An article came out in the New York Times discussing "documented instances of public eating" or DIPE. It typically refers to a rail-thin actress/model/starlet eating oversized portions of ribs and burgers and talking about how this is part of her normal lifestyle. The article was complete with lots of theorizing and intellectualizing about sexuality, food, fetishism, and feminism.
Most adult women can gaze cynically upon these gamine consumers of ribs and realize that other than the odd metabolic exception – the public display of eating is meant to divert from the more likely story that many of these women do restrict food, exercise excessively, have access to chefs or portion-controlled meal delivery and lots of other tricks to make the weight battles that we all fight more manageable.
But there is a darker side to this; the younger women and adolescents who look to these cultural touchstones for guidance on everything from relationships to interior design to fashion. These celebrities become the standard-bearers for aesthetic for these young women as well. So when a young woman who is struggling with issues around body image or weight, or disordered eating sees a 100 pound actress eating a 1500 calorie burger and pronouncing that this is how she always eats, it’s a cruel mind game.
The game the actress is playing makes sense. Nowadays, celebs are expected to be “just like us,” yet at the same time superhuman, and trust me – it is superhuman to claim that you are regularly consuming thousands of calories in nachos, burgers and pizzas and fitting into a size 2 dress. The regular girls out there scratch their heads, wondering why they too can’t eat what they want, when they want, as much as they want and maintain a perfect figure. This disconnect is often ripe ground for the development of eating disorders, dysfunctional patterns of eating, abuse of diet pills, unnecessary cosmetic procedures, and lifelong issues with food.
Young women and teens face the dueling forces of media telling them to look a certain way, the natural shape of their bodies, the struggle of eating well in a toxic food world, and men wanting them to be svelte yet eat like a teamster.
The greater power would come from an underweight celebrity saying that she doesn’t always get to eat the way she wants, that she has pressure from her handlers and Hollywood to look a certain way, that she has gone down some dark alleys with food and exercise while trying to figure out how to meet an unrealistic standard.
The bottom line is that there are 3500 calories in a pound. If you consume more than that without burning it – you gain weight. Other than a few metabolic lottery winners out there, that rule is pretty universal. So the next time you believe the cover-girl who tells you she eats pasta all day and never works out, come find me. I have a bridge I would love to sell you. There are no shortcuts.