Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Her Diet Secret? Being Nineteen.

So, here's the cover of the current issue of Us Weekly:

Hallelujah praise the lord! Hilary did it! ("It" here of course referring to the attainment of a body shape that is neither sickly skinny nor grossly obese by tabloid standards.) And she is generously sharing her diet secrets!

Pardon my French, but this shit is fucked up.

We see so many of these weight-obsessed cover stories these days--"Half My Size!," "One-Eighth My Size!," "I lost 400 Pounds!," "Best (and Worst) Hollywood Beach Bodies!," "Britney Is Now The Size of an Average American Woman--GROSS!," etc, but there's something markedly different about this one, and that is...

...wait for it...

Hilary Duff is nineteen years-old.

Should we really be soliciting "diet secrets" from a young woman who was born in 1987, who is still getting used to and growing into her adult body and who should not be dieting at all? I'm gonna vote a big, fat "No" on that one.

Allow me to illustrate how screwed up it is to shift the diet success story archetype from the forty-something housewives of People magazine's annual "Half My Size" issue and middle-aged celebrity dieters like Janet Jackson and Ricki Lake, who have both had similar Us cover stories, to a much younger person like Ms. Duff: that "before" picture on the cover was taken when she was fifteen.

Think back to when you were fifteen. You may have had extremely teased hair, bad skin, and/or braces. You probably had either no boobs or big boobs, and were keenly aware of the disadvantages of each. You might have thought high-top Reeboks were a really good idea, or that orange-red lipgloss was the epitome of sophistication. I, for one, was chubby, insecure, wore like thirty neon rubber bracelets everyday, and suffered a nasty case of dandruff.

Weren't we all a "before" at fifteen?

What's more, the photo of fifteen-year-old Hilary that the magazine is citing as an awkward, chubby tragedy is, well, not. She looks adorable (she was, after all, already the star of a hugely popular TV show) and healthy, if a bit unsure of herself. I probably would have poisoned my science teacher (no offense, Mr. Beeson) to look like that when I was fifteen.

We've all felt the sting of latent media messages when we see a photo of Jessica Alba's flawless (and photoshopped) abs, look down at our own supple stomach and think, "Damn."

Us Weekly's message this week is pretty damn overt--hundreds of thousands of fifteen-year-old girls are going to see themselves in that "before" picture and be informed that their bodies are not OK. And that's not OK.

Some of these girls will buy the magazine and pore over the "diet secrets" inside (spoiler alert: Hilary's secrets include lean protein, veggies, going easy on the carbs...oh, and being nineteen). None of them, even by the magical "after" age, four years later, will have Hilary Duff's body. This is partly because they don't have her genes or trainers or makeup artists, but mostly because even Hilary Duff doesn't have this body--this cover has been photoshopped to hell. In fact, if I zoomed in on her cleavage, I could easily convince you that it was a photo of a massive crater taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera.

What's next, Us Weekly? Abigail Breslin's triumph over baby fat? Dakota Fanning's sobering struggle to grow boobs?

In conclusion, I had a bacon cheeseburger for dinner as a political statement. It was delicious.


Anonymous said...

amen to that.

maya said...

i am around the before age and reading that when she was 15 she was just a 'before' has actually outraged me.
apart from the wierd colour of her hair at 15 she looks great, and she has an absolutely fine body.
i would be more than happy to have a body like that.
from the age of 15 to 19 you would expect her body shape to change, if it hadn't i would have been extremely surprised and quite worried.
basically i agree with everything you have said. US weekly is a very bad example to young girls.

ashley churchill said...

now let's get the duff to eat a bacon cheeseburger, that little bitch. who ARE these people?

ang said...

Oh it's like you climbed in my brain and stole my thoughts! I'm 28 and thought um what is wrong with the before? Was she chubby? If so then I'm a huge fattie. I always love the before and afters anyway. The befores would generally look like the afters if they 1. stood up straight, 2. wore more figure flattering outfits, 3. or were photographed from a different angle, or if 4. the photo before had as much photoshop attention paid to it as the after.

That being said I am glad to know that I am not the only one that eats burgers as a protest. Everytime I see a show about people with eating disorders I have to make a run to the McD's (or Wendy's). If they won't or can't eat by god I'll do it for them.

tiff said...

Okay, when I saw that cover I thought it was Lindsay Lohan. Serious photoshopping, US Weekly. It's like they weren't even trying to make her look the same.

Also, I adored Hilary Duff as a child and I don't like what the industry has done to her.

Deja Pseu said...

