Lady Gaga has recently been in trouble for this tweet:
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) April 10, 2012
Lady Gaga found out that it's ok to dream of a cheeseburger but it's not ok to say "Pop singers don't eat".
It must be hard being a celebrity with 23 million followers on Twitter. You want to communicate with your fans regularly, but every time you tweet, there's a risk of saying the wrong thing and a lot of people reading it.
And celebrities are under immense pressure to conform to unrealistic body expectations. Even someone like Adele who has rocketed to stardom while not fitting the usual mould, has found the pressure to slim down too much.
When a celebrity makes a statement showing unhealthy attitudes to eating, we are faced with two conflicting notions.
1. Why should we care what a pop star says about health? After all, she's not the Chief Medical Officer.
2. With such a huge fanbase and influence, her musings on dieting are more likely to be heard than those of the Chief Medical Officer.
So while it might be easy to dismiss the health advice of a pop star, we have to acknowledge that there are a lot of Little Monsters (Gaga fans) who will be affected by seeing a tweet that seems to endorse starving yourself to lose weight.
On the other hand, is Gaga saying anything that isn't true? Most of the women who grace our magazine covers are probably in varying states of deprivation and starvation. Kate Moss's statement: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" was another window into the attitude needed to survive in the fashion/ celebrity world. The irony is as Gaga's subsequent tweets stated, even Gaga gets photoshopped.Is anyone thin enough to make it onto a magazine cover untouched?
Our society has built up an image of beauty that even starving popstars can't achieve. And when they try to, we castigate them for it. And the negative impact that this has on children and others is perpetuating the message that weight loss is about starvation and deprivation.
The fact is starvation is not a healthy, sustainable way to lose weight. And for most people it's not even an effective way to lose weight. Gaga has a history of an eating disorder so this doesn't make her the ideal role model in this area.
What this sort of attitude does though, is suggest to people that there is a clear choice here. Either starve yourself or be overweight. There are lots of people out there (you probably know a few) who think that because they don't like starving themselves they can't lose weight.
But this "all or nothing" thinking bears no resemblance to reality. Remember there are different goals in weight loss. For most overweight people, rather than look at celebrities as role models they should be focussed on two admirable goals:
1. Losing 5 % of body weight as a bare minimum. Even a 5% reduction can make a huge difference to your health
2. Try and get down to your normal body mass index. I know that there are lots of flaws with body mass index, but for the majority of people, it's a reasonable guide.
To achieve either of these goals, you don't need to starve yourself like Lady Gaga.
Gaga may have been tweeting how she felt, but we must be conscious of the societal drivers that have created and promoted such feelings. And we must be quick to draw a line between a popstar's weight expectations and those of the average person who just wants to be healthy and feel good about their weight.
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