Fitness Star photos by mmmou812ic. From the Flickr Creative Commons.
We are a celebrity obsessed culture. Everywhere we look there is some ultra-glamorous person staring back at us–someone who is so impossibly beautiful with a perfect face and slim body. We are instantly captivated and listen to whatever these gorgeous people have to say, important or not.
It’s very silly really. For those of us not living in Hollywood, if we look around at people we actually know, nobody looks like this. Every person has some aspect of these attractive features but almost nobody gets them all.
So why does every celebrity look like this and how do they do it?
I initially assumed that the perfect celebrity appearance was driven by either vanity or peer pressure but when it comes to celebrity women, there is another huge factor at work . . . money! This recently published research article tells us that pay for female actresses older than 34 drops off a cliff and declines significantly with every year of age. Meanwhile, male actors continue to increase their pay until age 51 and can essentially maintain their earnings from there. You have to see the dramatic chart on page 7.
So, if you are a Hollywood actress older than 34 you have an incredibly strong incentive to do whatever you can to look younger. I imagine that the pressure is also intense on younger women to keep looking like their teenage selves.
Celebrity men don’t appear to be immune to the pressure to look young and fit either. While you can still make good money as an older celebrity male, indications seem to be that you make even better money if you are an older, fit-looking one.
So if we understand that some of the motivation for having these perfect bodies is basic survival and wanting to be able to work to maintain your celebrity lifestyle, the next question is how do they do it? How do these celebrities look like that when none of the rest of us can?
Everyone is shocked at the moment by the stunning throwback photo of Gwen Stefani where she looks quite average as a teenager. How did she become a beauty queen?
When it comes to answering this question, probably the most truthful answer is:
There is one truthful yet random factor, however:
Genetics – While probably the least important contributing factor to celebrity looks, we do have to acknowledge that some attractive features like height or bone structure are generally only achievable through winning the genetic lottery.
Since we can’t yet control our genetic makeup and most of us are stuck with our perfectly imperfect bodies, there is another answer for celebrities-in-training:
Plastic Surgery – If you spend even a small amount of time reading celebrity news you are well aware that just about every celebrity has had a massive amount of cosmetic surgery. Nose jobs are extremely common as is breast augmentation for women. As women age, tummy tucks (especially after pregnancy), face lifts and liposuction play a role. Yet it is a very rare celebrity who will admit to having any work done. More often you will hear denials of plastic surgery and claims that their bodies are all the result of hard work, good nutrition and exercise.
But let’s acknowledge that celebrities lie. For example, Tori Spelling came clean recently that she openly lied to a magazine about how she achieved her pregnancy weight loss. She was told by a publicist to say that she was swimming all the time (because apparently people don’t like to hear about weight loss through dieting) when really she just was starving herself.
Also, in the age of blogs and YouTube, we now know the stories of real people and their weight loss journeys, making us a little less likely to believe that everything just happens to go perfectly in the world of celebrities. Take, for example, celebrities posing in bikinis months after birth with perfectly flat stomachs and perfect belly buttons. Hmmm…..let’s compare some real people.
Our first brave example is this 5’5” woman who exemplifies diet and exercise and is a former fitness model. After two pregnancies, her stomach has loose skin and stretch marks even though she is about as thin as a healthy person can possibly be. She gets a tummy tuck to correct her problems.
Our second example comes from the Moelleken plastic surgery’s website. The woman in the blue jeans and white top in their tummy tuck photo gallery appears to be quite tall and slender and could easily be a model of some sort. Most women would be thrilled to look like her “before” picture. Yet, this tall, slender woman without a stretch mark in sight still required a “hybrid” tummy tuck with belly button modification and liposuction after what appears to be a pregnancy. If she needed help, why would we believe that supermodels don’t?
If you look at this photo of Kate Moss in a bikini, the pattern of weight on her stomach seems to show off exactly where a hip-to-hip tummy tuck scar would be.
