Do you care if Kirstie Alley is a size 4?

"Will the paparazzi leave me the eff alone now?"

Yesterday, I received the following email from a producer at ABC:

Hi Leslie, I am looking for a body image expert to comment on Kirstie Alley and her weight loss struggles. Specifically, she’s said she is down to a size 4 – but she seems more like a size 14 to most people. I would love to have you comment on how her very public struggles with weight play out in the media and what this says about her body image.

I’ll confess, my first thought upon reading this was: “No way is she a size 4.”

My second thought: “So what if she’s lying? My driver’s license says i weigh 130 lbs and have gray eyes, neither of which is true.”

My third thought: “Poor Kirstie.”

Not because it’s so horrible to be a size 14 or 12 or whatever she may be. But because the Cheers sexpot-turned-Fat Actress star is, like most of us, so completely and totally obsessed with numbers – on the scale, on her clothing tags – that she’ll go to crazy extremes in an effort to be the “perfect” size.

Years ago, she signed on as the Jenny Craig spokeswoman and semi-self-consciously danced around Oprah’s stage in wearing a bikini and strategically-placed sarong. When her spokeswoman reign ended, she stopped dieting and working out and turned her home gym into a dining room. The result: She wound up eating back the 75 pounds she had lost, plus an additional 10.
Of course, we all know what happened. Unflattering photos of her were splashed across the tabloids. Insults were hurled. Once, after getting off a plane, Kirstie says a paparazzi photog screamed, “Fat ass, turn around so I can shoot you!’”

Now, like every other Dancing With the Stars celeb, she is on a mission to shed pounds and reveal her inner salsa vixen. She has spoken of her goal of becoming a “legit size four,” claiming she is currently wearing ”a stretchy 4-6 size… When I’m in that [size 4] for real, looking hot, I’ll be like, ‘That’s good. You’re done.’” Part of her regimen apparently includes not eating, as evidenced by her collapsing and falling down three stairs during rehearsals.

Alley, like many women, tends to pick a goal, no matter how elusive, and then publicly announce her intent to achieve it, typically within an unrealistic time frame. (Anyone who’s ever made a New Year’s resolution to lose 30 pounds by March should be able to identify.) She did it again on Oprah in early 2009, when she declared her mission to attain Michelle Obama-quality arms and get “ripped”…within six months. “It’s humiliating,” Kirstie said of her 85-pound weight gain. “The most painful thing for me is that I have all these people that I inspired and then I let them down.”

During that same episode, Oprah herself confessed to “falling off the wagon” and memorably voiced her frustration, saying, “I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight.”

This whole thing has me feeling just… sad. Do celebrities really think that we, the world at large, hold them to such high expectations that we would be personally disappointed in them if they were to lose their footing and gain back some weight? Everyone struggles – it can be a lifelong struggle for many – and while there are many people who do sit back and throw stones, there are countless other real world women who understand Kirstie’s and Oprah’s struggles all too well. In fact, I relate far more to them than I do to some Biggest Loser contestant who shed 200 pounds and has kept it off… by working out for three hours, twice a day, subsisting on 1200-calorie meal plans, eschewing white carbs, salt and alcohol and has a personal tummy tuck doctor on speed dial.

Then again, I cannot imagine the hell of hearing a paparazzi yell out, “Fat ass, turn around so I can shoot you!’”  Or of having George Lopez compare me to a squealing pig on national television.

No one should have to feel “humiliated” because they’ve faltered or stumbled. No one should have to feel the pressure to go from plus-sized to “ripped” in six months. If Kirstie wants to fit into a size 4 for herself, then I applaud and support her. But I just want all of these women to understand that we won’t throw them to the wolves and call them names just because they are human. We are not the paparazzi. We are real women, too.

Am I wrong? To all those women out there minding their waistlines, do you hold celebrities to a higher, almost superhuman standard? Would Kirstie really be letting you down if she never fits into a size 4? Or do you appreciate her self-awareness and bravery in battling her weight so publicly, no matter what the number on the scale?


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22 Responses to Do you care if Kirstie Alley is a size 4?

  1. bdaiss says:

    Definitely not holding them to a higher standard. And would, in fact, prefer more of them were “normal” sized. However, as usual, I find the most fault with the media (and following that path, we the people). The fact is, the scandalous sells. Be it sex or weight or whatever. I totally don’t blame these ladies for feeling they need to do this, for feeling humiliated when they falter, or for doing it all over and over again. It’ll only be when we the people stop buying this trash (via People, Us Weekly, etc) that it will stop. And that’s a sad comment on us as a society.
    bdaiss recently posted..I am a paleontologist

  2. charlotte says:

    Love this post! I’ll admit to having the same initial reaction as you did and then I smacked myself (mentally) and was like quit bodysnarking a woman you don’t even know. A reader e-mailed me asking me to do a post on LeAnn Rimes drastic weight loss and I ended up declining for pretty much what you just said. We all lose when we focus on the weight of one person because how can we accept ourselves if we’re not accepting of others?
    charlotte recently posted..My First 24-Hour Relay- I’m funnier without sleep! Your chance to do some good

  3. I secretly hope she never fits into a size four, so she can be a positive role model of a woman whose natural body size is bigger than the ridiculous ideal. But, I only want her as the positive role model if she can stop obsessing and accept herself as she is.
    And if she continues to yo-yo and torture herself, I won’t judge her. I will just continue to feel bad for her–the messages are inescapable, and I agree with you–it’s all just so SAD.

