Celebrity Weight Stigma

“News” about prominent people with weight problems (real or imaginary) will never stop appealing to the masses. A website called EDReferral.com has compiled a comprehensive and conveniently alphabetized list of celebrities afflicted at one time or another with anorexia and/or bulimia. For some, their conditions have already been widely publicized, but others will probably come as a surprise to the casual reader.

Just quickly scanning the list, we see such well-known names as Paula Abdul, Fiona Apple, Victoria Beckham, Kate Beckinsale, Judy Collins, Katie Couric, Whitney Cummings, Princess Diana, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, Kathy Griffin, Grace Helbig, Felicity Huffman, Angelina Jolie… Well, you get the picture. There are dozens and dozens, and these are only the individuals whose stories have become public property — not the ones who have managed to keep their medical records private.

We have become all too accustomed to hearing about women who struggle with eating disorders. More rare and more surprising are the men. For instance, the world-famous rugby referee Nigel Owens, and Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, and fitness expert Richard Simmons.

Comedian/philosopher Russell Brand got an early start, binge-eating and purging since age 11. He is quoted as saying it was about “getting out of myself and isolation, feeling inadequate and unpleasant.” British musician and producer Gary Barlow has described the embarrassing ordeal of hiding his bulimia from his wife. Fortunately, their home was large enough that he could vomit in a distant bathroom.

Actor Dennis Quaid is quoted as saying,

My arms were so skinny that I couldn’t pull myself out of a pool… I’d look in the mirror and still see a 180-lb. guy, even though I was 138 pounds.

Journalist BethAnne Black reported on a man named Thomas Holbrook who called himself “the champion of denial” and “probably sicker than any of my patients.” Yes, he was a psychiatrist! For a certain period of time, Holbrook had relied on sensible exercise to keep his weight down, but when a knee injury stopped him from running, he developed a florid case of anorexia.

Although psychotherapy and support groups can certainly help, men are, for complicated reasons, less likely to seek help in dealing with their anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorders, or morbid obesity.

Don’t ask, don’t tell

The prevalence of eating disorders among men is vastly under-reported. As many as one million American men might be involved in battling these conditions. The effects on their bodies can be comparatively serious. While women have more fat to “spare,” when men starve themselves the deprivation starts cutting into muscle mass sooner, with regrettable long-term results.

Some men go to extensive and health-endangering lengths to hide their conditions while keeping their physical selves confined to the culturally-imposed proportions. Others, like actors Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, veer in the opposite direction and abandon any effort to stay within normal limits.

In the entertainment industry, among singers, musicians, actors, comedians, and even politicians, men are allowed much greater leeway, and bulging figures are more likely to be tolerated without their careers taking a hit. Still, such stars as Alec Baldwin, Stephen Seagal, John Travolta, Ryan Gosling, Matt Damon, Vince Vaughn, Laurence Fishburne, and Russell Crowe, are regularly deemed, by publications that enjoy playing the role of fat police, to have gained too much weight, and held up to public scrutiny and scorn.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Who are the Famous Celebrities with Eating Disorders?,” EDReferral.com, undated
Source: “Eating Disorders Not Just a Girl Problem,” CaringOnline.com, undated
Image: Clip art/Fair Use

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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