Valerie Bertinelli's Weight Loss: Inspiring or Controversial?

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Last week I watched Valerie Bertinelli and Marie Osmond on the Oprah Winfrey Show talking about their personal weight loss success stories, and I found both stories to be very inspirational. As most of you already know, I've been struggling with my weight for several years now. And for that reason, I find myself easily able to relate to these two women. After watching that show I felt more motivated then ever to continue eating healthy and losing weight. I don't think I was alone, but as always, there was also a backlash.

Did you see the show? Or the cover of People magazine? What did you think? Inspiration or controversy?

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It seems there are a lot of people who want to vilify Valerie Bertinelli for her weight loss, but I find her story very inspiring. First, she was brave enough to be pictured on a major magazine cover at her heaviest (knowing she could fail). I think I have one picture of myself at my heaviest, and it's me sitting behind someone so you can really only see my face and one arm. I can assure you that no one will be seeing that picture anytime soon. Second, she didn't go on a crash diet, she lost her weight gradually and in a healthy way. Third, her perseverance paid off, and she looks GREAT.

But, not everyone feels the same way I do. Like Stephanie from Back In Skinny Jeans. She does make a good point...

Valerie looks really happy and healthy in the commercial, and I am happy for her that she reached her weight loss goal plus an additional 10. She originally wanted to drop 30 lbs but went on to stretch out her goal to 40lbs. That's cool and all.

But....

I want to be optimistic and hopeful that Valerie keeps her new figure, however, I'm not going to be sold on Jenny Craig until I see her a year from now. I know that sounds harsh, but when Valerie is off the plan or eventually gets off it because no one stays on Jenny Craig the rest of their lives, she will have to maintain her weight eating regular food and living in the real "non-Jenny" world.

And Julie from Women's Right is not pleased at all...

The Valerie Bertinelli story is all about losing weight. Thanks to a rigid diet and exercise routine, the actress was able to whittle her figure down to a stereotypically accepted size 6. Apparently middle aged women can be sexy, but they have to drop 50 lbs. first.

. . .

This type of story reinforces extreme dieting and negative body image. Bertinelli claims, "We all just need to appreciate our bodies for what they are, jiggly bits and all." But she obviously could not do that herself. Not only did she diet down to 132 lbs. in nine months, she got down to 123 for the photo shoot, hiring a personal trainer and restricting her calories to rock bottom levels. Now she vows to "stay vigilant" and keep working on her waistline.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not "pro" anorexia, I just don't agree that this story reinforces extreme dieting. It's just not fair to lump all women who want to lose weight (for what ever their reason) into some "anti-woman" or "politically incorrect" category. Yes, anorexia and bulimia are real problems and need to be addressed..But so is obesity and the medical problems associated with it. Anorexia is a disease, but vilifying dieting isn't the cure. Just as alcoholism is a disease, but we don't condemn everyone that walks into a bar or picks up a drink.

I just don't get it. Is it wrong for me to be a woman who wants to lose weight?

Do I have to justify my decision to lose weight to every woman who is happy in their own skin? And apologize to every woman who has or will have an eating disorder?

If so - I'm trying to lose weight so I won't die before my kids get married...And, I'm sorry.

I can relate to the Bertinelli story because there are a lot of similarities between her weight loss story and my own. For instance, we are close in age and height, and we both had about the same amount of weight to lose. Although I haven't gotten to my goal weight yet, I do have confidence that I will.

Now, it may seem extreme to lose 40 or 50 pounds in about a year or two, but if you're already 40 to 50 pounds overweight to begin with, it's actually quite reasonable. At her start weight Valerie Bertinelli was considered clinically obese (it wasn't all in her head), and at 123 pounds she is now considered "normal" weight. Even if she lost another 10 pounds she wouldn't be underweight (according to a standard BMI calculator). Personally, I think she looks great, I wouldn't say she looks "too" skinny or underweight at all. She doesn't make me feel ashamed that I don't look as good as she does in a bikini, but her story does make me feel that it's possible for me to lose the weight too.

You see, it's all relative - If you're already at a healthy weight, then a 4o pound weight loss is extreme. If your 100 pounds overweight, then a 40 pound weight loss isn't near enough. We need to look at the whole picture here, not just the cover page of a magazine. Does the media bare some responsibility for so many women having a poor body-image? Yes. Is this Valerie Bertinelli story an example of that? I don't think so. What do you think?

And while I'm asking questions - Is losing weight for health reasons justifiable, while losing weight to look good in a swimsuit is not? Who gets to decide what "excuses" for dieting are acceptable and which ones are not? Do women really need to be the diet police for each other, or can we trust each other to make these types of decisions for ourselves? Let me know your thoughts in comments.

Also See:

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
at Catherine-Morgan.com and Women4Hope

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