Sara Rue seems pretty happy about losing 50 pounds in 35 weeks on the Jenny Craig program. So why does her latest commercial seem so sad?
While Rue seems very pleased with her results (she has been documenting the process on a Jenny Craig blog), the intro clip on the commercial, shot in December 2009, is sort of devastating: Rue talks about how it "isn't normal" to not want to leave the house because of one's weight, but instead of addressing the actual emotional processes behind these things, in terms of her own attitude towards her body image and self-esteem, the commercial (and, understandably so, as it's selling a diet plan) immediately moves to Rue's new-found happiness and her skinny jeans, as if dropping 50 pounds is really a solution for the kind of issues that would keep a woman inside of her house, feeling "not normal" about her body and her place in the world.
Sara Rue is beautiful; she was beautiful 50 pounds heavier, as well. The "before" picture shows a gorgeous woman smiling just as much as the after picture does. It's a shame that programs like Jenny Craig insinuate that happiness comes from a number on the scale, as opposed to something deeper. When I was in the hospital for an eating disorder (this is not to insinuate Rue has one at all), we had one phrase that we kept coming back to: "it's not about the weight." And while Rue's confidence and self-esteem might have gone up as her weight went down, there's something really depressing about the idea that weight loss alone is the key to putting a smile back on one's face.
There is something very normal about the things Rue worried about in December of 2009: many, many women struggle with the idea that their bodies don't belong, that they're "weird" or "abnormal" or flawed in some way for not fitting the strict weight standards of the beauty industrial complex. I don't know if Rue had other motivations for her weight loss— and honestly, what she does with and feels about her body is her business (and Jenny Craig's), but I wish that someone would have told her back in December that she wasn't abnormal at all—that she's beautiful at any size, and it's the media that wants to make her believe otherwise. If we sold positive body image as aggressively as we sell diet plans, maybe more women would stop trying to be "normal" and start enjoying simply being themselves.