    My last terrifying thought: if Kristy Alley and Oprah don’t have permission to eat, who does?
    BYU Women’s Services recently posted..The War on Illegal Pornography

  4. lgblogger says:

    “My last terrifying thought: if Kristy Alley and Oprah don’t have permission to eat, who does?” Brilliant point, BYU. Oprah, especially – one of the most powerful women in the world, and her pants size is a huge issue.

    Char, yep -I totally fell in the bodysnarking trap. it’s like i was, for a second, as bad as the paparazzi.

    Britt: I must cop to reading US Weekly when I work out. It’s a guilty pleasure that gets me through my cardio. I know, I’m still part of the problem by reading it. Hopefully my work in the real world cancels out my subscription ;-)

  5. I am extremely disappointed in Kirstie Alley, but not because of her weight. It saddens me to no end that at this stage of her life, she still hasn’t learned to love herself enough to NOT risk her health to fit into a size that may have been right for her 30 years ago!

    As someone who battled and overcome severe eating disorder and body image issues, I was so proud of her when she showed her human side and appeared on Oprah after she had regained her Jenny Craig weight. This showed me that she wasn’t hiding or isolating. She was saying, “I’m struggling, but I can still laugh”.

    The fact that she’s still so wrapped up in a number is sad..but, unfortunately also understandable. We live in a society where THIN bodies are more importnat than healthy ones.

    With “Fit vs Fiction”, I’m teaching kids that Fit bodies come in ALL shapes and sizes and they need to love themselves for WHO they are not what they look like.

    My motto is: Self-worth should not be measured in pounds!

    I wish Kirstie would believe that!

  6. Oh for good griefness NO. I think she would only ever be doing me a favor if she stepped back and was honest.

    About her current state.
    About her ability to change it long term.
    About her willingness to do so. (honestly)

    I only feel bad for her because she is having just such a hard time coming to terms with her truths.

  7. Kris says:

    I don’t care if she’s a 4, but at least be honest about it. There’s no way in h*ll she’s a 4.

  8. Cumbo says:

    Another great one, LG!!
    To answer your question, I don’t think any LESS or MORE of Kirstie if she is a size 4 or 24. It’s HOW she goes about being whatever size she is. Most of us have struggled with our weight and body image in some way, at some point, and my heart goes out to her. It’s hard enough to go through it, but to have the world watching your every move I am sure puts a little more pressure on! I hope that she can one day accept herself for who she is, be happy, and know that her clothing size DOES NOT DEFINE WHO SHE IS.

    ABC was smart by contacting you- you always have such a good way of shedding light on these issues and making others aware. x

  9. JavaChick says:

    I would rather see anyone find a way to be healthy and happy than make themselves miserable (and endanger their health) to get down to some ideal size.

    Not saying I don’t understand – I miss the skinny girl that i was 20 years ago and I regularly beat myself up over it. We need to find a way to stop that cycle.
    JavaChick recently posted..All Zumba! All the time!

  10. Debbie Figaniak says:

    I just want to get this out of the way first: Kirstie no how is a size 4.
    As for the rest of my comment, this poor woman obviously suffers from body dismorphic disorder to start with. Has anyone even bothered to suggest to her to get some kind of therapy ??? She is also on the road to becoming eating disordered…not eating and vigorous activity is a bad combination. She is looking for trouble.
    I whole-heartedly blame the media for expecting women to maintain a “girlish” figure after having children,and raising a family. Men get older and they become distinguished, why can’t the media just let women alone and let them grow older gracefully instead of putting so much pressure on them ????

  11. No, I don’t care if she’s a size 4.

    What’s interesting to me is that although 68% of American adults are overweight or obese (34% obese, 34% overweight, just looked it up on the CDC website, heh) Americans want their celebrities to be starving and well under any normal weight. Is that not sick and twisted? Why is that?

    On a related note about body-bashing, yesterday I inadvertently read a Fox news article about how Lindsay Lohan oughta wear a bra b/c her breasts are going to require surgery (the person quoted said she’s going to look like a “WaTuTu warrior.”) Um, hello, who cares? Was the writer genuinely concerned about the state of Lohan’s breast tissue, or was someone kind of jealous of her larger-than-average asset flaunting and conjured up this article?

