Have you noticed how many reality weight-loss TV shows are clogging up the airways lately? Biggest Loser, Dance Your Ass Off, One Big Happy Family, Ruby, DietTribe, Celebrity Fit Club, and Honey, We're Killing the Kids, to name a few. But the REAL body image lessons aren't coming from Jillian Michaels' whipping boys on Loser or Screech on CFC - they're being taught by far trashier reality TV stars like Snooki, Heidi 2.0 and the Kardashian sisters.
Reality star: Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
Show: Jersey Shore
Lesson learned: Work with what you've got.
The 4'9" fireball, who was teased on the show for being overweight, recently admitted she had suffered from an eating disorder in the past. But after weeks of endless binge drinking and late-night noshing on the Shore, Snooki learned that beer bongs and encased meat products do not a flat belly make. She recently told People magazine that she gained weight on the show but is dealing with it by rocking sexy one-piece bathing suits versus more baring bikinis. "I'm just a normal person, not a model," she said. "We all have flaws. We work within them to look our best." (This sounds far more mature and composed than her typical show dialogue. Sample: "My ultimate dream is to move to Jersey, find a nice juiced hot tanned guy and live my life.") She's now working on losing the Jersey Shore weight with lots of salads and chicken, plus cheerleading-inspired workouts. "I am pretty happy with myself now. [But] I want to feel better."
Reality star: Heidi Montag
Show: The Hills
Lesson learned: If it ain't perfect, fix it.
Heidi Montag was feeling bad about her body. She hated her "Jay Leno" chin and her "Dumbo" ears, plus her nose, cheeks, neck, breasts, waist, hips, back and inner thighs. Despite the fact that she was widely considered a perfectly cute, attractive young woman, she considered herself an "ugly duckling." And so, on November 20 of last year, without notifying her family, the Hills star subjected herself to a marathon 10-hour, $30,000+ surgery, during which she underwent 10 different procedures, from a chin reduction to a DDD breast augmentation to neck liposuction.
And yet...she's still not happy. She wants even larger breasts. And, shocker, her personal life is in upheaval - she's cut herself off from her parents, rumors of her addicted to painkillers are swirling and she's filed for divorce. Her surgical demise is proof that even the most quote-perfect-unquote body and face won't bring you happiness if you're still miserable on the inside.
Reality star: Kate Gosselin
Show: Jon & Kate Plus 8
Lesson learned: You CAN get your pre-sextuplet body back.
Before delivering six kids at once, Kate Gosselin's stomach looked like this. After birth, it looked like this. Now, thanks to a free tummy tuck provided by a sympathetic viewer's plastic surgeon husband, it looks like this. It's kind of amazing, actually. I know I rally on and on about the ridiculous pressures placed on moms to snap back to pre-baby shape, but the truth is, I'm sure that after I get pregnant and give birth, I'll probably wind up killing myself at the gym to lose the paunch. And that's just after housing one child. Kate had SIX. I'm not advocating serious plastic surgery for all moms, but I do understand wanting to correct what could be construed as a disfiguring reminder of childbirth.
Reality star: Teresa Giudice
Show: Real Housewives of New Jersey
Lesson learned: "Buh-bies" are the key to happiness.
The cash-obsessed mom of four helped introduced the world to her special Jersey pronunciation of the word "boobies," as she modeled bikinis and explained that her husband loves her body, small chest and all. "I was an A-cup, and I liked them. They were perky. I didn't mind being small," she has said. "But after I breast fed, they looked different. I looked at them and went, Ewwwwww. They were deflated. I was just a big nipple." The answer: A boob job, which she says helped restore her body confidence.
Fine, whatever, she took a page from Kate Gosselin's book. But what worries me is the way her four daughters are being brought up with a seemingly single-minded focus on looks. They wear miniature designer clothes (Giudice once spent $2,000 in 10 minutes of shopping), and daughter Gia is a child model who recently received an all-terrain vehicle and a trip to a spa in a pink stretch limo with her friends for her 9th birthday. I'm all for little girls seeing their mom happy, but when that mom is also pushing a "beauty is on the outside" approach and so clearly believes money is the key to happiness, it doesn't bode well for them as they mature, their bodies change, and they begin to face issues like dating, self-esteem and sex.
Reality star: Bethenny Frankel
Show: Real Housewives of New York
Lesson learned: A good sense of humor, lots of fruits and veggies and a little good tequila can make you beautiful inside and out.
Personally, I find Bethenny immensely likable. She witty and sassy, she's hardworking and entrepreneurial and I couldn't help rooting for her as I watched her dreams of love and pregnancy come to life over the last year. The organic chef wrote a book called Naturally Thin which seems to advocate sound principles like moderation, portion control and mindful eating. I'm also a wee bit jealous of her rock-star bod and covet her ability to blurt out appealingly snarky comebacks at a moment's notice. Smart is sexy.
All you ladies who spend endless hours at the gym eeking out side leg lifts or lunges in an attempt to slim your thighs and tone your glutes: Ignore all the professional advice that insists you cannot reduce fat in a specific area. Because one look at The Situation's abs suggests you can, in fact, choose a sole boy part to obsess over and then chisel and mold said body part to your heart's content. It also helps to affectionately name this body part (Sorrentino chose his because, he says, he was once on a beach in New Jersey when a girl walked by with her boyfriend and, seeing his abs, went a little crazy. Sorretino's friend turned to him and said, 'Mike, that's a situation right there.'") I'm going to start referring to my butt as "Cheeky McLuscious" from now on. Be on the lookout for boy shorts with that emblazoned across the rear at a Spencer's Gifts near you.
This blog originally appeared on iVillage's NeverSayDiet.