For its special on "Celebrity Weight Loss" last night, Primetime interviewed Kendra Wilkinson and Bethenny Frankel (who showed off their post-baby bodies in tabloids this year). Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of mixed messages about health and body image.
The two reality stars have become synonymous with weight issues, due in part to their participation in post-baby body tabloid mania. Kendra, who had been known on Girls Next Door for her athletic (and, um, enhanced) figure, was refreshingly honest about her depression over her struggle with postpartum poundage. But in her Primetime interview last night, she admits that even her pre-baby body wasn't exactly healthy or easily maintained. Kendra opened up the pressure to look a certain way, and that some of the "other girls" around the Playboy Mansion had eating disorders like bulimia. But she said that her lowest point was dealing with the difficulty of not looking sexy—which she had come to believe was her most valuable asset—after the birth of her son. She said that that she wanted the cameras of her new reality show Kendra to capture the "realness" of her situation, because she didn't want to be a hypocrite.
However, when confronted with the disparity between her real-life appearance and the bikini-clad one on the cover of OK (claiming she'd lost 25 lbs in 8 weeks) she uncomfortably admitted that the images were "touched up" but that it's not up to her, it's up to the magazine. (You know, the magazine who paid her to pose for the pictures that were later doctored.) She said it makes her "sad" because she wants to be "relatable" to young girls.
Perhaps she didn't realize how unrelatable—and frankly, problematic—she sounded to girls, young and old, when she proudly declared that after she has "baby number two" she's going to get a full-body cosmetic surgery makeover, because she "deserve[s] to look good."
Her candor about her body image—and her attempts to reconcile herself with the totally normal reality of weight gain—is commendable; the matter is so ingrained and prevalent in our society, often planting a seed in many girls' minds at such a young age, that it grows into such a complicated, entangled mess that often takes decades to sort out (and that's for the "lucky" ones who managed to do so at some point in their lives). But while Kendra is verbalizing a mixture of honest sentiments, perhaps the best way to distinguish the admirable ones from the troubling ones is to talk about them as openly and honestly as she does.
And speaking of deep-seated issues about body image: Did you know that Bethenny's mother sent her to an obesity clinic when she was just eight years old? In case you were wondering, Primetime showed a picture of what she looked like at the time:
Having such a significant experience at such a young age no doubt informed her later experiences, like that of being a professional Skinny Girl. Bethenny admits that her mother's "obsession" with diet and weight loss was really influential in her life, causing her to become a sort of diet guru, in which the "diet" is not a diet, but rather a "healthy lifestyle." And Bethenny remains likable, even when admitting that she used to be a "gold digger," perhaps because she is so up-front about everything. But considering how much her mother—with whom she does not have a relationship—negatively affected her with a fixation on thinness, Bethenny should maybe think about her own daughter when she's hocking those "Future Skinny Girl" onesies.