Hollywood Devours Self-Esteem with Body Image Pressures

Audrina Patridge of 'The Hills' (Photo: MTV)

Audrina Patridge of 'The Hills' (Photo: MTV)

The pressure to be skinny in Hollywood is a long-running vicious cycle that’s no secret, with countless actresses battling eating disorders and body image issues, so it comes as no surprise that Hollywood would capitalize on the problem and turn it into a reality series. Or two.

The media has highlighted actresses’ extreme diets, fitness routines, and scary tips for achieving a movie star physique, and now they are preparing to document the effects of their messages in two new reality programs that follow average people’s battles with the disease.

Countless celebrities have come forward in recent years to confess their body image issues, from ‘Growing Pains’ star Tracey Gold’s very public battle with an eating disorder to Portia de Rossi’s admission to anorexia to Paula Abdul’s battle with bulimia.

And the nearly unrecognizable Heidi Montag, who seems all but diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder, isn’t the only young star of MTV’s ‘The Hills‘ feeling the pressure.

Costar Audrina Patridge is just further proof of the lengths celebs go to look perfect. After reportedly getting plastic surgery to enhance her chest, one pal explains Patridge’s reasoning to Us Weekly, telling the mag that the aspiring actress “feels she has to be perfect to continue her career in TV and film.”

Another ‘Hills’ costar, Kristin Cavallari, has allegedly flirted with a cocaine problem, which is reportedly addressed on the show this season. It’s an unfortunate consequence for some young stars who use the drug in a desperate attempt to get thin (or thinner), as they compete, whether consciously or subconsciously, with each other–and themselves–to see who can be a size negative 0.

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One celebrity not buckling under the pressure? ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ Niecy Nash, who was called an “enthusiastic eater” by judge Len Goodman on last week’s show. Nash maintains that she wasn’t offended by the comment, and takes pride in her healthy appetite and fuller figure. “I wasn’t weighing myself before ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and I’m not weighing myself now,” Nash tells Us Weekly. “I’m a curvy girl and I like it.”

Body image is such a hot topic in Hollywood that the E! network announced they will be airing a six-part documentary series on eating disorders titled ‘What’s Eating You?’ Some examples seen on the show: a woman who eats a roll of toilet paper dipped in pickle juice every night before she goes to bed; another who lives in seclusion and feels compelled to eat twigs, pencil erasers and super-glue; and an aspiring model who’s body is so starved that she physically smells because her body literally is eating itself alive. Lisa Berger, the networks executive vice president, is optimistic the series will shed light on the prevalence of eating disorders in today’s society.

“I know that I speak for everyone at E! when I say how proud we are to welcome this important program to our network. The prevalence of eating disorders is all too common in a society that can often value looks and appearance above all else.”

Following suit is OWN: The Oprah Winfrey network announced just one day after E! that they will be adding ‘Inside Rehab’ to their prime-time lineup. OWN said in a statement that its one-hour documentary series “gives viewers a rare look inside an eating disorder treatment facility where patients face their demons and struggle to come to terms with what’s behind the food. This is what happens after the intervention.”

It seems that in a world focused on image, viewers still have a craving to see the underbelly of the pursuit of perfection, and networks are more than happy to deliver. Let’s just hope they aren’t biting off more than they can chew, because exposing the hidden realities of this age-old beauty (actresses) and the beast (Hollywood) tale is one ugly truth.

‘The Biggest Loser’ Trainer Jillian Michaels on Body Image Issues:

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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