Winona, I wish I'd had even half your good sense at your age. I might have saved myself years of eating disorders. Kudos to you!

Joei said...

At 15, and even 19, years old I was always reading diet advise, it's not a new practice for a lot of girls. asking a girl who "almost took it too far" for diet advise should be appalling, but it's kind of not these days. I mostly read about women who were losing pregnancy weight, or were at least 45<. Now the 15-19 year olds of today have a mascot on magazine covers telling them "it's always best to fix yourself even if there's nothing to fix."
The top priority of women losing weight or having work done is to look 19. The frightening results of this Fix-the-Flaw movement can be seen in such striking examples of the modern Melanie Griffith or Meg Ryan. I'm sure one of my favorites, Goldie Hawn, will soon be joining them on the Point of No Return list. Our Society has not only embraced and encouraged the double standard of the Forever Young Women, but what is it trying to achieve by youth-anizing women who aren't even women yet?

michelle said...

AMEN sister, I can't help feeling like those editors secretly can't sleep at night, at least I hope so. How many countless teenage girls will waste years of their lives trying to look like that, only realizing how great they look when they start getting wrinkles and sagging...sigh. I am a designer, if I hadn't seen for myself the kind of photoshoping they do, I wouldn't have believed it.

jen said...

that is so fucked up. Before I read your post, I honestly assumed the 'How Hilary Did It' referred to her gaining some (healthy) weight because she's been so freakishly emaciated- esp. during that time she was dating that dude who's now dating nicole richie (?).

On the photoshop issue- I'm convinced all the photoshop peeps do incredibly strange, increasingly plastic-like things to celebrities for other photoshopper's amusement: "Look! I added a completely unnatural extra layer of boob fat on the far right. Check it out!!"

ambika said...

The funny thing is that this is the one magazine on hand on the camping trip I took last weekend. The whole issue was pretty much torn apart (and waterlogged & stained with dirt & smoke) by the end of the wkend. US sucks a fat one. Bacon cheeseburgers do not.

Christine said...

this is why i don't read gossip magazines anymore...truly sickening. doesn't anyone think of the repercussions/responsibility they have when they put out a magazine inevitably studied by teenage girls? arrghhhhhh.

Samantha said...

Well written and so true.

Anonymous said...

The Dakota Fanning line just made my day. Hmmm.....I wonder what she'll be like at nineteen? *Gags* (Just a side note- I am now craving a bacon cheeseburger to the point of insanity.)

Candid Cool said...

Very irresponsible for the magazine, I’m sure they’ll sell loads

Martina said...

I'm 19 and sweet fancy Moses, I will never look like this. But I remember losing weight when I was 16 (after a long injury plumped a bit unhealthily) and having all the middle aged women at Weight Watchers hate me. Why? Because I was freaking 16, I had the metabolism of a racehorse, and two-thirds less lifetime to grow addicted to deliciously awful-for-you foods. It is so unfair to trumpet teenage bodies as the paragon of womanly beauty, if not for simply the fact that they are not yet womanly bodies. My 19 yr. old hips and ass are voluptuous and large, yet even I recognize that it'll be a few more years till I've totally settled into them. The fact that a starlet even younger than I (I checked her birth date, I eke by) is supposed to be some "perfect woman" disgusts me. Especially when next week, US will run a cover story on "Hollywood's Scary New Eating Disorders" and quite possibly run a picture of wee Duff.

Is it very trite to just say "right on, sister, you tell that hypocritical gossip rag the truth"?

la petite fashionista said...

this is so true.. puberty is not considered a diet secret, its something every girl goes through! But as someone hillary's age, dieting is not uncommon at all.. i see so many girls my age do terrible things to their body and diet to try and attain the unrealistic images plastered all over the media.

Mandy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are 150% right. I really do worry for all the girls of today. I was a camp counselor a few weeks back and heard a SEVEN year old saying that she couldn't have juice because it had too many calories. Mind, this is West Los Angeles so it is, sadly, to be expected. Still, it just makes my stomach turn to think that little girls today are actually thinking this way when they're so lovely already.

laila said...

mmm, bacon ...

p.s. pore

Anonymous said...

Winona, I LOVE your blog, and this entry reminds me why (not that I needed to be reminded). :-D

Kristen said...

