You know what can be inspirational? Healthy living journeys. People recounting their desire to change their lives and bodies in order to lead healthier lives — that can be very encouraging. But you know what’s less lovely? When the whole story is just negative and saddening, yet still portrayed as being somehow positive and enlightening. Naturally, our good ol’ friends over at Daily Mail have done just that with their “Thin-derella” piece on a woman’s tale of losing weight. It’s hard to pick just a few things wrong with the article itself, but I’ll try.
The story is about a woman named Clare Cunliffe-Saunders who “spent years performing in children’s theatre as heroines including Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.” Sounds lovely, right? Well, she gained a bunch of weight after the births of her two children and wound up not doing it anymore, but “she started her comeback after a group of youths spotted her alone on a railway station and cruelly mocked the size of her bottom.” So, she lost a bunch of weight by doing Weightwatchers, the Dukan diet and keeping active. Now she can wear her old costumes and is apparently all well and good and happily ever after. But it’s not the story that I don’t like; it’s the way it is told that I take issue with.
First of all, the title: Too fat for a fairy tale! Actress becomes real life Thin-derella after shedding five stone to fit back in to her princess costumes. I get it: “fat” and “fairy tale” are alliterated and “Thin-derella” is a pun, but neither are clever nor kind. It’s not necessary to create weight-related names and I genuinely wish that the media would stop doing that. Whenever a celebrity is deemed “too thin” or “too fat” by the tabloids, a name for them always catches on and it’s always cruelly weight-based.
Second, the fact that a bunch of teenagers harassed her and she decided to lose weight was not inspirational; it was strikingly sad. The way the Daily Mail portrayed that incident made it sound as though bullying is a healthy spark for change — or at least, an okay one, regardless of its inappropriateness and lack of respect.
Third, the woman’s diet and exercise plan got one line plus another that vaguely described an initial attempt at being healthy. If this is supposed to be an encouraging story — as most weight loss recounts are, and this seemed to be run as one — it seems like the most important part should be how she changed her habits, diet and activity level. But instead, how she was bullied into changing is what we’re supposed to pay the most attention to, right?
Lastly, and this has less to do with Daily Mail as my sort of sadness for the woman herself, she says at the end, “People don’t shout nasty things at me any more – and I look the part again for the children.” Um, well, people shouldn’t be shouting nasty things at you at all, regardless of your weight. That’s their own fault, and it’s quite unsettling that she seems to believe it’s her own for having been overweight. Also, shouldn’t you want to act the part for your children, not just look a certain way? Having healthy role models is great for kids, but not so great to have parents focus on body image as a means by which self esteem and worth to your children are based.