Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala Dress Sparks Diet Culture Debate

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Kardashian lost 16 pounds ahead of the Met Gala. Why do women feel compelled to stop eating in the name of fashion?

May 6, 2022 is the 30th anniversary of International No Diet Day. An anorexia survivor named Mary Evans started International No Diet Day in 1992 to promote positive body image and fight diet culture.

This year’s holiday comes days after Kim Kardashian made headlines for losing 16 pounds in 3 weeks. The celeb rushed to slim down ahead of the Met Gala so she could wear Marilyn Monroe’s dress to the gold-themed Americana event.

Kardashian wanted to honor Monroe’s radical sexuality at a time when sheer, dazzling dresses were taboo. Much like Kardashian’s “wet dress” for the 2019 Met Gala, Monroe’s dress was controversial when the singer wore it to meet President Kennedy in 1962. “Today everyone wears see-through dresses, but at the time this was not the case. In a way, it’s the original nude dress. That’s why it was so shocking,” Kardashian said during an interview with vogue.

Because Kardashian wanted to fit into Monroe’s actual dress rather than recreate the look with another item of clothing, Kardashian had to slim down. In this same vogue interview, Kardashian described the strict diet and exercise regimen she adopted before the gala: “I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and I would only eat the cleanest vegetables and proteins. I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.

Some outlets praised Kardashian for her dedication to fitting into Monroe’s historic dress. But other people echo the question Sara M. Moniuszko posed in a USA today article — “Kim Kardashian Stunned in Marilyn Monroe Dress…But at What Cost?”

Many nutritionists, journalists and body-positive activists worry that Kardashian’s crash diet may inadvertently glorify unhealthy weight loss. Aiyana Ishmael, Editorial Assistant at teen vogue, has written about plus size fashion and body acceptance. Ishmael said: “All that restrictive meal for a few minutes of photos in a dress that was ultimately inaccurate to the theme of the night. And now, anyone who reads her interview or follows her on social media has a playbook of how they too can attempt to lose weight fast for any special event they want to celebrate.

Kardashian is an individual person who is in control of her own body, so she shouldn’t have to ask her fans for permission to lose weight. However, Kardashian’s comments about her weight loss methods perpetuate the diet culture. “We can argue that it is not the job of a celebrity or an influencer to display healthy habits, but then we would be ignoring the vital role that media consumption plays in our society,” Ismael wrote in a teen vogue article. “I used to think that walking eagerly through an event with my dress fitted to fight off a headache was my private badge of honor. I’d held out to look as lean as possible for a night out. My teenage self thought I was incredibly disciplined, when in reality I was irrevocably harming my body – ways I still deal with to this day,” Ismael recalls his own past struggles with fashion and restrictive diets.

Numerous studies indicate that young women can develop body image issues and poor eating or exercise habits when they see thin bodies and crash diets being touted on social media and in magazines. When young women follow online content about celebrities bragging about losing weight or wearing extreme shapewear, these young women are statistically more likely to develop eating disorders and low self-esteem.

The pressure to look thin to fit dresses can have a negative impact on women’s self-image as they grow into adulthood. When I was a teenager, I fasted for nearly 24 hours and took anti-bloating pills to look slimmer in my prom dress. Countless women feel the pressure of hitting the gym or starving themselves to fit into a wedding dress.

When young women hear that Kardashian lost 16 pounds in 3 weeks, they may think rapid weight loss is healthy and normal. Kardashian lost an average of 5 pounds per week. That’s way beyond the standard 1-2 pounds per week that most people would expect to lose with a balanced diet and moderate exercise.

When we try to fit into a dress that is too tight, we let that garment wear us rather than the other way around. Fashion can provide a free and creative outlet for someone to express themselves by wearing clothes that make them look and feel their best. But when we try to mold our body into an outfit, we can feel inadequate or anxious when that item of clothing doesn’t fit us properly.

Fortunately, International No Diet Day can help us reinvent health, weight and fashion. Weight isn’t the only (or often the best) indicator of your overall well-being. Being thin does not automatically make someone healthy.

Crash diets like Kardashian’s gala stunt can cause mental and physical harm. People who experience such rapid weight loss may experience fatigue, dehydration, muscle loss, or other serious medical complications. In a cruel twist of irony, most people regain the weight they lost on crash diets because these strict diets and exercise routines are hard to maintain over time. Before trying to lose weight, contact your doctor to create a diet and exercise program that’s right for you.

And if you feel like you have to lose weight to fit into a dress, consider getting rid of the dress instead.

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