Tag Archives: diet

The Hidden Truths of Major Weight Loss

(crossposted on Feministe)

Laurie and Debbie say:

Julia Kozerski lost 160 pounds, exactly the way that fat people are encouraged to. She changed her diet, she built in exercise, she stayed constant. Her goal was to change her body, and she succeeded. She went from weighing 338 (fat women can always tell you the exact number) to about 180. She’s also a photographer, and she has documented the experience extensively.

before and after self-portraits of Kozerski

It’s the wonder-and-dream story of most fat women in America and the western world. But it’s not a whole story. Here’s a full frontal nude of how she looks now.

“Everything starts sagging, and you’ve got stretch marks, and clothes fit differently, you’re kind of panicking, and you’re saying, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Because this shirt doesn’t look right,'” she says. “I was very, very – I don’t want to say depressed, but I would get really down on myself about, like, ‘I’m not doing this correctly,’ or, ‘This isn’t what it’s supposed to look like.'”

As Alexandra Symonds at New York Magazine says:

After all that work, it can be a disappointing blow to discover that bodies that have lost 50-plus pounds simply don’t look like bodies that have maintained a steady weight since reaching adulthood. (While cosmetic surgeries like those detailed here can treat loose skin, stretch marks, and sagginess, they’re also expensive, invasive, and mostly absent from the fairy-tale weight loss success stories we see depicted so often.)

“It’s a fantasy, that when we lose weight, everything wrong in our lives is going to be right — that means our relationships are going to be right, we’re going to feel completely differently about ourselves,” says Geneen Roth, a New York Times bestselling author of books on eating who also leads retreats and workshops, and who herself lost between 60 and 70 pounds in her late twenties. “People are shocked to find out that this thing that they’ve been longing for and waiting for and working for is not what they thought it was.”

Nude of Kozerski from the back

It should go without saying that Kozerski is remarkably brave to put these images out, and not everyone wants to see them or hear about her experience:

Even when talking about her weight loss, Kozerski says there’s no room to share the full experience – like when she went on a popular talk show to share her story. “They’re putting me in Spanx, and I’m like, ‘This is not what I want to talk about; this is not at all how I want to come out,'” she says. “I would rather put it all out there.”

So she’s not just brave; she’s also speaking truth to power. The diet industry (not to mention the weight-loss surgery industry) does not want women (or anyone) to know that they won’t emerge from the surgery with the bodies they see in advertisements. They absolutely don’t want people to know that choosing to lose large amounts of weight is choosing, in effect, voluntary disfigurement. (ETA: by the same kinds of cultural standards that equate fat and ugliness. Since many or perhaps most people striving for major weight loss are striving for conventional beauty, this is something they should have a right to know.) The weight-loss brigade doesn’t want people to know that as long as the weight stays off, the newly-skinnier person will always have to figure out what to do with the volume of the sagging skin. Spandex stops being a fashion statement and becomes a necessity. As Symonds says, “While cosmetic surgeries like those detailed here can treat loose skin, stretch marks, and sagginess, they’re also expensive, invasive, and mostly absent from the fairy-tale weight loss success stories we see depicted so often.”

Sure, if you lose a lot of weight and keep it off, some things will probably improve. For sure, the world will treat you better, especially when your loose skin is held back by Spandex or removed by costly cosmetic surgery. And some worlds may open up to you. Symonds–trying very hard to write a pro-weight-loss article and tell the truth at the same time–says: “Julia Kozerski waxes poetic about farmers’ markets and bike rides.”

But how many women in this time and place, this culture where smooth, unwrinkled skin is valued almost as much as thin bodies, would really choose the weight loss if they knew what they were choosing?

Thanks to our friend Lizzy for the NY Magazine link.

Celebrity Dieting for Dollars

Lynne Murray says:

I was very upset to hear rumors at Jezebel.com that diet companies were “battling” over having Rebel Wilson as their spokesperson.”

Wilson is one of a very few smart, funny, sexy role models who seems to take no prisoners. Many of her interviews suggest that she understands and takes responsibility for her influence on women struggling with body image problems. She always seems to make the point that the “standing out in a crowd” aspect of fatness can be valuable.

