I’m noticing a rather disturbing trend lately—famous women talking about not eating as if it were something to be proud of. Take for example Katherine Heigl, who said this week of a stripped down scene in her new movie One for the Money, “You are just never happy with the way you look. No matter how little I ate that whole day, hoping my stomach would stay flat and I would have some sort of semblance of an ab, it doesn’t matter. You look at it and think, ‘Grrr, I should’ve not eaten for a week before.’”
Grrr, indeed. There are so many levels of wrong in this statement, that I’m not even sure where to start.
It feels so strange to hear someone as stunning — and svelte — as Heigl body snark herself. I mean, she always comes across as so confident and self-assured — can she really believe for a second that she looks anything other than amazing? And if she’s this self-critical of her body, do the rest of us stand any chance?
But I think there’s something even more pernicious in here — the subtle tying of the ideas “looking good” and “not eating.” I mean, Heigl has basically set up a mathematical formula whereby the greater the number of hours since a woman’s last meal, the better she looks. And let’s be honest here — One for the Money is nothing if not a Katherine Heigl vehicle. It’s not like she’s an unknown who was going to be replaced if she showed up to set with 3% rather than 2% body fat. Heigl could easily have gone into the scene with her stomach a degree less taut. Our eyes are so used to seeing very tall, very thin, very muscular bodies. Heigl could have done something quietly revolutionary by filming the scene just as she was, no fasting involved.
But Heigl isn’t the only famous lady I’ve heard say something like this recently. Here are some more examples:
”The catsuit’s unforgiving, man. I’m a vegetarian and right now, I’m living on kale and dust for the training.” —Anne Hathaway on getting into shape to play Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” [Us Weekly]
“I have a hard time with portion control, so I have 1,200 calorie meals delivered. But I also work out, so basically I’m starving. It sucks. I drink a lot of water.” — Jessica Alba, explaining how she planned to lose weight after giving birth to her second daughter [Lucky]
“I just stopped eating. I don’t eat very healthy anyway — I have a serious sugar tooth. Now I eat red-velvet cake before I go to bed every night. If you eat meals later, you’ll put on weight faster, so I had dinner at 10 p.m.” —Megan Fox on how she lost weight for “Jennifer’s Body” and subsequently put it back on for “Transformers 2,” after director Michael Bay said she was too thin [Fox News]
“I shed the fat by not eating. But I don’t like to tell the kids that so they think they shouldn’t eat.” —Kimora Lee Simmons on how she accomplished her recent slim-down [DramaRama]
Now, I’m not so naïve as to think that there aren’t celebrities out there who have eating disorders. Yes, I’m sure “not eating” is a relatively normal thing in Hollywood, where standards of beauty are put in a pressure cooker. And in many ways, I would rather actresses be honest about their strict diets rather than be all “See, I eat cheeseburgers and French fries all the time and am just naturally this skinny.”
But I really wish these women didn’t feel the pressure to live in nutritional misery to whittle off a few pounds. I wish that in their minds, not eating wasn’t so closely tied to looking good. Because honestly, if you look good after—you probably looked pretty darn good before, too, and just didn’t realize it.
Something about the flippant nature of these quotes just doesn’t sit well with me. But what do you think?