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Nothing grabs a news headline like a failed celebrity weight-loss attempt.

Kirstie Alley (left) is well aware of this, as is Oprah (below left).

Our very own Magda Szubanski copped it nicely after her speculated failed weight loss journey joined the UK riots and a looming financial crisis as ground-breaking news on a recent Wednesday evening.

What is it about weight loss, or rather weight-loss struggles that interest us so much?

Is it that we revel in the fact that others, no matter how rich or well-known, too can struggle with the battle of the bulge, or simply that we are all so weight obsessed that the magazines and television producers know that a weight headline will guarantee them ratings, no matter how light on the story?

Without a doubt it is human nature to use others’ misfortunes to make us feel a little better about our lives or, in this case, our own weight battles.

If celebrities can remain popular, wealthy and hugely successful with some extra weight, this almost gives us permission to do the same.

Mind you, we love seeing thin celebrities just as much, because they epitomise what many of us would really love to be: thin, popular and hugely successful.

The reality is though, that it tends to be much easier to be too fat than too thin and the entire weight loss industry’s foundations are built on the fact that the process of losing weight, and keeping it off, is actually extremely complicated.

While reality television weight loss shows may explain the transformation of individuals who lose 100-plus kilograms as a simple balance of calories-in versus calories-out, significant weight loss in the real world it is a different story.

It is for this simple reason that so many of us struggle with our weight on an ongoing basis.


The Herald Sun reported last week that Magda Szubanski had parted ways with Jenny Craig.

Weight loss is hard, very hard and it takes much time, commitment and energy to lose even a few kilos, let alone 30 or 40.

As a weight loss specialist I can honestly tell you that to successfully lose and keep off 20 or more kilos you are looking at a life-long commitment and at least a two-year weight loss intervention.

Yes, calories-in versus calories-out are one part of this but there are also numerous other metabolic, physical and psychological variables to consider that don’t just make weight loss a specific science but also extremely hard.

Not only do both diet and exercise regimes need constant monitoring and altering, hormone testing in consultation with an endocrinologist is often necessary.

In most cases, there are behavioural interventions required to teach us how to control our eating behaviour in different situations and perhaps, most importantly, there may also be significant psychological variables needing attention.

Now, this is not to say that weight loss is impossible. In fact, the benefits of losing weight and, more importantly, learning to control it long-term will always outweigh the negatives as individuals ultimately regain control of their body and their lives.

What it does mean is that for any individual who battles with their weight, whether it be a celebrity, your best friend or yourself, is that weight control is complicated and we never know what is really going on physically, emotionally or mentally for that person.

And this could not be truer than when it comes to the celebrities we know and love, whether they are too fat or too thin.

We simply do not know what other variables may be impacting on their ability or desire to lose weight and keep it off, and the truth is, it really is none of our business. In fact, the best thing we can all do is to concentrate on controlling our own weight because, to be honest, that is hard enough.


*Susie Burrell is one of Australia’s leading dietitians with degrees in both nutrition and psychology. Susie regularly appears on Channel 7’s Today Tonight and Sunrise and is a regular contributor to Woman’s Day and SHAPE magazines. Susie released her first book, Losing the last 5kg last year and has a nutrition practice in Sydney. For more information go to

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  • Reply August 19, 2011

    shelley thomas

    I think there is far too much focus on people’s weight, especially the weight of females. There is not the same focus on the weight of men that is for sure. I hope Magda is happy regardless of whether she is associated with Jenny Craig or not. As for Kirsty Alley, I think her default weight is chubby and every once in a while she brings out skinny Kirsty. The same for Oprah. The older a woman is the harder it is to stay lithe. Look how hard Madonna has to work to maintain her scrawney self. That is not a look I would aspire too, from a health perspective or a weight perspective. I am a lumpy 50 year old carrying several kilos more than I would rather BUT my health is terrific, I look after my health through my diet and with supplements for Menopause and also with a good self image. When I was young I was thin but had a lousy self image so was thin in a bad way. I say ‘women of the world, be happy with yourself and within yourself. And yah boo sucks to how thin (or not) you are. Love and kisses all round.

    • Reply August 20, 2011

      Wendy Harmer

      In fact, thanks to all you gals who are already becoming the Hoopla’s best friends ( you know who you are). We (Jane, Caroline and I), do so thank you for your support of our new enterprise. We love bringing the Hoopla to you and get such a kick out of your responses.

