Kelly Osbourne wonders why it’s better to be a drug addict than fat

Kelly Osbourne made a really good point when she told Us Weekly, “I took more hell for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that. Now I’ve actually read in some magazines that I’m too skinny. You can never ever ever win.” Why is it so much worse to be fat than risking your life daily with drugs?

Good question. Just how obsessed are we with the idea that fat is the root of all evil? Or is it that women and celebrities are two classes so objectified that when you overlap them, a woman like Kelly Osbourne ceases to seem human at all? She’s just the sum of her entertainment value, and well, we can’t see the drug abuse, but we sure can see that unsightly fat.

The CNN article from which that quote came is a series of snippets from celebrities who talk about how ridiculous the super-skinny standard is. These celebrities are all female actors with the exception of Ricky Gervais, who is hardly a good example if one’s trying to prove This Hurts Men, Too. He states flat out that his recent weight loss had nothing to do with breaking into Hollywood – I love him to pieces, but it’s not like he was ever just a few pounds away from looking like a young Clint Eastwood, is it? And A-list male lead actors never have to be twenty-pounds underweight.

The skinny standard is merciless in its disregard for women’s health. According to recent studies, being what we’ve been conditioned to think of as “overweight” actually seems to promote better health than being “normal” weight, “underweight” or “obese”. Underweight actresses are undoubtedly risking their health for their careers, and based on my own experience of crash dieting, I suspect it’s a vicious cycle. The first thing to go when you’re undernourished is your body’s idea of non-essential functions: your neurotransmitters slow down and get imbalanced. You can’t think straight, and you get overly emotional (or else go numb). You can’t make sound judgments anymore. Suddenly what sounded so unreasonable when you embarked on this plan (“Okay, fine, I’ll starve myself and see if that makes me acceptable”) seems pretty sensible (“Oh, the number on the scales fell, and everyone’s complimenting me today!”). Because your brain is starving.

The standard also bars some women flat-out from careers in film, since not all body types can even achieve this look with any amount of weight loss or body sculpting.

It’s telling that the current title of the article, “Celebs who’ve complained about dieting” doesn’t match the title string in the URL, “celebrities.whine.about.dieting.” It looks like Olivia Allin’s original title referred to these complaints as “whining” and someone later saw fit to change that. I’m glad they did, because these are legitimate complaints.

Comments

  1. sbg says

    Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

    Not sure Wiki is the best link for that, but it gets you going.

    Seriously, lack of food can have a profound, immediate effect. I remember once starting on a road trip with my sister. What I don’t remember is being unbearable, rude, nonsensical or any other troubling thing, but my sister knew enough to make a split-second turn into a strip mall with a Subway and to get some damn food in me, pronto. The trip after that – totally pleasant. ;)

    Long story short (too late!), if the short-term effect is substantial enough to warrant food triage, imagine the cumulative effect of years of starvation.

  2. Firebird says

    I’ll never forget my 18 year old younger sister looking at me – without provocation – and saying, “Why don’t you just eat less? I stopped eating for a week recently when I couldn’t fit into my size 0 jeans.”

    She’s grown up a little, to the point where she doesn’t inform people unasked that they should starve themselves, but since she hasn’t gained any weight and she still eats fast food on the fly, I have no choice but to assume she still starves herself when those size 0’s stop fitting.

  3. SunlessNick says

    When I first read the headline, I thought she was one saying it.

    According to recent studies, being what we’ve been conditioned to think of as “overweight”

    And yet it seems to be unthinkable to rename the categories.

  4. Scarlett says

    We have an ongoing issue in my house with my dad and my youngest sister. She’s quite curvy, but eats fairly well and excercises regularly. Yet there’s hell to pay if he ever catches her with a coke or chips. Meanwhile, my other sister makes Kate Moss look tubby, I’ve never seen her excercise (to the point that if she wants to buy, say, a bottle of coke, she’ll drive down and co-opt my other sister to go in and get it for her) and has a fondness for coke and KFC. Who sounds the healthiest of those two? But nothing will convince Dad that there is often zero correlation between weight and health.

  5. Havoc says

    @The Other Patrick: It’s not the fact that size 0 exists. People are that thin naturally! The attitudes of people stigmatizing others for having bodies that don’t meet an unwritten, constantly changing standard of “normal” *is* the problem.

    Size 0 does’t automatically mean unhealthy or harmful dieting. Sometimes it means natural slenderness. As an external observer, you are not the best person to judge that.

    In fact, by judging someone for being too thin – which is what it sounds like you’re doing – you are contributing to the problem.

    Of course, if you’re not judging people for having a body type you don’t approve of, then I apologize. I just wish that we could live in a world that accepts people with bodies of all types and sizes (and skin colors and levels of able-bodiedness, for that matter) without stigmatizing them. So I have to step up on my soapbox every now and again.

  6. Robin says

    @Havoc — I don’t think OtherPatrick is annoyed by the fact of “size 0″ people. I’m guessing that he — like me — is baffled by the existence of 0 as a clothing size. Zero literally means nothing. How can your clothing not have a size?

