wellness

Why celebrities documenting their body transformations feels so uncomfortable.

'I started eating a wholefood diet and the weight just fell off.'

'I have to credit my trainer for pushing me.'

It's nothing new. Celebrity body transformations have been around since, well, celebrities. Google those words and you'll see a litany of content, mostly about how stars shredded for movie roles, or 'got into shape' for weddings and magazine covers. 

And that's just it - in the heyday of tabloid magazines, it was all about the photo op. The casual frolic in the Malibu surf, front page news the next day.

Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

The transformation would seemingly have happened overnight, their hours slogging it out with personal trainers and personal chefs serving low-carb meals shielded from public view. You might've seen the paparazzi photos of their frequent trips to the gym, dark glasses and hoodies hiding their faces. But the big beach body reveal came later. 

And we liked it that way. It conveniently hid from us an ugly truth: that even these beautiful, blessed people, the very top of the A-list, still needed to "transform". They weren't born like that; they needed Tracey Anderson's help.

In a time before body positivity, size 12 stars 'caught out' with cellulite and round tummies chowing down at LA cafes helped shift magazines, embedding in an entire generation's consciousness the dangerous narrative of the "need" to slim down. 

A-list secrets to weight loss. Thinner, fitter, stronger by summer. Abs like THESE, the headlines shouted at us.

Now, we like to think our approach to weight loss has changed. We eat well because it feels good and know that fitness is as much about the mental health benefits as the physical payoff. We celebrate bodies of all shapes and try to be kinder on our own.

Celebrities - aware of this change - benefit from being transparent about their bodies, too. Some use this power for good: it's refreshing to see Ashleigh Graham's stretch-marks and Chrissy Teigen eating pasta. We breathe a sigh of relief when Katy Perry shows us the reality of pumping breastmilk with a swollen post-baby belly.

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Listen: On The Spill, Abbie Chatfield talks about the body shaming she's received at every size. Post continues below.

As Instagram has given celebrities the power to control their own image and shape their narrative, the onus has shifted out of the media's hands and onto them. Where you used to see either the no-makeup pap shot at the supermarket, or the glamorous awards show appearance, now we get the in-between. The glow-up. The glam squad. If a star has a goal to 'get in shape', they want to share it with you.

Now, it's about the journey.

Rebel Wilson embarked on a 'Year of Health' in 2020, pledging to reach her goal weight by the close of the year. This month, she hit it. 

She achieved this through a committed and consistent approach of a healthier diet and exercise, documented across her Instagram channel in great detail. This year, we have quite literally watched Rebel Wilson shrink before our eyes.

In an Instagram live posted last week, Rebel invited her followers to ask questions about the process, sharing the precise number of calories she eats in a day and what her diet involves.

It's the kind of honesty you wouldn't expect, or would rarely ever see, from a famous person. A celebrity admitting, with complete candour, 'Yes, I'm on a diet and I'm working out like a beast.'

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Better yet, rather than a crash diet for a role, a gym addiction or worse, some form of disordered eating, there is nothing wrong with how Rebel achieved her goal weight. That kind of dedication is something many of us aspire to, and to see a relatable figure like Rebel smash her personal best, well that's a good thing. Right?

Lily Allen has also been posting about her fitness journey, in the past week sharing a video to her stories that showed her defined abs, and a post-gym selfie with the caption "getting there".

Image: Instagram/Lily Allen. 

Image: Instagram/Lily Allen. 

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The Bold Type star Katie Stevens has been documenting her hard work at the gym for well over a year.

There's an irony in captioning a post with "you're all enough exactly as you are", while posing in front of a mirror after a gruelling workout.

But we commend and we celebrate, because good on them for lifting those barbells. There can be only reverence for the sheer amount of effort and exertion JLo puts towards chiselling her famous booty, no?

Of course, Adele has also shared that she achieved her weight loss results through training hard and staying motivated.

So why does it still feel so uncomfortable to watch?

In an essay posted to Instagram this week, Lena Dunham shared her thoughts on how 2020 has, for many, been an opportunity to pursue weight loss and fitness goals.

"I've been thinking a lot about my pot belly in quarantine - especially as I notice an unusual amount of articles with titles like “how I lost the weight” and “diet is everything"," the actor shared.

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"The suggestion of a revamped clean eating plan in my newsfeed somehow feels like a personal assault. Growing up chubby, fat, thicc, whatever you wanna call it - I always felt my body was a sign that read “I’m lazy and I have done less.” Like if I just found the will to invest 30% more I could be okay...

"Should I be revamping my fridge with veggies and showing off before/after pics, emerging from quarantine with a revenge body? And why, after all these years spent fostering self love, do I still feel like weight loss is an item for my to-do?"

Lena goes on to ask her followers what this period of isolation has brought up for them "as you've sat with the body you're given".

Lily, Adele and Rebel have all, whether they chose to or not, been ambassadors for curvier bodies in the past. But they don't owe it to us - or the body-positive community - to stay that way. There is no obligation to 'sit with the body they're given'. 

But perhaps it's a reminder to all of us, the ones that grew up with tabloid culture and that pervasive messaging about trimming down - that it really hasn't gone anywhere. It's just served up differently now.

What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments below.

Feature image: Getty and Instagram.