      • Reply August 20, 2011

        Wendy Harmer

        Oh, and let’s not forget the wonderful, long-eyelash Donna, the Friday Emma and the ever-lovin’ other Donna who fly the trapeze in the Hoopla tent!
        You can see the Hoopla troupe is an ever-growing band and we love to have you with us. WH

  • Reply August 19, 2011

    lorene furmage

    Surely positive reinforcement is a much better way to encourage weight loss success. Magda lost alot of weight so she should be congratulated for that and encouraged to maintain the loss and if possible continue to her goal weight. Highlighting any recent gains in weight will only destroy this confidence in her ability to make further progress. A small bump in the road is not worth mentioning, its the long term goal which is important here.

  • Reply August 22, 2011


    Wow!!!! Somebody gets it, as someone who has struggled with losing and keeping weight off all my life, I wish this article could go global then all those naturally thin people might stop saying “Oh why don’t you just stop eating” Sure! and while I’m at it I’ll cut off one of my legs, that should take care of 10lbs of ugly fat. Thanks Susie.

  • Reply August 22, 2011


    Having just finished reading Sweet Poison it seems there’s a lot more to losing weight than ‘calories in….’ etc. It’s also about WHAT you eat. At Weight Watchers you can eat pretty much anything you like – and I imagine all the other weight-loss systems would follow a similar theme – as long as you eat a lot less of it. As soon as I went back to normal eating after losing 10 kilos I just put it all back on. So far, it’s been much easier to just cut out sugar (fructose) and eat everything else normally. I’ve lost three kilos in 6 weeks without even trying. But I’m doing it to feel healthy, not to change how I look – and I think that’s a much better incentive.

  • Reply August 22, 2011


    Now I love Magda, Oprah and all the other ladies mentioned in this article and I don’t disagree with the content here.

    However, I believe that part of the reason why the media report on celebrity weight loss “failures” is that the celebrities themselves crow so much about losing the weight, in the same media, in the first place. Just look at the womens’ mags for the “fabulous new me” article usually accompanied by some gushing praise for some weight loss product or recommendation that they have (usually for money) lent their name to.

    Such articles usually also include some ridiculous statement like “my life has changed now, I’m never going back there”.

    I say keep it private in the first place, don’t hawk yourself like a product and you won’t have an issue when it all goes pear shaped.

  • Reply August 23, 2011

    Seana Smith

    I love a good news story of health + happiness, but the gasp-horror weight regain ones are deplorable.. and probably as much due to Photoshop as anything, don’t you reckon? Thank goodness no-one is looking at my life so closely.

    Having been somewhat overweight all my life (but not slipped into obese generally) there’s something about the lateish 40’s that has got me sitting up and paying attention. Hurtling towards 50 seems to have made me realise that my eating habits need to change profoundly. Ironically I cook for four kids and a husband who are fit, slender and even skinny. Not fair!

    And things are changing, it’s easier to be accepting of life’s harsh realities when older, maybe? And also, I’ve eaten so much chocolate in my life, do I really NEED any more?

    Susie’s weekly emails are a great Monday morning reminder to help start the week well. Thanks Susie.

  • Reply August 28, 2011


    I love how it suddenly becomes “intervention…psychological help…constant monitoring…” etc whenever it comes to weight loss these days. I, myself am not thin. I have been bigger more than smaller for most of my life and think that the weight issue, apart from being a multi billion dollar industry and thus something that NO weight loss clinic or product wants any of us to succeed in for any length of time, the fact that we all feel so helpless and have no idea of what its like to eat a ‘normal diet’ any more goes to show that there is more at stake here than a few kilograms lost from those that want to lose it.
    I am heartily sick to death of people telling those of us that are overweight what is “wrong with us”. Get over yourselves! If we want to lose weight, its in this countries best interests to show us an effective and honest approach to doing so before the ‘obesity epidemic’ that we are constantly being thrown at us overtakes us all and the national health system breaks down under the (no pun intended…) weight of it all.
    I was 1 of 2 larger girls at my school. Yes…the entire school was thin apart from myself and another girl. What is the difference between now and then? A truck load of chemicals in our food, hijacking by the diet industry and removal of control via the media and our constant need to keep up with the Jones. Once we stop looking outside ourselves for our weight loss solutions, we will succeed. Till then, those of you who are overweight (and they have just revised size 14 to now be obese girls….) if you are going to eat, make sure that you enjoy doing so, so at least you wont die of stress or cancer. There are worse things to have as the monkey on your back (smoking for instance).

  • Reply September 14, 2011


    HI as a Natural Therapist, from my experiences, weight , is generally an energetic concept. from time of conception, we experience energy – every thing we do is energy and that becomes what I call a story, your story, and we have millions of them which stores in that amazing mind brain, memory, then cellular memory. And then it’s a matter of letting the energy go, or shifting it is what I do. Life is interesting isn’t it

  • Reply September 20, 2011


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