How To Lose Weight And Alienate People, As Told By Khloé Kardashian
Hello and welcome to the start of a brand new year! You’ve probably noticed (because it’s very hard to miss) that diet chat around this time is pretty fucking unbearable. Gone are the “Treat Yo’ Self” days of December, enter the “new year, new me” proclamations, Instagram pictures taken from sweaty gym mirrors, and nosy onlookers asking whether “you should be eating that”. It’s January, which means it’s diet culture’s time to *shine*, so what better month for Khloé Kardashian to release her new TV series, a weight loss reality show called Revenge Body.
“Khloe Kardashian wants to help people get the ultimate revenge,” writes E! News, who interviewed her. According to Khloé, Revenge Body is “a show about taking people that not so much are seeking revenge in a harmful, malicious way, but revenge in the best way possible”. And what’s the best way to exact your revenge? Why, “a good body”, of course.
The title of the show, which premieres on E! in the US on January 12, made me burn with rage almost immediately. What the fuck is a revenge body? I thought. In what world should getting in shape be centred around the idea of one upping someone else, rather than your own well being? And how the hell is “a good body” better revenge than, say, cyanide?
Frustratingly enough, this is not the first show I’ve seen with this exact premise. Many years ago, when I was but a chubby child sitting on my living room floor, I remember watching a “transformation” episode of Maury. In it, individuals who had been bullied in the past for their looks, predominantly for their weight, had the opportunity to show off “the new them” to their ex-bully.
As the newly slim (and “newly hot”) guests paraded across stage to the sound of cheers from the audience, the ex-bullies cowered their heads in shame or nodded in quiet approval. Now that the person they’d bullied all those years was slim and conventionally attractive, they were supposed to see the error of their ways. They were supposed to see that actually, underneath all that fat, not only was there an actual PERSON under there, but a person worthy of latent respect, a half-hearted apology, and a generous helping of objectification. The victims, on the other hand, were supposed to feel vindicated in their triumph. Finally, I have lost the weight you bullied me for. Finally I am skinny. Finally I have won.
They hadn’t won, though. Not even close. This Moment of Glory, no matter how seemingly gratifying, always remained centred around the reaction of the abusers, rather than the abused. Whether they felt shame or vindicated, this moment was wholly contingent on the fact the abusers had succeeded in getting their fatter counterparts to comply. If a bully tells you being fat makes you worthless, and you lose weight just to prove them wrong, are you negating their opinion or confirming it to be true?
In the trailer for Revenge Body, Khloé speaks about her own experience as an “overweight kid”, which she claims prompted her to “put my energy into something positive and healthy…which is how I fell in love with working out”. She does not, of course, allude to the fact a large proportion of her own “revenge body” is due to circumstances most people could rarely dream of. How many people can say they have access to an on the clock personal trainer, a dedicated nutritionist, a glam squad on speed dial, a never-ending supply of waist trainers, and several cupboards stashed with Fit Tea, for example? With or without surgery (rumours of which are none of my business), these body goals are something even the best of us could never attain.
But this classic case of unrealistic, harmful beauty standards is not the only reason I’m mad at Khloé Kardashian. If I’m being painfully honest, I’m mad because I liked her. When I was first introduced to the Kardashians in 2007, I immediately took to Khloé because she was essentially the “odd one out”. She was 5 foot 9, like me, bigger than most people around her, like me, but unlike me, she was unapologetic. I related to her, and subsequently looked up to her, simply because she wasn’t skinny, and she didn’t care. So maybe that’s why my eye twitched a little when images of her younger self flashed on screen during the trailer, and she began shaming the person I’d once come to admire, and the “out of place” body I had.
The rest of the trailer is an intense montage of blood, sweat and tears, complete with the kind of dramatics you’d only expect to find in a show born of a Kardashian/Seacrest collaboration. Participants undergo luxury makeovers, while one woman is sternly told by a male doctor “pretty doesn’t come easy,” which is one of the biggest understatements ever and a terrible case of mansplaining, but somehow comes across as profound in the context of the show.
At the end of what appears to be a happy, successful conclusion, Khloé asks: “This revenge body, who is it for?”
One person says, my ex-fiancé. Another, my mom. The last, my friends.
Not one of them says: me.
And herein lies the problem.
I’m all for screwing the haters. Hell, I can’t wait to be rich and famous, so I can say “suck it” to a list of about 12 people. But ultimately, the decision to do something like lose weight (or not lose weight — because can we please stop assuming that everyone wants to lose weight?) should come from, and be about, you, not some dickhead that called you fat in year 9. And guess what? Even if you do get the “revenge body” you seek, it will never be enough because there is no finish line. No revenge will be complete, no diet will protect you from scrutiny. The goalposts of an acceptable body will continue to move and change, especially if you’re a woman. Even if you’re Khloé Kardashian.
The best way to “win”, as my friend Meg says, is to “walk away from the bullshit game”. Because when your body is no longer yours, but the body of those who shamed you, then the bullies have still won. And tell me, Khloé, what kind of revenge is that?