Princess Anorexia is a bad role model

by Jim Longworth

When news of Kate Middleton’s engagement to Prince William was first reported, I recall seeing photographs of her on the internet and in magazines. I was struck by what a beautiful and healthy young woman she was. Not so gradually I began to notice a disturbing change.

Just a few months after Kate first wore Diana’s ring in public, her hands were becoming bony, her arms thinner and on her wedding day, her face was almost gaunt. Rumors surfaced that she and her sister Pippa had a bet to see who could lose the most weight by the day of the Royal wedding.

Meanwhile, columnist Dave Masko recalled a joke that had circulated in the East End of London. “What will Kate eat during her wedding?” Answer: “Nothing mate, nothing at all.”

Accounts vary as to exactly how much weight Kate lost prior to the wedding, but most sources agree that it was about 30 to 40 pounds (She reportedly weighed 130 pounds on the day of her engagement, and 100 pounds while saying her vows). I believe it. Just look at photos of her visit with Michelle Obama, where Kate’s formerly athletic legs looked like sticks belonging to Olive Oil. Recent tabloid stories said that William had asked her to stop dieting after the wedding, but by the time the royal couple had landed in Los Angeles earlier this month, Kate had reportedly lost another 10 pounds.

Not surprisingly, health professionals have begun to “weigh in” on Kate’s rapid change of frame. Maxine Clark, a nutrition expert at the University of Oregon, said that Kate had “lost too much weight in recent weeks and looks emaciated.

“Now’s the perfect time to share information about bulimia nervosa,” said Clark, who reminded us that Princess Di had once been diagnosed with anorexia and admitted to having binged and taking laxatives in order to stay thin. Meanwhile, Fabio la De Clercq, founder of Italy’s Association for the Study & Research of Anorexia noted, “Kate’s bordering on anorexia.”

Amazingly, most royal watchers and media observers are in denial about Kate’s condition. Time magazine, for example, dismissed the Duchess of Cambridge’s weight loss to pre-marital stress, and cited a 2000 study by Cornell researchers who reported that 70 percent of women getting married want to lose at least 20 pounds. But Cornell’s Dr. Jeffrey Sobel also noted that their findings are a fairly recent phenomena. Said Sobel, “In the 1990s, there were relatively few entrepreneurial pushes to get women to lose weight, but that has changed since 2000. Now we have bridal boot camps and extreme makeovers.” But recent or not, the trend toward unhealthy weight loss by young women is disturbing.

In her new book Think, attorney and entertainment reporter Lisa Bloom says that 23 percent of American women say they would rather lose their ability to read than to lose their svelte figure. I don’t mean to divert responsibility away from those women, but this twisted logic is not self generated. Movie producers, TV show runners and runway maestros must accept most of the blame. Case in point, in 2000 Johns Hopkins University released results of a controlled study on women’s health in the Fiji Islands. They reported that prior to the availability of satellite TV in Fiji, young women were “robust, there was no dieting recorded, and no vomiting to lose weight.” But in the four years after American television was introduced to the island, 65 percent of girls were dieting, and 15 percent were vomiting to lose weight. Asked why the change in lifestyle, young women said it was because they wanted to look like Heather Locklear and other thin celebrities they had seen on television.

As noted by Dr. Sobel, the extreme weight-loss problem here at home is growing, thanks to entire industries that are devoted to promoting unhealthy and unrealistic images for women. Still, when Kate Middleton appeared on the world-wide scene, she had the perfect opportunity to help stem the tide of low self esteem and serve as a role model for young women. She could have inspired them not to succumb to societal pressures, but instead she herself bought into the propaganda of the anorexia industry. Now, young girls everywhere are watching the Royal Rail’s transformation, and they want to emulate her. How sad.

In time, Kate will begin to take in fewer polo matches so she can go visit third-world countries and be photographed as she comforts starving children. But if she continues her losing ways, we soon won’t be able to tell who’s comforting who.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).