Skinny = happy? Sara Rue’s sad Jenny Craig commercial, & “fat kid” body image

In the new commercial, Sara Rue is even thinner. I think she looks nice here. But in the commercial, she looks unreal.

I had been planning on waxing (pre-maturely) annoying about making the mental and emotional (and, err,  physical) transition from Fat Kid to Skinny Chick. I’ve not even lost a lot of weight yet, but with regular exercise my body is definitely changing. And it’s weird. I am not happy being fat. But if I’m not fat, am I going to be happier? How much does my physical appearance really change my life?

Recently, I caught Sara Rue’s “look at me now!” commercial for Jenny Craig, and it made me inexplicably sad. Jezebel’s talking about it, and now I think I know why: it is promoting the (false!) idea that skinny = happy. Sara Rue is so self-hating in her before interview, though she is touching on some very real and true emotions that overweight people have, and then in the “after” she is SUPER HAPPY and all like OMG LOOK I CAN WEAR SKINNY JEANS I’M HAPPY NOW. Check it out:

It’s all so superficial, misleading and feels really disingenuous. Ok, maybe Sara Rue is very happy to be skinny now. But skinny = happy is a dangerous message.  Losing a bunch of weight doesn’t eliminate a lifetime of body issues.

For me, a huge part of wanting to lose weight, and stop being a fat kid, is that I want to be healthier. I don’t feel healthy fat. Since I started going to the gym three months ago, I feel healthier, and that makes me feel really awesome. I’m still eating crap, but that should end soon, when I leave my current (enabling) job environment. Eating healthy and being active I imagine will be the most SUPER AWESOME THING IN THE WORLD.

Do I want to be thinner? Yes. Let’s not pretend that IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING HEALTHY, Y’ALL. I want to be thinner, because I’d like to not have buying clothes/wearing clothes be a huge pain the ass, and generally I really dislike back fat. It’s gross. I’d also like to be less heavy than your average man, thanks. And I’d be a pretty hot size 10 XD

But I’ve always known that being skinny wasn’t going to solve all  my problems. I think it’s a primary reason that I resisted really taking the huge step to change for so long. I’ve always dieted, and I’ve had some success in the past. But it was always missing something: my true and complete commitment to working my ass off to lose weight (ie: going to the gym). I wanted to be happy the way I was — what was the point of being super skinny and having it prove that people couldn’t like me/I couldn’t be happy the way I was? I didn’t *hate* being fat… it was mostly just mildly inconvenient. More recently, my size got way larger than I was comfortable with, and it kick-started the true desire to change.

But it bears being said: I am a happy person. I have great friends, I’m successful, I like myself, I’m ok with how I look and even fat, I’m fairly awesome XP. And I actually think it’s the fact that I’m pretty damn happy with myself that I am finally ready to lose the weight. I don’t need a magic bullet to change my life. Slimming down and feeling healthier will just be icing on the cake. And that’s the way it should be.

I want to change for me. While it will be flattering to garner more male attention, I honestly suspect it will make me more uncomfortable than anything. Double edged sword: as a fat chick, I’ve never liked wondering if a flirty guy was a “chubby chaser,” because he thought I would be easy (as a fat girl who must have lower standards). As a future skinny chick, I don’t want to think that a guy only likes me because I conform to society’s idea of beauty. Skinny isn’t who I am. Neither is fat.

Back to Sara Rue, the way Jenny Craig has framed this marketing campaign and done this commercial, I get the distinct sense that Sara Rue has a whole other set of issues and unhappiness about being fat, especially as a (beautiful!) actress, and her “after” just reads as eerie. She’s acting very happy and is all like OMG SKINNY JEANS! But you don’t get the sense that any of her person issues have been solved. Because losing weight doesn’t solve self-esteem issues, or your life-long sense of yourself. I will always, in many ways, think like a fat chick. I will second guess myself, and my attractiveness, and the motives of anyone who tells me I’m “hot.”

Sara Rue is beautiful. This commercial, and Jenny Craig’s marketing ploy, make me sad. It is reinforcing a very bad idea for all women, but particularly fat women. Dieting is easy. You’ll be happier skinnier. Come to Jenny Craig. Your life will change.