A Vulture.com piece describes her attitude:

Wilson is round in a way that seems like an attribute; she has a post-fat state of mind. She does not shy away from her size—instead, she embraces the fact that she is different. That attitude makes Wilson at one with the Zeitgeist: In entertainment today, unless you aspire to be on a reality show or soap opera, different is the way to be.

“I was thinking, Why are these network shows so crap? As a creative person, it can make you insane to have 50 people in suits, who aren’t in comedy, feeling that they have a say in every aspect of the show. The people who bought it keep telling me, ‘You can’t say that. And you can’t do that.’ So one day, I sat down and wrote a Post-it and put it in my Hello Kitty notebook, which I take everywhere. Whenever I feel down, I read the Post-it and remember why I’m doing the show.”

Her Post-it is a kind of mission statement: “The bigger purpose in all of this,” Wilson wrote, “is to inspire girls who don’t think they’re socially all that—who don’t think they’re pretty and popular. To let them know they can have fun and exciting lives.”

The Misfit: Can Rebel Wilson Create the American Sitcom’s First Genuine Outcast?
By Lynn Hirschberg

The Jezebel.com piece speculated that the payday Wilson could reap for a weight loss spokesperson gig could amount to $4 million (the amount Jessica Simpson collected for her endorsement deal with Weight Watchers, dollars) “An insider claims that [Wilson] is asking for a fortune…. viewers could get a front-row seat to her slim down on her ABC series.”

Jezebel concluded by mentioning that “[Wilson] also has a history with the industry: she was the spokesperson for Jenny Craig Australia in 2012.”

I was saddened at the prospect of seeing Wilson’s attitude turned into the sort of smarmy commercials that have me diving for the remote to mute the television set when I hear the words, “Jennifer Hudson.” I just hate to see another in-your-face-fat girl turned into a notch on the diet industry’s bedpost. Someone on Facebook mentioned that an appropriate sound track the Queen song, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Then a ray of hope dawned in the form of an Extratv.com post quoting Wilson shooting down the rumors:

Rebel assured her involvement in a weight-loss campaign is a rumor. “Nobody’s come to me directly,” adding that another program she was involved with in Australia, “Didn’t quite work out.”

When it comes to body image, Wilson explained, “I don’t really care what I look like that much, and I think women out there should just be happy with the way they look. They shouldn’t really try to conform to any kind of stereotype. Just be happy and hopefully healthy.”

In a 2012 article, an Australian newspaper, “The Daily Telegraph” described the outcome of Wilson’s Jenny Craig adventure there:

Speaking on the Kyle and Jackie O show this morning, the Bridesmaids actress said she was landing more roles in the US because of her figure.  “Because of my filming commitments in America you have to sign contracts where you can’t change your physical appearance,” she said on-air.  The Sydney-born star said she ended the agreement “like a year ago”.

Wilson’s most recent big screen outing, in a Capella comedy “Pitch Perfect”, saw her play a character called “Fat Amy”. Producers told her when she landed the part she couldn’t lose more than a few kilos before filming finished.

Rebel Wilson might be better qualified than most fat actresses to negotiate a graceful exit from diet company bondage. She has a law degree, writes much of her own comedy material and her career is on the rise. The typical weight company “ambassador” is a performer who seem to have exhausted the shock value of rising above the crowd as a talented fat phenomenon. Not getting any younger in a youth-obsessed profession and facing the reality that very few parts exist for fat actors and singers, the temptation must grow to accept a weight company spokesperson offer before the public forgets their names and even those offers dry up. The stated aim would be to reboot their careers by recreating their bodies several sizes smaller, but do they really find career opportunities not centered on their dieting activities?

The way in which weight loss companies truly use and abuse their spokespeople shows up in the Australian Jenny Craig organization’s comment on Wilson’s departure. A diplomatic statement assured the world that, “they were happy to briefly have Wilson has an ambassador” but it came coupled with a back-handed insult:   “The well-rounded comedienne ended her agreement with the weight loss giant last year before reaching her target goal, which was shedding 20kg [45 pounds].”  They just had to let us know that they defined Wilson as a dieting failure despite her acting career successes.

I value Wilson’s attitude so much, that I strongly hope she continues on the path that led her out of the dieting celebrity game and into an increasingly stronger voice for body diversity.