Plastic surgery isn’t just for movie stars and supermodels, though. Reality show contestants get it too. If you are wowed by the transformations on shows like The Biggest Loser, there is something about the final weigh-in show that always seems surreal. How come none of the contestants suffer very much from loose, baggy skin? Here, a brave woman reveals on YouTube her saggy stomach after her 140 pound weight loss.
Why do none of The Biggest Loser contestants have this? At least one Biggest Loser winner, Olivia Ward, has admitted to having a tummy tuck after her weight loss. And I’ve always found it curious that there is often a time delay between when the contestants go home and when they show up on the results show. Certainly there could be time for a quick procedure, no? Recovery time for a body contouring procedure can be just two to four weeks according to the Cleveland Clinic.
As an aside, this has been a pretty bad season for The Biggest Loser in terms of revealing the seedy side of weight loss. First, we had the bombshell incident wherein trainer Jillian Michaels gave caffeine pills to her contestants disqualifying their weight loss for one week. Whether or not caffeine is beneficial or damaging to health, the incident just served to emphasize in people’s minds that diet and exercise alone is not enough. Also, Rachel Frederickson’s final skeletal weigh in at 105 pounds does not seem healthy at all. I can only hope it was her mean competitive streak that pushed her to go so far and that she will put back on 10-20 pounds for her maintenance weight.
Also, we should know that the plastic surgeons that celebrities see are probably different than the ones available to ordinary people. In this sad article about a woman jumping to her death after plastic surgery, it gives the interesting detail that Dr. Brian Novack, plastic surgeon to the stars, does only 3 procedures per week and spends up to 12 hours on each surgery. If you wanted to hide your plastic surgery this would be exactly the type of doctor you would want.
Non-Surgical Fat Treatments
Even if you decide plastic surgery is too dramatic and could leave scarring but you just want a little extra boost, there are options for you. Newer cosmetic procedures use laser liposculpture to melt fat and improve skin appearance. This dramatic video shows how a simple laser treatment melts fat and even seems to eliminate loose skin.
Here is a former Miss USA contestant admitting to using this technique to get into bikini-baring shape.
And here is professional dancer Kristina Rihanoff admitting to getting her thighs frozen in a liposuction type of treatment.
Keeping the Weight off Post-Surgery
Even if you make the dramatic decision to have plastic surgery, you are not off the hook forever. You still have to work hard on your diet and exercise to keep your body weight down so that the plastic surgery retains its youthful appearance.
So, of course, there are many natural, healthy options to do this but how is it that celebrities always stick to their diets and never have cravings for sweets or high calorie foods? Why do they never gain an ounce ever? They would like us to believe that they are just more disciplined than the rest of us but what else could it be? Are there some secret tricks they are using? Here again, there are many other non-diet and exercise possibilities.
Smoking – It is not hard to find pictures of celebrities and models smoking. Chemicals in nicotine both suppress your appetite and also speed up your metabolism to help you burn fat.
Drugs: Cocaine and Crystal Meth The doctor interviewed in this Fox News segment claims that drugs are rampant in Hollywood circles and that weight loss is a major reason why. It makes it even harder to quit drugs when you know that when you do you will most likely gain a large amount of weight.
Cocaine has been scientifically shown to make people thinner. The exact mechanism is unknown but cocaine seems to interfere with the body’s ability to store fat. Crystal meth apparently helps you drop weight extremely quickly through some sort of combination of appetite suppressant and metabolism-boosting properties.
If it sounds absolutely unbelievable that someone would take on the dangers of cocaine or crystal meth addiction just to lose a few pounds, check out this story indicating that a 32-year old elementary school teacher did exactly that, with horrifying results.
Drugs: Prescription medications There might not be prescription diet pills per se but there are many medications out there with weight loss as a side effect. Again, the Fox News article indicates that use of these drugs is common among celebrities.
Adderall and other amphetamine-like medications. We have all heard about Adderall as an ADHD medication or a “study drug” for college students but it is apparently a frequently abused prescription among people seeking weight loss.
It apparently decreases appetite through mechanisms not entirely understood but having something to do with making the body produce feel-good chemicals similar to what are produced when we eat a good meal. Some users report losing up to 50 pounds with Adderall and skinny people lose up to 10 pounds, becoming the ultra-skinny.
