health

"I thought I might die." The unspoken truth behind reality TV 'revenge' bodies and weight loss.

“Wow, you look amazing, have you lost weight?”

It’s a sentence uttered in workplaces, at family gatherings and by that one friend who always flags you down in the shopping center. A sentence with the power to cause a particular stab of fear to pierce some women’s hearts.

Weight loss, unfortunately, is still the one physical trait most tightly attached to triumph, happiness, and health, even though the triggers for weight fluctuation can sometimes be traced back to serious issues including depression, anxiety and stress.

If you’re not swayed by the idea that weight loss is universally celebrated, namely among women, no matter what the price, then just take a quick look at the headlines, captions and commentary that swirl around changed women’s bodies after they have publically weathered a traumatic event.

In 2007, when she walked the Golden Globes red carpet, Reese Witherspoon was highly praised for her thinner frame, lauded with having the ultimate “revenge body”, even though she had spoken openly about the extreme amount of stress her body had been under following the divorce from her husband and father of her two children, Ryan Phillippe. An event that took place amid a sea of tabloid headlines alleging that he had cheated on her with fellow actress Abbie Cornish.

Fast forward to late 2019 and the very same headlines were swinging around Grammy Award winner Adele, who was praised for her “triumphant” weight loss after stepping out of the spotlight while going through a divorce and custody settlement with ex-husband Simon Konecki.

And while it’s Adele’s prerogative to change her body without having to offer up an explanation, it doesn’t change the fact that the world lavished more praise on her smaller frame than they ever did on her musical accomplishments.

Listen to why Adele’s weight is not a news story, it’s a sign we’ve all lost our way on The Spill.

This commentary around famous faces may seem like it’s lightyears away from the world most of us live in, so why should it matter?

The reality, of course, is that the way we discuss women’s bodies in the media has a trickle-down effect to how we talk about them in our own lives, which is a far more dangerous beast.

In more recent years, this frightening trend of critiquing, commenting on, and celebrating a woman’s weight loss above all else, has emerged primarily around women who appear on reality TV shows.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even when, in some cases, their weight loss is linked to stress or other health conditions that deserve more thoughtful time and analysis than the number on their dress tags, that side of the conversation appears to be lost.

Last year, Married At First Sight star Ines Basic gave a realistic look into the physical toll reality TV filming and fame can take on a person’s body, when talking about the story behind her own weight loss.

“I just didn’t feel safe leaving my house. Even in my house, I didn’t feel safe,” Ines told New Idea.“I was on my deathbed, at one stage. I’ve always been a size 6 in my life. I dropped down to smaller than a 4. I was really scared. I thought if I lose one more kilogram, I might die.”

In a similar vein, two-time Married at First Sight star Elizabeth Sobinoff was the subject of headlines and commentary praising her weight loss after her first appearance on the reality TV series. An appearance that was especially cruel, due to the fact that she was publicly fat-shamed by her “husband” Sam Ball during her time on the show, and then went on to talk about how her chronic illness can cause her weight to fluctuate.

“This is not about, ‘Hey, look at me, I’ve lost weight and now I’m happy’,” she told New Weekly.  “I think I always look fabulous. I’ve thought that when I weighed 49kg and when I’ve weighed 90kg. So, yes, I’ve lost some weight since I was a “huge” size 10 when I was on MAFS, but that doesn’t mean I’m any “better” now, just because I’m slimmer.

“I’m actually dealing with some health conditions that cause my weight to fluctuate.”

And recently, another Married At First Sight star, Aleks Markovic, was widely praised for her new weight loss and subsequent “revenge body” in a recent article and photoshoot for NW.

In the article, Aleks tells a very similar story to the one that is often told by reality contestants when questioned about their bodies, following an often tumultuous moment in the spotlight.

“I don’t eat when I’m stressed, so the breakup definitely contributed to my extensive weight loss,” Aleks told the publication. “I lost about nine kilos after the show.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

EXCLUSIVE PICS: MAFS’ Aleks Markovic shows off her revenge body in bikini photoshoot! Absolute ???? #linkinbio #MAFS

A post shared by NW Magazine (@nwmag) on

ADVERTISEMENT

The Married At First Sight women are not the only ones to have their weight questioned and celebrated over their experiences following a foray into reality TV.

The same game played out over a decade ago when Jessica Simpson was praised for her extreme weight loss, following her years filming the reality TV show Newlyweds. She has since revealed that impending divorce, family issues and her own insecurities were really shaping her life at the time.

The same can be said for Keeping Up With The Kardashians star Khloe Kardashian who, after divorcing Lamar Odom in 2013, went on to lose an excessive amount of weight (and even launch a very problematic TV show called Revenge Body). She was then praised by family and fans alike for finally getting her body sorted out.

We are now stuck in this seemingly endless cycle where we demand to see women bare their souls on reality TV, and then in the cases where they do voice their distress or pain, we chose to overlook it in favour of only cheering on their weight loss.

Not until we stop valuing weight loss above all else, will we be able to get to the heart of why some reality TV women are left feeling so broken they cannot eat.


Sign up for our weekly “TV and Movies” newsletter. Every week, our Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik gives you a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews.


00:00 / ???