Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala diet is a bleak return to Y2K diet culture

Kim Kardashian wants us to know that she lost 16 pounds (just over a stone) to fit into her Met Gala dress. In one of the evening’s most talked-about style moments, the 41-year-old arrived at the fashion industry’s night of nights wearing Marilyn Monroe’s JFK gown, the dress the late actor wore to serenade president John F Kennedy with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in 1962.

Speaking to US Vogue, the reality star said she wanted to “cry” when she first tried on the dress and it didn’t fit. “I always thought she [Monroe] was extremely curvy. I imagined I might be smaller in some places where she was bigger and bigger in places where she was smaller. So when it didn’t fit me I wanted to cry because it can’t be altered at all.”

Kardashian added that in her mind there was only “one real option”: to slim down to fit into the dress. “It was this or nothing,” she told the publication, adding that her extreme routine in the run up to the gala included wearing a sauna suit (a suit that retains sweat, often used by athletes to lose weight before a competition), running on the treadmill and completely cutting out “all sugar and carbs”. “I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict,” she said. A month later, the dress fit like a glove.

Kardashian then repeated these comments on the Met Gala red carpet, subsequently setting the body positivity movement back a decade or two in the process.

Until the 2010s, when body positivity really took over, fad diets were a staple in mainstream media. When I was in my early teens, I remember reading about a fad diet Beyoncé had done to lose 14 pounds before a tour. The singer would reportedly make “lemonade” out of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup – and she drank just this for two weeks straight.

My relationship with food, and subsequently my body, has never been a healthy one. Growing up, I would wonder why I didn’t look like all the other girls I was friends with and wanted something to change, quickly. So when I read about this miracle “diet” in a magazine, I decided to try it out for myself. Surely if it could work for Beyonce it could work for me? Long story short, it didn’t. The drink was awful (I still shudder thinking of the taste), and any weight I lost was put back on as soon as I started to eat regular food again.

This pattern repeated itself for a decade as I jumped from one fad diet to the next. It wasn’t until I discovered the body positivity movement that it stopped, and I started focussing on fuelling myself with food that felt good rather than trying to lose weight in the quickest way possible. Despite working to have a better relationship with food, the same thought I had when I was a child is still there: If I lose weight, I will be happy.

While I know this isn’t true, and I consider myself to be a mostly happy person, seeing these comments from Kardashian has brought back all the insecurities that have plagued me for the better part of 20 years. While fad diets may have taken a beat recently, glamourising rapid weight loss has not. Just look at Adele or Rebel Wilson. Two women who have achieved immense success in both of their chosen fields, and both who have been endlessly praised for their recent weight losses. The message this praise sends is clear: you only have social currency if you are slim.

Social media users have been quick to voice their outrage at Kardashian’s comments too. One user wrote: “Kim Kardashian looked beautiful at the Met Gala, but she has promoted unrealistic body standards for YEARS (diet teas, waist trainers, $$$ procedures, etc) and her talking about losing 16 lbs in 3 weeks to fit into Marilyn’s dress (which no one should get to wear) is appalling.”

Writer Stephanie Yeboah wrote: “Kim Kardashian proudly saying she went on an extreme diet to lose a stone in three weeks to fit into a dress she was only allowed to wear for less than 10 minutes is frankly disgusting and irresponsible.”

Are we really surprised by Kardashian’s comments though? After all, her body is her brand. It’s what SKIMS, her billionaire-making shapewear line, is built off. And she, along with the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner siblings, were pioneers of diet teas, of the waist training corsets that they struggled to breathe in, and of, let’s be honest, making plastic surgery mainstream.

Even Khloe Kardashian, who was for years singled out for being the “fat one” among the sisters (at a time when she was still smaller than the average woman), publicly made it her mission to lose weight and mimic the enhanced body shape her elder sister is known for. When weight loss and an Instagram-perfect body is so entwined into your core being, of course you’re going to do anything you can to look perfect, to fit into the dress.

The fact that Kardashian had to lose weight to fit into a dress worn by someone who was considered “curvy” for their time shows how far we’ve come in terms of body standards. But when it comes to diet culture and the pressure to be slim to be seen as a whole person? Not nearly far enough.

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