    So these celebrities make up grand stories to explain things that we clearly know are lies, because everybody is so freaking critical. Kirstie Alley lies about being a size 4, because that’s what we want to hear…and Bristol Palin lies about getting a chin implant, because that’s what we want to hear…but we’re onto you all, and nobody cares.

    Kirstie Alley, you’re not funny and sparkling when you’re passing out. She is 60 years old! Nobody should expect a 60 year old woman to be the size she was at age 19. The fact that she is rocking DWTS is enough.

  12. muma ouch says:

    omg!!!u kno i would care if it made a difference but who r we kidding??? women will never live up to anybody’s standard..dont u all get it…well anyway(yawnnnn)…im on my way to meet my hubby to go shopping for our summer clothes we’re getting ready for our vacation in jamaica….u all can sit and stomp ur feet at this crap from now till doomsday……i have a life… love..

  13. Clementine says:

    Thank you for this piece. It was really important for me to read it. I have struggled for a long time with my weight – not just with the attempt to lose it but with the way it has changed my self-image and lowered my confidence. The more I remind myself that fat is not something that I judge on others so I need to be kinder to myself, the easier my journey to health and fitness becomes.
    “Everyone struggles – it can be a lifelong struggle for many – and while there are many people who do sit back and throw stones, there are countless other real world women who understand Kirstie’s and Oprah’s struggles all too well.” I think when we make a link between our weight and our self worth it is hard to remember that others have also struggled and are more than happy to offer empathy and support. We simply loathe ourselves so assume others will too. I feel more positive about my journey after reading your post, and am determined to be kinder and more supportive to myself. Thank you.

  14. Clementine! I’m so thrilled that reading this blog and the comments have such a positive effect on you! I definitely believe that seeing how common our negative thoughts are, and sharing them with one another, goes a LONG way in helping us feel more compassion for ourselves and not feeling so alone.

    Margaret – excellent point about Kirstie ceasing to be funny when she’s passing out. Chronic dieting and obsessing makes use dull; we lose our sparkle.
    Leslie Goldman recently posted..Gridiron Girl

  15. Debbie says:

    Before I started dying my hair blonde (easier to cover the gray), I was once told I looked like “the fat kirstie alley”. I took that as a compliment because, even at her heaviest, she was a very beautiful woman. So a few unflattering pics were published. What does everyone else look like in sweats w/o makeup? Guess what, I still looked like her. It has taken me a 1 1/4 years to lose nearly 70 pounds. Doc wants me down to 140 (i’m 5’8″). I am down from 246 to 177. I ride my bike 20 – 30 miles 4-6x a week, and have for the last year.I’m losing it because at 46, i’m diabetic, have arthritic knees and hips and high blood pressure. I’m impressed with the weight loss, but I still won’t let my boyfriend see me naked because I have body image issues. I have the diabetic “apron”, that fat pad that hangs there. It’s ugly. It will never fully go away, and I will always be diabetic. I just have to watch what I eat. To Alley I would say: How old are you? Your beautiful. Size 24, 14 or 4? And who cares anyway…no one else’s opion is important. It’s all about your own health and happiness.

  16. Leslie says:

    Debbie – WOW, congratulations on your phenomenal success story. It sounds like you’ve come a long, long way, and you have so much to look forward to, including a kickass personality :-)
    Leslie recently posted..Gridiron Girl

  17. Suzahne says:

    I agree with those who don’t hold celebs to higher standards, and in fact would love to see a more realistic stance taken on women’s beauty. When I was growing up, Twiggy was in and I was… well… normal…. and normal was fat. I was in the best shape of my life and hated myself for not measuring up to Twiggy and Betty and Veronica. It’s great to have role models, but no one wants a role model they can never aspire to be. That just makes them feel that something is wrong with them, and that is psychologically damaging. I feel terrible for Kirstie – with all the pressure to be a certian size and weight, there’s no time for healing and health. And health – not teeny tiny clothing sizes or tiny numbers on weight scales – is where it’s at.

  18. Betty and Veronica! Totally! I remember reading those comic books and noticing how big their boobs were and how tiny their waists were, those big eyes and long eyelashes….How crazy that we compare ourselves to CARTOONS!!
    Leslie Goldman recently posted..Debbie Downer’s favorite blood test

  19. Jenna says:

    I don’t care what size she is, I just wish she’d stop fibbing about it. Instead of focusing on getting fit she’s making herself look like a fool for saying she’s a 4/6. If she’s a 4/6 that would put me in the negatives somewhere. I’m the same height, wear a 2/3 and have the classic distance runner figure–those of us in the smaller range call her bluff.
    I applaud her achievement. I just wish she’d either stop going on about her alleged size or own up to it. She may want to be that size–that’s okay. She’s simply not there yet.

  20. eyelashes says:

    Our body shapes will tell others that we are someone worth to love. Sizes will explain how sexy we are. Take good care of your body and maintain its shape.

  21. alberto says:

    ela é deliciosa e gata de qualquer jeito.

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