You may disagree or call me hypocritical for writing this post, but I’m always up for a little controversy. For those who have never heard of Crystal Renn, she is considered the most famous high-fashion, plus-size model in recent history. You may be thinking, “Plus-size? She’s plus-size?!” Well, she was.
Crystal was first scouted to be a model at age 14. However, she was told that she would need to lose at least 40% of her body weight before she could work as a model.* To fit into the high-fashion industry, she lost the weight and dropped to a US size 0. Along the way, she became anorexic. She would exercise for 8 hours every day and eat next to nothing.
Why I Should Like Crystal: After years of suffering from anorexia, she left the modelling world, recovered from anorexia, and gained over 70 lbs. She re-entered the modelling world as a plus-size model, fluctuating between a US size 12 to 16.
She also wrote a book in 2009 titled “Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves,” which exposed the unglamorous side of the fashion industry through her own experiences. She gave many interviews in which she described the pitfalls of a modelling career, the importance of seeking help, and how much happier she was now that the pressure was off her weight.
Why I Don’t Like Crystal: I was flipping through the March 2014 issue of Glamour and I stopped at a page. The model looked oddly familiar. Lo and behold, it was Crystal Renn, albeit looking much thinner. I found several more recent interviews online and she says that she dropped to a US size 8 without even trying. “I didn’t choose this, I didn’t ask for this, this happened!” she exclaims.** She credits a normal, healthy diet and exercise for her weight loss, but insists that she didn’t intend to lose weight.
Really? She didn’t try to lose weight? Not even a little?
I can see why it would not be in her best interests to admit that she was tired of being overweight. That she wanted to be thin again. Another obvious inference is that she may have lost the weight by falling back on some of her past anorexic behaviours, and admitting that would mark her as quite the hypocrite.
However, as someone who was never anorexic but used to be quite thin, it would be hypocritical of me to make those assumptions. But I can’t help but wonder. And the fact that she was able to cut her dress size IN HALF without even trying? It’s like a big slap in my face.
I also find it difficult to believe that she went from a size 0 to 16 without having any issues with binging. She speaks as though her relationship with food and her body image issues were completely cured once and for all as soon as she recovered from anorexia, making her magically immune to societal or industry pressures or disordered eating patterns.
I believe that there are few survivors of anorexia out there who happily put on 70 lbs and never thought twice about it. I also believe that there are few people who managed to drop 4 dress sizes without making an effort. Furthermore, I find it very hard to believe that someone who was in both situations no longer has any issues related to food or body image. It all just sounds a little too hunky-dory to me.
I don’t take issue with her weight loss (though many women do), but with the possible sugar-coating of her story. Honesty would be helpful to let eating disorder sufferers know what a realistic recovery looks like. But if she is being honest, then all the more power to her.
Why I Maybe Do Like Crystal: Regardless of how she managed to lose the weight, she is healthier at this weight. Forcing oneself to stay overweight is just as unhealthy as forcing oneself to stay underweight. Crystal is living proof that a woman can be stunning, sexy, and confident at any size, and her message of putting health and happiness first is highly respectable.
If her weight loss really was as effortless as she claims, then that’s wonderful. But as a former size 0 who has gained a lot of weight and is now finding it impossible to lose any due to my complicated relationship with food, I take her story with a grain of salt.
An Afterthought: Many of you may be thinking, “Why even care? You’re just feeding into society’s unhealthy obsession with celebrities’ weight.” While this may be true, I’m not going to pretend like this kind of thing doesn’t affect my own body image and self-perceptions. It shouldn’t, but it does. And if it affects me, then it probably affects other people too.