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The Issue With Making Rihanna’s Weight Gain 'Newsworthy'

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In the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle around Rihanna’s seemingly newsworthy change in weight.

But why is Rihanna’s weight – or anyone’s for that matter – the subject of a news story? How is that news? As someone in recovery for an eating disorder and a positive body image advocate, it concerns me — more than outrages me — that we still see an individual’s weight as newsworthy. Although some sites may think they have “good intentions,” it’s still sending a subliminal message to the people looking at these popular news websites.

Something important in ED recovery is diminishing and hopefully eliminating the role that weight plays in determining one’s self-worth. On my better days, I would say my body shape and the number on the scale does not say anything about how worthy I am of being loved or a measurement of my success, and really is no reflection of who I am as a person. I have worked hard to untangle the thoughts and feelings that have led me to tell myself I am only valuable if I look or eat a certain way, and headlines like these stir up the part in me that says, “I should be ashamed of myself if I gain weight.”

Many people in recovery from eating disorders can also become hyperaware of their weight, or create unlikely scenarios of what others may be thinking about their body. They may follow through on recovery-oriented actions, but still worry if others are judging them for the space they take up and the food that goes in their mouths. The reality is, most people are not paying attention to what you are eating or how your body looks because they are concerned about those things in regards to themselves. On the contrary, many of the comments I’ve received about the food I eat are more typically, “Wow, I wish I could eat X like you.” And the best response I have is, ‘There’s really no reason you can’t.”

However, headlines like these raise the volume on those voices in my head that tell me people really are looking at what I’m eating, what I weigh and if I look bigger or smaller. That my weight and overall appearance means more to them than who I am as a person. The connotations of the language used in these headlines paint weight gain as something to be ashamed of. The articles speculate that she “let herself go” when in reality, bodies fluctuate, peoples’ lifestyle changes and we are constantly changing inside and outside as human beings and nobody — even someone who is a celebrity like Rihanna — should be subjected to that kind of talk. Weight gain is never shameful.

Whether a person has an eating disorder or not, this message is an awful one to send. If people feel the need to report on her weight gain, I wish the headlines would read, “All Bodies Change, Look at Rihanna. It’s Normal.” Or, “Is Rihanna Going to Make Weight Fluctuation Normal?” or “Rihanna’s Change in Weight Proves That All Bodies Are Ever-Changing.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Lead image via Rihanna’s Facebook page 

Image via Creative Commons/celebrityabc

Originally published: June 8, 2017
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