    It’s always been very strange to me that men get clothing based on actual measurements while women are stuck with arbitrary numbers, letters, and adjectives that seem to be recalibrated by the fashion industry every few years in order to make a population that is getting bigger (not necessarily fatter, just generally bigger than our ancestors) feel like we’re still conforming to our society’s “ideal” body image.

  7. Savannah says

    It’s always been very strange to me that men get clothing based on actual measurements while women are stuck with arbitrary numbers, letters, and adjectives

    YES. This bothers me SO. MUCH. It’s one of the most absurd things in manufacturing and it baffles me that no one has thought to change it.

  8. says

    Havoc: Robin nailed it. My shoe size tells me directly how large my feet are. My ring size describes the circumference (or diameter) of my finger. But size 0? And what, if someone’s even smaller, it’s negative size?

    Although, if it were up to me, all sizes had different monickers. “I’m fun size!” – “I have disco size.” – “Me, I’m size shiny”. :)

  9. says

    Oh, just to be clear (and in reference to Savannah): that was a joke. I like being able to measure things and tell the size from that, and I like that the size is a neutral descriptor.

  10. Kit Kendrick says

    Oh, how I wish I could buy trousers in waist-hip-inseam (I’d even take waist-inseam, as in mens trousers, if I had to, though that wouldn’t be as ideal for my body shape.)

    I’ve never been able to work out why the only women’s garment that does come measured by a real number is a bra.

  11. says

    SBG, that experiment sounds familiar. I think I’ve read about it before – and everyone should.

    Nick, you’re right. I’ve edited it. Thanks.

    Firebird, that tactic will stop working for her eventually, if it hasn’t already. Scary.

    To everyone else: it’s lovely for people to naturally be “size 0″, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing that we label it that way. So much of sexism takes the form of women diminishing themselves: don’t talk so much! Expect less! Settle! Be smaller! Be EVEN smaller! No, you’re still not small enough, you huge, selfish thing! There’s something about calling it “size 0″ that strikes me as the most derisive, hateful irony: “once you reach the standards your sexist society has set for you, you will be erased, and thanks for cooperating in your own demise.”

  12. MaggieCat says

    It’s one of the most absurd things in manufacturing and it baffles me that no one has thought to change it.

    They did change it… to that deliberately. A few years back I was raiding my grandmother’s closets when she was getting rid of stuff that hadn’t fit in 20some years, and a lot of the blouses were marked by bust measurement. You know, something rational. At this point I’d just settled for something STANDARDIZED rather than let every manufacturer decide on their own approach to vanity sizing because I’m betting trying to convince women who wear an 8 to suddenly wear a 34 isn’t going to go so well.

    Although, if it were up to me, all sizes had different monickers. “I’m fun size!” – “I have disco size.” – “Me, I’m size shiny”. :)

    Heh. Of late my mother and I have taken to using “fluffy”.

  13. says

    a lot of the blouses were marked by bust measurement.

    I long for that. According to clothing manufacturer’s, my torso is about a size 8, but my chest is about a size 10-12. Nothing fits because everything’s made for B-cups. Which fewer and fewer women have these days, but goodness, let’s not adapt to the customer.

  14. Mary says

    I’m from Europe and we have different size numbers 36/38 = Small, 40/42 = Medium, 44/46 = Large and so on.

    So an american size O would be like XXS right?

  15. Genevieve says

    Oh, how I wish I could buy trousers in waist-hip-inseam (I’d even take waist-inseam, as in mens trousers, if I had to, though that wouldn’t be as ideal for my body shape.)

    Yes! I hate trying on clothes, I hate dressing rooms, I hate pretty much everything having to do with shopping for clothes. Pants are so basic anyway, so I wish I could just look at them, feel the material, check to see if they came in my size, know that my size was the same no matter what store I was at, and buy them, rather than having to get dressed and undressed possibly multiple times in a tiny little dressing room that may or may not offer reasonable privacy while a million other people are around. It would also make ordering things online easier: I can order t-shirts online, but that’s pretty much the only thing I trust. For all other things, I never know which one of three possible sizes I could be depending on the store.

  16. scarlett says

    See, the only grown woman I ever knew who could fit into a size 6, which is pretty much the smallest sizes women’s clothes come in in Australia, had recently beaten a battle with TUBURCULOSIS. (Morbidly funny part? She was always being asked about her weight loss secret and how did one *get* TB. ‘Cos apparabtly its a very effective weight loss secret as opposed to a fatal disease.)

  17. Nat says

    @Genevieve: not sure rational sizing would eliminate trying on. As a fairly thin and typically-proportioned male, even basic straight-legged pants can’t be reliably counted on to fit the same just because they have the same measurements. I’d guess that if women’s clothes came with actual-measurement sizes, it would at best mean you only needed to take one or two sizes of a garment into the fitting room–if that didn’t fit, that cut just wouldn’t work for you. Just as an aside to the larger discussion here.

  18. photondancer says

    Oh my, imagine asking someone how to ‘get’ TB!

