While we watched this unfold, the Allure Slack channels immediately lit up with one particular question: Has diet culture really changed all that much since that time period, or are we under the illusion that things are better because body standards are a little different? If anything, this conversation proved to me that — despite the progress of fat activism plus the body positivity and neutrality movements — toxic diet culture still has just as much a stranglehold on popular American culture as it did back then. It just looks a little different.
Just to paint a generalized picture for you: According to a study (which compiled research from more than 100 other studies) on global eating disorders from 2000 to 2018, the prevalence of eating disorders “increased over the study period from 3.5 percent for the 2000-2006 period to 7.8 percent for the 2013-2018 period.” Another recent study proved that the pandemic has only caused eating disorder rates to increase further since 2020.
Case in point: It might be cool to have a fat ass in the year 2022, but that hasn’t changed the fact that we’re still subject to wildly unrealistic body standards — and those unrealistic body standards are still greatly impacting our mental health in the same way they did back in the 2000s when flat asses were all the rage. And when influential people like Kim Kardashian tell the world they can casually drop 16 pounds in three weeks, it only bolsters the idea that fast, drastic weight loss isn’t just possible; it’s easy, and it’s glamorous.
And look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with losing weight itself or wanting to lose weight. Kardashian has every right to do whatever the hell she likes with her own body. It’s the insistence that such drastic weight loss is an attainable goal that is worrisome here. When someone loses weight drastically this way, they could subject themselves to loss of muscle mass, lowered metabolism, and loss of nutrients that can result in constipation, fatigue, hair loss, lowered immunity, and loss of bone density.
The casual way that weight loss is discussed on the red carpet certainly hasn’t changed much since the 2000s, but what has changed — thank God — is that people seem to be more aware of its effects than ever. Looking at Twitter, I see a plethora of criticisms of this interview, and that’s definitely not something we could have shared with each other back in the day.
“The Kim Kardashian weight loss thing is fucked up and NOT okay to talk about on national television where the youth will find it and bring it to therapy to defend their eating disorders,” one user writes. Another says, “The fact that Kim Kardashian spent weeks losing weight just to fit into a dress is why women have body dysphoria.” Another writes, “Can’t believe there are people defending Kim Kardashian’s 16 pound weight loss in 3 weeks! Unfollowed someone because of this. It’s so unhealthy!”