big business. Simply put: when it comes to advertising and celebrity imagery, someone is usually trying to sell you something. (In Jessica Simpson’s case, that popular diet plan known as WW has a big stake in her weight loss… and in selling YOU on WW.)
At AppforHealth.com we are all about a ‘healthy life’. For me, this encompasses not only healthy eating, but also a healthy, positive body image. A look a the research shows that while there is not a clear link between looking at celebrity-thin actresses and fashion models and eating disorders, there is definitely a correlation (for many women) with increased body dissatisfaction. Being perpetually unhappy with your body, regardless of where you fall on the weight spectrum, is not healthy.
1. Focus on the things you like about you. Take a cue from Stuart Smalley of Saturday Night Live fame. (You know, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”). It may sound silly, but how much time do you spend focusing on what you don’t like about yourself? Imagine if you took even a fraction of this time to emphasize what you do like.
2. Limit the time you spend with model/celebrity-focused TV, Internet, and magazines. Again, I’m not saying eliminate… and this may not work for everyone. For some folks Jessica Simpson’s rapid post-baby weight loss may be inspiring and motivational. But based on the research (and certainly from my own personal experience), the less we see of these rapid celebrity-transformations and beautified images, the happier we’ll feel about ourselves. And next time you do flip through the TV channels or celebrity mags, remember that most of what you’re seeing is not really real!
3. Free yourself of the opinions of others. Easier said than done… but trust me… this one’s a gem. Regardless of what the fashion magazines are saying – or whether curves are “in” “out” or “in between”, your body is special and unique. Treat it that way. Celebrate it and love what you’ve got. There is no such thing as a perfect body, perfect weight, or ‘one-size-fits-all’ beauty.