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Lindsey Vonn, ‘The Biggest Loser’ and the Fat Police

February 11, 2014

Attacking women’s bodies—and self-esteem—seems to be a sport that’s never out of season. The latest salvo (and one of the more unusual ones) comes from American Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn, who is out of the competition in Sochi with an injury but still in the spotlight for bashing women she deems to be too thin and not athletic enough.

In an interview with Self that’s getting a lot of attention on tabloid websites, the Olympic gold medalist criticized movie stars’ bodies after attending a gala last May with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, Beyoncé and Ann Hathaway:

“It was hard to go to the Met ball with people who eat lettuce and a Diet Coke for dinner. It’s difficult to be at events with a room full of women who weigh half as much as you do. That’s always tough. I don’t envy them, though, because so many of them are skinny-fat. They have more cellulite than most people. I feel like I need to give them a cheeseburger. It’s sexy and beautiful to be strong.”

Vonn may think she’s speaking out for being healthy, not model-thin, but what she’s really doing is trashing other women for cellulite (!) and for not making the same choices she has. It’s too bad because her important message about her depression (she’s “normal again, now that I’m on medication”) was drowned out by her nasty pot shots.

The Vonn story comes days after the uproar over the extreme weight loss of Biggest Loser winner Rachel Frederickson, who shed 60 percent of her body weight from her 5-foot-4-inch frame to go from 260 pounds to 105 pounds. The focus on Fredrickson’s “scary,” “shocking” loss again diverted attention from the more salient point.

We live in a culture where thin is the goal. Let’s be clear here: Loser, which just wrapped its 15th season on NBC, is not a weight loss show, where contestants work to maintain a healthy lifestyle; it’s a game show competition where participants battle like Roman gladiators to lose the most weight.

As one style blogger wrote: “Therein lies the whole problem not only with the concept of the show, but the whole cultural dieting complex: This shallow obsession with numbers has more to do with appearance than with actual health, despite protests to the contrary. And that preoccupation with and scrutiny of appearance—even when it’s well-intentioned, as in the case of all the Twitter users expressing “concern” over Fredrickson’s reveal—ultimately undermines healthy weight loss.”

It’s a case of your damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Don’t be too fat but don’t be too skinny. And if you think everyone is finding fault with your body, you’re right. That’s exactly what makes it so hard for girls struggling with eating disorders to recover successfully.

Tagged with: In The News, Pop Culture