Weighty Expectations: Us Weekly and People are Obsessed with Moms' Bodies

Like millions of other moms, I eagerly click on photos of women's bodies every week to determine whose muffin tops are bigger than mine and who has more self-control than me after having a baby.
10/22/2012 04:03 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2012

The celebrity gossip industry, with People and Us Weekly at the helm, is about to introduce a real game changer. Ready to find out what it is? Well, here you go: People and Us Weekly are changing their names to better reflect their current obsession with moms and our bodies. People will soon be called New Moms: Fat Ass or No Fat Ass? You Decide!, while Us Weekly will become The Amazing Race: Which Moms Are Taking the Weight Off the Fastest and Which Are Miserable Failures?

Ok, you got me; I'm being sarcastic. These publications are not changing their names. But they are completely and absurdly preoccupied with women's bodies during and after pregnancy. Don't believe me? Guess how many moms People either posted a photo of or mentioned in the last week. C'mon, guess. The answer? I stopped counting at 15. This illustrious group includes Tori Spelling, Daya Vaidya, Holly Madison, Kelly Stables, Vanessa Lachey, Amber Rose, Uma Thurman, Megan Fox, Kristin Cavallari, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kate Hudson, Kourtney Kardashian, January Jones and Natalie Portman. Seriously. More than 15 photos or "articles" (I use that term loosely) about moms -- many about their bodies right after pregnancy -- in one week!

Now, in case you were worried, I'm here to reassure you that the mommy body scrutiny doesn't end after the wee ones go to kindergarten. Whew! Just ask Kelly Ripa. Us Weekly posted a series (yes, a series) of photos titled "Kelly Ripa's Amazing Bikini Body." Amazing? Do you know what I find amazing? That Kelly looks as skinny as the recent winner of the Chicago Marathon, Tsegaye Kebede, and we somehow think that this is amazing. Or something to aspire to. Or healthy. Or anything other than distressing.

Oh, how I'd love to join the daily editorial meetings at People or Us Weekly. Forget Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the Kings Men, deep in deliberation about building a news story. Instead, I picture a plush movie theater. Sitting in deep, comfy chairs are mostly women editors, bloggers and journalists munching on Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bars and drinking Red Bull.

In front of them, tons of screens filled with surveillance cameras are tracking every faux or not-so-faux celebrity of childbearing age. Freaky software automatically measures breast and belly sizes to determine if the woman is pregnant and, if so, how far along she is. Then image after image of curves and bulges are captured and published so the public can drown in all of these women's swollen glory.

Cameras not focused on the pregnant moms are zoomed in at the hospital, where they're connected to fetal monitors strapped to the women's bellies during labor. Editors and writers cheer the moms on as they push something the size of a football out of something typically the size of an avocado pit. Then those mothers are followed around for the next few months by men called paparazzi. Idiots like me gawk at the images they take each and every day.

That's right. Despite my better instincts and fervent objections, I regularly tune into this stuff. I can't blame this obsession with moms' bodies solely on snarky magazine editors. Like millions of other moms, I eagerly click on photos of women's bodies every week to determine whose muffin tops are bigger than mine and who has more self-control than me after having a baby. Jessica Simpson? Oh, poor girl, no willpower. Matthew McConaughey's wife, whose name I refuse to remember because she pops out a kid and heads to the beach the next day looking better than I ever will? Hate her!

Now, please, since we're having an open and honest conversation about this, don't even try to tell me that women such as Kristin Cavallari and Kourtney Kardashian are not loving the attention. And I'm sure others do as well, or at least they tolerate it as part of the game, particularly actresses who want to stay in the public eye while they take time off work for mommyhood. The readers, the media, the 'lebrities: we're all colluding in this dysfunctional mommy-obsessed dance where we envy, admire or feel smugly superior to other women based on a number on the scale.

Now, before you waste your brainpower or cramp your fingers in the comments section below, let me save you some time. I agree with you: If I don't like it, I should stop reading it. But I can't, because I'm totally addicted to this crap. I head over to these websites when I want a distraction from work. I read this drivel while trying to get through another 45 minutes on the elliptical so I can stay a size 2.

That's right. I'm a size 2, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't totally despise my body. There's not a night I don't feel like a failure because I can't look as good as the women who have managed, better than I, to remove all traces of what their bodies went through to create a new life. Obviously, it's not People or Us Weekly's fault that women like me feel like losers if we're not Kelly Ripa-skinny. But you're fooling yourself if you believe these publications don't influence how both women and men think moms should look.

Regardless of whether these publications change their names, the truth is right smack in front of us: People and Us Weekly are obsessed with moms and our bodies. And it's most likely because we, as a culture, are obsessed with moms and our bodies. How we can change this is way beyond me. I'm still paying way too much attention to the muffin tops -- mine and Jessica's.