She's on the cover of Shape this month, too. Dammit. Love your blog and love this diatribe, Winona!

rebekah said...

that's funny (not ha-ha-funny but ironic-funny); i was just at the grocery store with my sister and we saw that picture and we were both disgusted.

i am fifteen. i am insecure about every single physical, mental, and emotional trait that i possess. it's been said a million times before, but it's so true: it's the media's fault. not to blame all of my insecurities 100% on that stuff, but still. anywhere you go you hear about celebrities and how if you're not a size 4 or smaller you're a big fat fatty.
i really wish that when i'm trying on clothes and the size 6 doesn't fit, i wouldn't almost have an emotional breakdown over the fact that i need the next size up.
there's probably more that i wanted to say but i can't exactly recall it all now.

oh, i love your blog by the way. :)

Shelby said...

God, I hate that before shit so much. You're right on the point- she was 15 years old. When she was still in pueburty! And she's only 19, so her metabolism is still wanking around. STFU. When I saw that at the grocery store I wanted to scream.

Flashy_Shades said...

ha. you rule.

Stereoette said...

you know, i so thought this was micha barton until I actually started reading your post. Then I had to go back and look. Diet secrets? Are you *kidding*?? At 15, I was dancing 15 to 20 hours a week on my school's drill team, eating pretty healthy (my mom's a doctor, so i had no choice) and I think I looked *just* like Hilary's so-called "before" picture, just with less boobs.


Now, they've transformed her into some giant headed person with giant horse veneers that looks like a shadow of her adorable former self.

and I am just... saddened.

Anonymous said...

Just when I was admiring Hilary for being above this kind of thing...dammit! Also, her "secrets" are just plain common sense! I was not aware that she needed to lose weight.

When I was nineteen, I gained the "freshman fifteen" at college, and I was not in a hurry for it to come off.

Here's hoping Hilary doesn't invoke any comparisons to Nicole Richie.

Teek said...

To Rebekah, if she sees it - The media isn't helping matters, but part of why you're insecure is that you're 15. That's how 15 feels. I was a size 2 at 15 and I was still a neurotic mess.

Do what you can to love yourself, make yourself strong and interesting and educated and healthy, and someday you'll hit 19 or 20 and you'll be much much better off than anyone who spent too much time wondering *why* they were insecure. And you won't have scary horseface veneers.

ps: cheeeeeseburger.

Anonymous said...

You are just so undeniably fabulous. Thank you for writing a post like this.

Irene said...

Double amen to that, sistah!
I have a friend who does photo retouching for a local fashion photographer. She went through and showed me a whole bunch of before and afters. . . totally sick!
The Dove commercial about this is interesting. . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?

Irene said...

Sorry for the broken link


Lyndsey said...

Cheers to that Nona! I just ate Pizza - I shall call that my statement as well!

rebekah said...

you're right. the whole awkward teenage hormonal thing has a thing or two to do with it.
thank you for the words of encouragement. i do try to not be too negative with myself but it's just hard at times. :]

Rachel said...

I wish this post could be as widely read as the US Weekly article.

Oh, and as someone who went from very skinny in their teens to a nice feminine shape in their 20s, I am now very happy as a before.

Miss A said...

Genius article. Seriously, one of the best I've read in years.

Maddy said...

"Britney Is Now The Size of an Average American Woman--GROSS!,"
That really made me laugh. A lot of this post made me laugh, but it also pissed me off at the same time. What the hell is up with this? I have never in my life thought Hilary Duff was fat. I didn't know anybody else did either!

mamacita chilena said...

great post! I too, was cracking up about the Britney comment.

Funny, but true..

A Gentle Hedonist said...

I spit on US weekly.

And may the loogie spread to Star and Life&Style.

Cate said...


Flabuless said...

You go girl...I haven't had a cheeseburger in over a year...maybe I should treat myself in protest too...it sounds too good.

sarai said...

And they say feminism has already done it's job and isn't relevant anymore. blech.

I wish there was a mainstream magazine for teens and young women that carried the message that there are a million kinds of beauty, and that hating yourself is the biggest waste of time in the world.

Joei said...

And in Other News: Bacon Cheeseburger Sales Hit Record High, Fashion Blogger Believed Responsible

Anonymous said...

maybe me and my town are just weird... but i'm 15 and all my friends and most the kids in my grade look more like that "after" picture than the "before" anyways.

Michele said...

Right on!

Chelsamajiggy said...

A body is a body is a body.
Are they healthy?
Are they actually happy about slurping down a protein shake and sticking to celery sticks for dessert?

If so, more power to you, but other wise ...

Flock off, US Weekly.
Your body is your body and it's beautiful if you're happy.

Stop trying to make people cookie cutters. Even when I made cookies, the little edible people (God forbid) were a little rounder and veered a little outside the lines.

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