From Me to Oprah: Why Should We Care How Much Bristol Palin Weighs?
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The other day, I was called by a reporter from the New York Daily News to comment on why Bristol Palin appeared to have gained weight despite burning tons of calories during her stint on ABC’s popular show, Dancing With The Stars.
As a registered dietitian and past spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association who is not new to media interviews, I was, at first, taken aback and certainly didn’t want to say anything to perpetuate the idea that it’s ok to judge or criticize a teenage girl (famous or not) about her body weight. I expressed my frustration to the reporter and said something like “I really wish Palin’s body weight didn’t warrant a public discussion or newspaper article–but that’s the media!”
Of course I could have refused to answer the reporter’s questions about Palin’s supposed weight gain. But as a credentialed nutrition professional who is particularly sensitive to negative or harmful media messages about body weight that can impact girls and women alike, I decided to not comment specifically on Palin’s body weight and instead took this as an opportunity to pat Palin on the back for the all the obvious hard work and effort she put forth during her time on the show.
Famous or not, it’s hard enough for a young girl to learn how to deal with being in the spotlight whether she’s there due to circumstance (her mother ran for vice president AND she got pregnant and became a teen mom), or because she chose to be there (it’s likely Palin decided to participate on the show because she wanted to). No matter why Palin’s on the show, and why we even know her name, in my opinion a teen girl’s body weight should not make for water cooler conversation. Free speech aside, there’s no upside or benefit to the morale of girls and women everywhere to be judged by others based on how much they weigh.
Palin is by no means the first, nor will she be the last celebrity to be judged publicly about her body weight–beautiful women like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Tyra Banks (and not so long ago, the magnificent Kate Winslet) have been judged or critiqued about their weight. And what did Love Hewitt and Banks do after unflattering photos and a barrage of cruel weight-related comments surfaced? They lost weight, and got back to a weight that was supposedly “ideal” to the public. Even Oprah has been judged for getting too thin, being too fat, gaining weight, and reaching 200 pounds again last year.
Will the madness every stop–will girls and women be able to just be, without having to worry about everyone telling them how thin or how fat they are, or how much weight they’ve lost or gained? I know I’ll do my best to look for the good and withhold judgement about others, especially females–and teach my young sons, aged 12 and 8, to do the same with their friends and other females in their lives– because there’s little that’s more hurtful (and less forgettable) to a young girl than being called fat or otherwise being judged based on her body weight. Perhaps I feel this way because I know too well what it’s like to be called “thunder thighs” and to grow up being not so pleasantly plump. It’s not a good feeling, and I would never want to do that to someone else.
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