This pervasive and incessant need to high five women for losing weight – whatever the cost – is dangerous.
There are many achievements in life deserving of congratulations. A career win. Reaching a relationship milestone. Putting on a bra (a relatively new addition thanks to the coronavirus pandemic). Last time I checked, placing someone on a pedestal for losing weight due to great stress – or otherwise – is not one of them.
Yet, here we are. Married At First Sight’s Aleks Markovic has lost weight. Nine kilograms, in fact. As far the tabloid magazine newscycle goes this is premium fodder, so this week a glitzy bikini photoshoot in NW, extolling Aleks’ ‘revenge body’, hit the newsstands.
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Aside from the fact Aleks and former ‘husband’ Ivan Sarakula seem to have ended their relationship amicably – with no need for bloody retribution to be enacted – there’s another troubling aspect to the story. Aleks’ miracle diet? Stress. A lot of it.
“I don’t eat when I’m stressed, so the break-up definitely contributed to my extensive weight loss,” she told NW.
“I lost about nine kilos after the show.”
This concession doesn’t make me want to clap aggressively and holler “you go, girl”, it makes me want to envelope the 26-year-old in a warm hug. Breakups are devastating but ones teamed with an avalanche of publicity, criticism and trolling must be nothing short of unbearable. For Aleks, this stress happened to manifest in “extensive weight loss”. Her shrinking body was merely a symptom of the distress she was feeling, yet it’s lauded as the gleaming trophy of the story.
Despite coming out with this admission, one that could and should be pulled into sharp focus and examined, it’s glossed over. Because – look at how great Aleks’ body is! Hoo boy, the worry and hand-wringing was totally worth it!
This pervasive and incessant need to high five women for losing weight – whatever the cost – is dangerous and only feeds into the misguided idea that a woman is only as good as the number on the scales staring back at her. Don’t mistake me, I’m not railing against women deciding of their own volition to overhaul their health or shed kilos – that’s a personal choice, you do you, etc – what I am vehemently against is the insidious and reductive implication that a woman is somehow better if she’s thinner.
Society applauds and rewards women for contorting themselves into what we deem to be ‘beautiful’, happily disregarding the pain and hair-pulling moments they endure to achieve this supposed desirability. Clinical psychologist Leanne Hall agrees that glorifying weight loss only works to perpetuate sexist beauty standards.
“It teaches women that to be loved/successful/beautiful/accepted, they need to be thin,” she tells whimn.com.au.
“We are more than our bodies. And so by focussing on weight loss and thinness – we are reinforcing the idea that we are defined by our bodies (as they become objectified), and our entire self-worth is defined by body shape and appearance.”
Not only this, but Leanne says being patted on the back for losing weight can have the potential to see us develop disordered eating.
“If someone in this situation [who is vulnerable after a breakup] then loses weight and receives lots of positive attention as a result – an association between being thin and being popular/sexy/desirable can then result (which is filtered through that unhelpful cultural discourse,” she says.
“It’s easy to see how this can then develop into an unhealthy obsession, and a way of avoiding the emotional and psychological discomfort associated with the break up.”
Aleks can do as she wishes, but please, can we applaud her kindness, her courageousness in standing up to the MAFS producers and her intelligence before we congratulate her on her waistline?
This article originally appeared on Whimn and is republished here with permission.