Celebrity Fat Club: Kirstie, Carnie, Kelly & America's Obsession With Weight

Illustration for article titled Celebrity Fat Club: Kirstie, Carnie, Kelly & America's Obsession With Weight

In today's Huffington Post, Laura Beck issues a "Wake Up Call to Kirstie Alley" after watching previews for Alley's new A&E show Kirstie Alley's Big Life. But does the blame lie with Alley or the television watching public?

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Beck writes:

Screw Thinspiration. Be an inspiration, Kirstie Alley. Our societal obsession with thinness over health is damaging at best and deadly at worst. Alley, as a larger woman, has a chance to disprove the myth that all fat people do is just lay in bed and eat all day. Show the world that you can be fat and healthy. That you can be fat and happy. Use this opportunity to fight for all women and get out there and work it, girl. Put on them tight jeans and a tank top and make the world look at you, not being embarrassed or ashamed, but proud of everything you have accomplished and will accomplish. Girl, you better work.

But clearly, the only thing Alley is working is the talk show circuit, shopping yet another program where she is the butt of a national joke on fat people. (Alley's previous show, Fat Actress, has the same theme without the weight-loss component.)

Here's the promo for Alley's Big Life:

And a random segment on "fat pants" from Fat Actress:

Alley's new show is being heavily promoted, probably because it will be a hit with viewers. Weight scrutiny is a way of life for celebrities, so why wouldn't more of them try to cash in, playing to certain stereotypes to boost ratings? I've been reading the Fatshionista recaps of Carnie Wilson's show Unstapled. Wilson, who is famous for being one-third of the popular nineties girl group Wilson Phillips, live-streamed her own gastric bypass surgery on the internet, became a spokesperson for life after fatness, regained the weight, and has signed up for the requisite reality show. The program provides a set up that borders on sadistic- Wilson is attempting to lose 50 pounds, but she also is struggling with her love of sweets, which prompts her to also launch a baking business. (Wondering how she going to lose weight while baking reams of cookies and cakes and coping with the stress and busy schedule that comes with entrepreneurship? Me too!)

But ultimately, Wilson shows her business acumen for signing up for a reality show in the first place. Viewers have an insatiable appetite for narratives about fat people that serve up the desire to change, embarrassing situations, and a heaping helping of self-flagellation. We want to watch people huffing and puffing away on the Biggest Loser to lose hundreds of pounds - even when that type of weight loss borders on body abuse and contestants have urinated blood, and experienced hair loss trying to drop a lifetime of weight in eight weeks. We want to watch Shar Jackson and K-Fed repent for the sin of fatness while working out their relationship issues.

(When I visited the VH1 blog for Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp recaps, the banner ads are for Oreo cakesters. Way to motivate, VH1!)

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Our national obsession with weight and fat shaming is so great that Kelly Osbourne recently remarked ""I took more hell for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that." And sadly, she's right. Even as news outlets fret over a national obesity crisis and advertisers peddle newer, cheaper, processed foods, reality shows about epic weight struggles seem to never go out of style.

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Fat shaming is the new Millennium bloodsport, and American television watchers have taken the place of the voyeurs in the Coliseum.

So, are we entertained?

Wake Up Call to Kirstie Alley" [Huffington Post]
Kirstie Alley's Big Life [A & E]
Fat Actress [Showtime]
Unstapled [Fatshionista]
Unstapled [GSN]
The Biggest Loser's Dirty Little Secrets [Star]

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Earlier: This Week In Tabloids: Lady Who Sold Gelato To The Jolie-Pitts Tells All

DISCUSSION

prettyprettyprincess-old
PrettyPrettyPrincess

I hope I can express this clearly, so bear with me. I've read the weight debates on here too much to keep biting my tongue.

We all agree that fat-shaming is bad - nobody should make someone feel bad about their weight.

But we cannot say that it's ok for someone to be whatever size they are but also imply that they are wrong if they want to change it. I don't think that the editors are saying that, but I am saying that I often get that vibe from commenters and I see that trend already in the comments for this article.

If someone is heavy and they love it, great!

If someone is skinny and they love it, equally great.

If someone wants to lose weight, that is just as much of a valid choice.

In a perfect world, we would all be the size we want to be. But the real truth is that not all of us are our own ideal sizes (whatever that might be!! I don't think we all have the same goals for ourselves, and I don't think we should!) Some of us are a 12 and want to be a 6. Some people base their goals on weight vs size, or size vs weight, or bmi, or body fat percentage. We can debate that one way of measuring is better than another, and all body types are different, and all of these things are true. But the REAL truth here is that the reason some people watch weightloss shows or read weight loss articles is for inspiration. Whenever someone quotes obesity statistics, suddenly there are tangential arguments about the validity of obesity statistics, or definitions of obesity, and subjective body types. I'm not trying to say those arguments are wrong, I am saying they are missing the point.

The real point is that everyone is really in charge of their body. They can say, I'm the right size for me, and that's great. Or they can say, I'd like to be a little bigger. Or I'm bigger than I'd like to be but it's not worth it to do anything about it so I'm not goin to sweat it. Or I'm bigger than I want to be and I WANT to change it. Or I'm JUST the right size but I want to be more fit, and eat clean, or reduce my body fat or modify my shape without changing size. Again, we ALL have different goals and that is FINE. However we define it, whatever we want our goals to be, it is ok. It is ok to want to lose weight and it is ok to NOT want to lose weight. I feel like this has to be said because I've heard so much direct and implied criticism of people who are trying to lose weight, and I think that really isn't helpful. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change something about yourself; we can't say it's only ok to be in charge of your own body as long as you don't want to change anything. I feel like that is a complete double standard. If someone wants to lose weight, or gain weight, or stay the same, or never ever talk about it, no matter what, I support that choice. If someone wants to lose 10 pounds without focusing on health or fitness, I will support them. We cannot criticize people for wanting to change for their own reasons.

Yes, America is obsessed with weight. Going back to the statistics - no matter how you read it - some people in America are overweight, or obese. I think the obsession comes from the fact that many of them would like to make changes that they feel are positive to their lives but really struggle with it. I don't know very many fit or thin people who watch the Biggest Loser, but I know overweight people who do because it gives them genuine hope. Watching people succeed helps you believe that people CAN succeed at what can be a very frustrating situation. Sometimes, when you are battling weight issues, it really starts to feel like you have NO control over what happens with your body. Sometimes the changes are so slow that you really aren't making the connection between what you eat and how your body responds.

Many women Kirstie's age (or other ages! or men!) can really relate to what she has been going through. I hope Kirstie does this because it makes her happy, or because the paycheck makes her happy. I hope she doesn't hate herself, as some people have said that she does. But I don't know her, I don't know her life, and she doesn't owe it to us to be any kind of body image spokesperson.

I've been skinny, and I've been chubby. I've had healthy and unhealthy relationships with food. Disordered eating goes both ways; people can abuse their bodies by depriving it of needed food and nutrients, but some of us really do the opposite, and don't eat for the right reasons. If someone like me wants to keep that obsessed relationship with food I'm not going to judge them, but my real point is: If someone wants to change that relationship with food, so it's a healthier one, and they express that by desiring to lose weight, I'm not going to judge them for that either. If someone tries and fails and tries again, they shouldn't be a joke, they shouldn't be told that they have to accept the way things are, just as much as we wouldn't try to force them to try again. If they want to keep trying until they find what works for them, I'm behind them all the way. If they want to film it and get a paycheck while doing it then you know what, get it girl, I've spent a ton of money trying to lose weight and more power to you if you can get paid to do it.