    It’s getting worse, Scarlett. I live in Sydney and saw a size 4 for the first time a few months ago. I was so confused I had to confirm with the shop it wasn’t a British size 4, which is more like an Aussie 14. The extremely petite Thai student I met recently could probably fit into that but I can’t think who else would. Even size 6 has only become available in the last 2 years or so. I figure it has to be vanity sizing. I’m chubby yet frequently fit into size 10, which used to be considered slender. OTOH, I recently tried on a coat and had to go all the way up to size 16 before it would button without straining, because it had been cut to have no hips. Which of course made it much too big on my upper body.

    I’ve long found it weird that womens’ shirts don’t come in a range of bust sizes, especially considering recent news reports that the most common cup size in Australia is now a DD. I wonder if this is why adding some stretch to the fabric is becoming more common? It’s cheaper.

  19. scarlett says

    Yeah, well, I at least *hope* the people asking were just extremely think or too ignorant to grasp that TB isn’t exactly in the same league as a head cold… but I suspect there’s a fair chunk of people out there who consider a life-threatening disease fair trade for the ten kilos or so she lost because of it.

  20. photondancer says

    And there I was thinking that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Emily joyfully proclaims “I’m one stomach flu away from my goal weight!” was exaggerated…

  21. says

    Smaller than a size 0 is a size 00, btw. The mathematical logic baffles. I’ve seen these in stores. Back when my now-13-year-old sister was wearing a size 0 (like… a year ago– and she’s skinny), she would complain about having thunder thighs. Thunder thighs! At 12 years old and weighing no more than 120lb, at taller than 5’6″. She’s gotten over it, but still.

    Meanwhile, I probably eat healthiest out of my whole immediate family, except maybe for my mother, but I’m still second-heaviest of my sisters because of 100lb of emotional binge eating when I was depressed several years back. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not about to be anorexic (which I’ve done) to drop the weight, and damned if even then it doesn’t come off slower than eating a bag of Hershey’s Kisses and crying yourself to sleep (which I’ve also done).

  22. scarlett says

    photondancer, unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who *wish* they could get something like stomach flu or tb ‘cos they see other people who got it and lost a lot of weight because of it. I’m not sure how much of it is them truly not getting that, no, you don’t want that disease, and how many grasp the ramifications and consider it a fair trade.

    And my friend? Didn’t even look attractive. She looked like what she was, someone who had come close to death.

  23. SunlessNick says

    photondancer, unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who *wish* they could get something like stomach flu … how many grasp the ramifications and consider it a fair trade.

    I should point out, as someone who’s had stomach flu, that it’s also possible to get the ramifications without the weight loss.

    or tb ‘cos they see other people who got it and lost a lot of weight because of it.

    TB was a sexualised disease back in the 18th and 19th Centuries because it made women pale and weak, which was considered beautiful. Because only ugly women could stand up by themselves.

  24. sbg says

    Because only ugly women could stand up by themselves.

    You owe me a new monitor! Bwahahaha.

    And for the record, I once spent a ten day holiday surviving on two biscuits and a Dr. Pepper for seven of those days (young, stupid, ran out of money right away!), walked miles and miles every day and did not drop one single pound.

    So, yeah, the stomach flu does not make me drop weight either.

  25. Maria says

    Depends on the way your body responds to sickness — like, when I get ill, I LOOK sick — visibly wasted, pale, dark eye circles, etc — which is also when I get hit on the most. That’s what’s REALLY sick.

  26. says

    MAria, I get that too! I drag myself out to get some meds or soup or something I have to have, looking green and no makeup and hair not particularly well-groomed, and kind of stumbling around and dazed… and the men come around me in droves. I always think they’re thinking like bar predators: “She’s wasted. I might stand a chance.” Creepy!

  27. scarlett says

    TB was a sexualised disease back in the 18th and 19th Centuries because it made women pale and weak, which was considered beautiful. Because only ugly women could stand up by themselves.

    Why does that not surprise me? So, what the women who DIED in the process of being thin and weak, they were just collataral damage in the war aganst ugliness?

  28. Hayclearing says

    I’m pretty sure people didn’t TRY to catch TB, even back then – there are plenty of other ways to make yourself weak and pale that don’t involve exposing yourself to sick people (apparently drinking arscenic was in fashion for a while. Hwow).

    But I can imagine TB playing a huge part in the Romantic idea of a ‘tragic love’ – heck, they used it in Moulin Rouge.

    The thought of people ignorantly asking how to catch TB scares the hell out of me. Both of my great-grandparents died of that, and my grandmother, having been exposed, spent quite a long time under medical watch because of it. It’s cemented in my mind as a Big F’ing Deal.

  29. Casey says

    Whelp, I couldn’t sleep last night, so I was in bed watching a re-run of Chelsea Lately at 2 in the morning and Kelly Osbourne was on.
    Apparently she has LEGIONS of Twitter followers (*cough*TROLLS*cough*) who do nothing but tell her she’s a “fat cunt whore” and “no matter how much weight you lose, you’ll always have a stupid, fat face!”

    *sigh* …Why do people gotta be haters? :(

    • littlem says

      “*sigh* …Why do people gotta be haters? ”

      Jealous. Mean. Miserable about their own lives.
      *sighs with you*

      Next question?

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