September 18, 2003

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More About Women and Middle Aged Weight Gain

After that first article you're thinking, "but all those people in Hollywood are still thin and glamorous and beautiful when they reach middle age."

Maybe. And maybe not.

However, keep in mind that these people have access to the best help - top-flight trainers, personal gyms, chefs who count every carb and every calorie. If you'd like to get an idea of what even young stars go through to look the way they do, see if you can catch "Rock Bodies: From Flab to Fab," currently running on VH1. The show tracks four women - definitely less than middle-aged - and the 12-week program of rock-star-like training and diet control they undergo to shape up. It becomes very clear that, even for youthful stars, looking like that is a nearly full-time job, requiring 3 to 4 hours of serious exercise a day, plus someone dispassionate to cook for them and measure every mouthful. Again, most of these aren't even middle-aged people!

Too, let us not forget that the vast majority of people who make it to Hollywood star status started out genetically gifted in the looks department. There is simply no amount of dieting, exercise, or even surgery that will make my waist anything less than painfully short. We all have to work with what we're given.

Still, consider Demi Moore. Looks fabulous, of course - but then, she recently had $25,000 worth of plastic surgery, including liposuction and a tummy tuck - and she certainly is one who started out genetically blessed. If we try to compare our middle-aged selves to Demi and her ilk, we're going to have totally unreasonable expectations.

Bless Jamie Lee Curtis. Known as "the body" in Hollywood in her twenties, Jamie is now in her forties (indeed, she and I will turn 45 just over a month apart this fall.) Last year Jamie Lee decided to come out regarding the work and the deception it takes to make over-forty celebs look skinny, young and glamorous. She openly talked about having "not great" thighs, a "soft little tummy," and "back fat," and revealed that it took 3 hours of professional makeup, hair, and wardrobe people working on her to get her ready for a single photo shoot.

Furthermore, Jamie Lee said that even after all that preliminary work, plus a really good photographer who can make anyone look their best, celebrity photos in magazines and such are airbrushed and retouched to make their subjects look younger, slimmer, and more glamorous.

In an amazingly courageous move, Curtis insisted on having her photo taken in her underwear, with no makeup, foundation garments, manicure, hair stylist, or anything, and being published unretouched. It was her hope, she said, that women would stop looking at the fake images of middle aged women that Hollywood was putting out, and hating themselves for not being a size 2 and buff in their forties and beyond. You can see Jamie Lee Curtis's ground-breaking honest photo here:

What's the point of this discussion about what it takes to make middle-aged - and even youthful - celebrities look skinny and perfect? Just this: I worry that you (and I, for that matter) will look at these impossible images, and become so unsatisfied with being a normal size and healthy, and give up our nutritional and exercise regimens in disgust - when in reality, by any reasonable standards, we're successful.

I have actually gotten the occasional email from women who have lamented, "Gee, I've lost 30 pounds, and my cholesterol and triglycerides and blood pressure are all better, and I have more energy, but I'm stuck at a size 12, so I guess this diet doesn't really work, and I'll quit." Makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

I guess I just want you to know what success looks like, especially once you're middle-aged - and for most of us, it ain't a size 2 with six-pack abs. Okay?

(Here's a link to my Images of Beauty Gallery - some of the un-anorexic women that, until quite recently, Hollywood acknowledged for the extraordinary beauties they were and are: )

Posted by HoldTheToast at September 18, 2003 04:22 PM