When former plus-sized model Crystal Renn stepped out last week looking noticeably thinner than her previous 165-pound frame, the media — and the public — took notice. Multiple media stories and tons of social media comments later, there seemed to be criticisms and controversy everywhere. From some saying she was getting too thin to others wondering if Renn was reverting to unhealthy ways to get back into her modeling dress size (she wrote a memoir in 2009 about her struggles with anorexia), it seems like everyone had an opinion. But why?
The media's obsession with a celeb's fluctuating weight and fitting into an idealized image of beauty is nothing new, says Marsha Hudnall, registered dietitian and owner and vice president of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women's health retreat in Vermont that has helped women achieve health and healthy weights through a non-diet approach. But that doesn't make it any less harmful for young girls and women.
"That obsession isn't healthy for anybody, regardless of their size," Hudnall says. "Society wants Crystal to fit in a 'box' neatly on either end of the scale — extremely thin or plus-size. Now that she doesn't fit into one of these boxes, it almost seems that people are questioning her honesty."
Renn recently told the United Kingdom's Daily Mail that she now weighs a healthy size 6, 8 or sometimes a 10, depending on the designer. In the past, Renn has worn everything from a size zero to a size 16. She credits her recent weight loss as a natural response from a healthier lifestyle that includes yoga and hiking.
The underlying controversy that everyone seems to be questioning is whether or not she's actually trying to lose weight, even though she says she's not, Hudnall says.
"The problem is, we don't know what a healthy weight is for Crystal," Hudnall says. "It's not fair to assume that her weight loss is due to something other than what she says it is, which is that she has adopted behaviors in the name of health, and weight loss is an outcome of that for her body."
Sarah Maria, a body-image expert and author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, agrees that as long as Renn is taking care of her health, there should be no controversy. In fact, people and the media should support her caring for her health and continuing to be a positive role model to women and young girls, she says.
"Crystal has done a fabulous job of being proud in and about her body and sharing this message with women," Maria says. "She, however, should have every right to take care of her body and herself in a way that works for her."
Maria goes on to explain that having to stay a larger size when a woman's body is ready to lose weight is equally as destructive as forcing a woman's body to say thin when it has a need to gain weight.
"It is just as harmful to force someone to be a small size in order to model as it is to prevent someone from losing weight in order to model," she says. "The career should fit what is healthy for the individual, not the other way around." At the end of the day, we need to refocus the discussion from weight to understanding how we can truly take care of ourselves, Hudnall says. "Crystal's agent says she is healthy and feels amazing right now, so that's what we want to focus on, not the weight loss,"Hudnall says. "It's about all of us in society taking responsibility for how we think of health and beauty and not making it about body size."
Do you wish the media would stop talking about weight so much and focus on health instead? How do you think this type of "controversy" affects you and your body image? Discuss in the comments!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.