However, Adderall is addictive and if you take it long enough, it leads to psychotic behavior.
Clenbuterol and T3 – Clenbuterol is apparently a medication given to horses for respiratory problems and has not been FDA approved for use in humans for any reason. Yet someone figured out that it can burn fat and increase muscle in humans. Apparently bodybuilders have known about this drug for some time and often use it in combination with T3, a thyroid hormone medication that apparently increases the number of calories your muscles require. Long-term use of clenbuterol has been linked to heart problems.
Testosterone – After the age of 30, apparently testosterone decreases by 1% per year in men. Taking testosterone supplements to boost testosterone levels and build muscle mass has been shown to promote weight loss in some studies. Side effects of testosterone supplementation, however, include acne, low sperm production and an increase in red blood cells which can increase your risk for heart disease.
Fat Blocking Medications – There are a number of medications that work to prevent the body from absorbing fat. They are called lipase inhibitors. One of them is an over-the-counter drug called Alli and its prescription-strength equivalent Xenical. You are not supposed to take these medicines unless you are overweight, have already tried diet and exercise modifications and you are generally following a healthy diet plan. Side effects of taking fat blockers include reduced ability to absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins, liver damage, loose stools and passing gas more often. Weight loss on these drugs is generally modest, about 3-7 pounds per year.
If all of the above fail, there is always Photoshop. Since most of us will never see celebrities in person, it is easy for them and for magazines to doctor their photos in any number of ways to make them appear slim and more fit. Jezebel’s “Photoshop of Horrors” is a great resource for exposing all of these alterations.
You don’t need an expert photographic retouching artist to do this either. Apparently there are many cell phone apps that can whiten teeth, smooth out wrinkles, and lighten blemishes. You can also make your body look slimmer (or curvier) in photos too.
I was unaware all of this was possible until reading this story about evidence of Photoshopping in Kim Kardashian’s recent selfies.
A blogger wrote an article with the great title of “You Look So Different on Facebook” discussing how often we are seeing Photoshopped pictures of ourselves and our friends to the point that we have no idea what real people look like anymore.
My whole journey into researching celebrity appearance started when, after my weight loss last spring I started to wonder what I could look like if I just stuck with good diet and exercise. The only points of reference that most of us have are models in magazines or the fitness instructors on our exercise videos. If we just exercise long enough will we look like them? As you can see, the answer is that we probably won’t—not unless we also have plastic surgery or use various weight loss drugs. For most of us, it is nice to have a visual reference of what we are aiming for and if we have a completely unrealistic ideal as our reference, how can we feel anything but disappointed and unmotivated? It would be so nice to have some verified “real” (i.e. no plastic surgery or drug-induced) weight loss and fitness examples to follow.
Some might ask why it matters whether people are having plastic surgery or using other “cheats” to get that perfect body. After all, if I really wanted to, I could do that too. Am I just jealous?
No, I don’t think I am. Seeing all of these cheats for the perfect body has numerous impacts on all of us. First, it sets up completely unrealistic body expectations, particularly for young girls. Second, it starts an arms race for skinniness. How far are you willing to go for that perfect body? Do we really want to be encouraging everyone to risk their lives and health to achieve something completely unnatural? Sadly, all this pressure leads many people exactly that direction:
How many people might we be driving toward drug addiction with this emphasis on skinniness?
I would much rather work to encourage the media to adopt a broader view of beautiful. Undoubtedly supermodels can make any piece of clothing look better but wouldn’t we also like to see the average-figured woman also looking beautiful? We are seeing the beginnings of this movement and I only hope we can all encourage it by supporting these brands.
For me it has been helpful to know all of these celebrity body tricks. I now feel like I am better at spotting them. As the old adage goes, when something looks too good to be true, it probably is. While I still am in search of some real role models, I at least can help myself appreciate where my own diet and exercise progress is and feel a little more confident that I am on the right track.
Are you surprised by any of the above? How are you affected by celebrity images? Please share in the comments.