Let’s face it – a lot of us could stand to lose a little weight, and most of us in the healthy weight range don’t exercise as much as we should. Movie stars, for better or worse, have always represented the ideal body type. 2,000 voters in a recent poll by YouGov named actress Kate Winslet as the perfect woman, and although Winslet is far curvier than Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss, who might have won in previous years (they each took 1% of the vote) her shape is obviously far from easy to attain. Genetics aside, there are dozens of factors standing in the way of the ideal bod – healthy food is very expensive, jobs are very time-consuming, and motivation is always in very short supply
Still, at some point in our lives we realize it’s necessary to at least make the effort to stave off premature death. The weight loss industry is naturally tuned into the fact that people look up to screen stars, and companies have carefully selected relatable celebrities (in other words, not quite as glamorous as Kate Winslet) to represent them. Spokespeople have included Queen Latifah (Jenny Craig), Whoopi Goldberg (Slim-Fast), and Lynn Redgrave (Weight Watchers). Crossing over from the acting field to the dieting field this year will be Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, who is joining the Jenny Craig team. “If somebody goes, ‘Well, if George can do it, I can do it!,’ that’s great,” Alexander told People. He cites his visibly growing waistline over nine years on Seinfeld as his motivation to drop 30 or 40 pounds.

In addition, the weight loss industry has created a whole new kind of celebrity. Overweight folks are turned into heroes, ordinary people who can attest to the effectiveness of dieting and exercise and literally provide physical evidence. First, it was the before/after pictures that awed us. When we became jaded, the industry struck back with a barrage of friendly spokespeople (Jared the Subway guy lost 240 pounds on the “Subway diet” and cashed in big on advertisements) and, most recently, reality TV shows. A big part of weight-loss TV may be simple voyeurism, but the stakes are undoubtedly high – on the forthcoming season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Subway will pay contestant Shay Sorrells $1,000 per pound lost.

I tend to believe that movie stars possess some kind of superpower that allows them to be infinitely more rich and successful than I will ever be. That’s why it comforts me to see ordinary folks lose the weight. It would motivate me even more if Subway weren’t paying them $1,000 per pound, but another part of not being fabulously rich is that we don’t go on TV and boost people’s hopes out of the goodness of our hearts. Still, I do find myself inspired by people like Jared. I should probably start going to the gym…but not right now. I’ll do it later. I’ll start tomorrow.



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  • contrarywise
    contrarywise on

    There's a lot they are not telling us about a show like "The Biggest Loser." Every health expert with any credibility tells us that slow, careful weight loss is the way to go when overweight, and only permanent life-style changes bring permanent weight loss. Then they have these obese people on the show competing in gruelling contests to see who can lose the most, the fastest. It is dangerous, and a very bad example to the audience. Presumable they have medical people on hand and give health exams to the contestants before allowing them to compete, but it still is totally irresponsible. The producers just want to make a lot of money out of these people's health problem–it is disgusting.

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