What Dawn French Teaches Us About Celebrity Weight Loss

08/11/2011 23:35 GMT | Updated 08/01/2012 10:12 GMT

The comedienne Dawn French has lost four stone. And when pressed to reveal the secret behind her weight loss, she has been quoted as saying:

"I'm eating healthily, taking care of myself and feeling very happy indeed."

This made me reflect on the entire nature of celebrity weight loss and the media coverage of it.

1. People love to hear about a celebrity that has lost a lot of weight, but the media "story" always travels better when the reason behind the weight loss is a particular programme or procedure.

This is why Dawn French saying that she ate "healthily" is not what people wanted to hear. It's too vague and offers no actionable solution. If you read any of the coverage about Dawn French's weight loss, you'll see that the article dies as soon as they quote her response.

2. There can be commercial motivations involved in revealing a particular method of weight loss. Some celebrities can become spokespeople of particular weight loss programmes. In other cases, there may be a chance to release a Christmas exercise DVD.

3. As far as the media is concerned, the more drastic and sudden the weight loss, the better. This means a tendency to focus on "diet" style approaches over "lifestyle" approaches.

The diet mentality focuses on short term drastic changes to get quick results. But maintaining weight loss is a long term goal. The ideal way to lose weight is to weave it into your life.

4. There is often an emphasis on intense exercise as a requirement for weight loss.

Adriana Lima, the supermodel was recently reported as working out twice a day before fashion shows. She is quoted as saying: "It is really intense, it's not really the amount of time you spend working out, it's the intensity". This certainly works for her but for most women this is terrible advice.

First of all, most women don't have the time or inclination to work out twice a day. Secondly intense workouts might seem like they are helpful (no pain, no gain), but for most women they are intolerable. And anything that is perceived as painful is unlikely to be maintained. If you hate your workouts because they are so intense, you are very likely to abandon them the first moment life gets in the way.

And thirdly, while exercise is important, eating less has a much larger impact on weight loss. Even Ms. Lima doesn't rely on exercise alone. She goes on a 9 day no-solids diet before a show (I don't recommend this either).

Yes it's interesting to read about how celebrities lose weight. But we must keep it in perspective. The danger is that, even on a subtle level, it influences our attitudes and approach to weight loss.

Celebrity weight loss makes us think that losing weight requires a special one-off effort, a grand gesture and extreme intensity.

But it's not true.

Losing weight and keeping it off, comes from changing the way you do things, your habits.

Whatever changes you make need to be sustainable. You need to be willing to do them for the rest of your life. Make it easy, make it enjoyable. And be patient. Dawn French didn't lose her weight overnight, and you don't need to either.