Isabel CalkinsSat, January 30, 2021, 12:17 PM
In 2020, Rebel Wilson made a commitment to her health. She was clear: the resolution’s primary goal was to improve her overall wellness by making more informed food choices and exercising reguarly. And although she did set a goal weight of 165 pounds — which she achieved in less than 12 months — that was always secondary.
Yet the fascination with Wilson hasn’t been on the holistic view of her journey. Rather, it’s been squarely focused on the 60 pounds she dropped.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, chief medical officer at LifeStance Health, society’s interest in celebrity weight loss stems from the fact that we idolize celebrities and see them as a reflection of ourselves and what we can potentially accomplish one day. And when a new celebrity loses weight, Dr. Patel-Dunn explains, it’s a combination of everything we love to talk about as a society: celebrities and body image.
This collective preoccupation with Wilson’s health and weight ties back to the idea that as a western society, worth is directly correlated with appearances, Leah Kern, a clinical “non-diet” dietician at Lenox Hill, believes. Interestingly, the 40-year-old Australian actress has actually experienced this herself. In a recent interview, she admitted that people treat her differently now that she’s lost weight.
“Sometimes being bigger, people didn’t necessarily look twice at you,” she shared during an interview on The Morning Crew with Hughesy, Ed and Erin. “Now that I’m in good shape, people offer to carry my groceries to the car and hold doors open for you.”
This, Kern notes, is indicative of the fact that celebrity diet culture is just a small part of a larger problem. “We are a super impressional society and we are desperate for answers when it comes to changing the way we look. When you see someone in the public eye achieve something that you want, like weight loss, you then believe that you can also do it,” Kern says.
But more often than not, the deeper we go into following a celebrity’s diet, like copying their meal plans or following their workout day by day, the more harm we potentially cause to ourselves. According to Evelyn Tribole, a registered dietitian, when you buy into the idea that you need a fancy diet or fitness routine in order to meet your goals, you are continuing to validate the idea that your body is not enough on its own. Which, spoiler, is not true. “Diet culture is toxic and has normalized disorder eating behavior over the last twenty years,” she says. “Eating disorders have doubled. This is because diet culture has hijacked health care with the idea that health and wellness will lead to someone feeling safe in their body.” So when you diet according to these celebrities, you outsource your decisions to someone who doesn’t even know you.
So what do we do? In order to change the conversations that surround celebrities that have lost weight, we need to change society's relationship with weight. Wilson was onto something with her “Year of Health,” however some of her methods — like a personal trainer and visiting a detox and wellness center in Austria — were a bit out of reach for most.
“We need to change the focus from losing weight to engaging in healthy practices that are more sustainable,” Tribole says. “It’s as simple as getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and eating enough fruits and vegetables.” The moment you attach weight to your ideal outcome — which should be good health — you set yourself up for disappointment with 90 percent of people regaining the weight they lost.
To Wilson’s credit, the interest is confusing to her too. “I also find it interesting that people pay so much attention to a weight loss transformation,” she said on the the radio show, espeically “when there’s so much going on in the world.”