No. It’s not that easy, and weight loss is a complex emotional issue. And losing the weight isn’t a magic bullet. Your life isn’t all of a sudden perfect, and skinny does not (automatically) equal happy. If we’re talking about weight loss programs… Weight Watchers, all the way. Compare same message, different method. Jennifer Hudson talking about “winning at losing”:

She never  mentions a specific number and, yes, they do highlight her body, but the main message is that she’s proud of herself, happy and her clothes are fitting better. But it feels more like a journey, which is what Weight Watchers is good at. Previous Jennifer Hudson WW spots have highlighted changing habits. Good stuff.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Skinny = happy? Sara Rue’s sad Jenny Craig commercial, & “fat kid” body image”
  1. Robin says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Fantasy of Being Thin, but this reminded me of it… I think so much is tied up in having the “right” body that it becomes melded in with this idea of having a satisfying life. It’s a lot more powerful to sell “lose weight and you will have a great relationship, lots of friends, and an exciting social life” than “lose weight and you will need to buy clothing made out of comparatively less fabric.”

    One thing I’ve found, at least for me, is that the body image dissatisfaction and weight loss is really, really addictive. That it’s far too easy to go from having healthy goals (i.e. eat well, exercise, and be at your natural size when in shape) to wanting to lose more and more weight in a way that’s unhealthy. Not true for everyone, but for many people, and really, really dangerous. Plus, blows the “being thin will make me happy and self-accepting” myth out of the water, because then it’s all about finding what’s left that needs changing.

    • clarely says:

      I was actually just reading that yesterday. It’s so true — I definitely got wrapped up in the fantasy of being thin when I was younger. It’s so easy, with how images of happy, fabulous skinny people pervade the media, plus make-over stories, rom-coms, etc. I think, finally, there are some shows and such that are giving a different perspective on things so maybe that will change for the next generation… but probably not. Some people never lose the fantasy 😦

      • Robin says:

        I don’t know how much there is that really, truly glorifies self-acceptance and embracing a wide range of body types and appearances, though. As much as I’d rather look at magazine covers with Crystal Renn vs. Kate Moss, it’s still setting up an ideal that’s impossible for most women to achieve.

        The whole fantasy is so depressing, because it really is boiling down all of life’s possibilities to being dependent on looking a certain way. I mean, I try to fight that stuff really, really hard, and I STILL buy into it sometimes. And, really, it makes for some really brilliant marketing tactics. If you’re not happy with your body, go on Jenny Craig. If you’re thin but not happy with your life, it’s because your hair isn’t shiny enough, or you don’t have the latest trendy clothing. There is no level of physical achievement that can lead to emotional satisfaction or a fulfilling life, but damn if people don’t feel like there’s some level of prerequisite there.

        • clarely says:

          Have you seen Huge? One of the lines from the 5th episode really resonated with me, and I think really speaks to this issue. One of the boys looks in the bathroom mirror and says “Sometimes I can’t believe this is what I look like.”

          I definitely find myself internalizing everything I see in society, and what is considered beautiful and acceptable and ok. I’ve had those moments — really looking at myself and thinking “this is really what I look like.” And it’s ok. But I just rarely see it reflected back at me in the media, and sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be traditionally “beautiful,” and potentially never think that. If you’re model pretty and thin, do you look in the mirror and think “I am the societally accepted standard of beauty”? Do you think of it at all? Or do you invent other problems to have with yourself, and not being perfect enough?

          It’s sad what we do to ourselves — projecting a standard that probably 90% of society can’t realistically achieve, ever. And there’s marketing and advertising and entire industries dedicated to making us feel bad about ourselves, so we need to go out and buy stuff. It’s messed up.

  2. Joanne says:

    Playing the devil’s advocate: exercising and losing weight (to a healthy weight) does make you happier through the chemical processes in your body. Maybe that’s what we’re seeing with Sarah Rue and Jennifer Hudson? Unfortunately we’ve come to the point where we correlate the happiness to being skinny…

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