In Hollywood, what begins as a highly personal process can snowball into a month-long tabloid beat, a red carpet obsession and, for many female stars, a winding maze of public criticism.
For an industry that often demands its own version of physical perfection, life can be a relentless tug-of-war for the women who don't fit the mold. As experienced by the likes of Lena Dunham, Jennifer Hudson and more famous figures, when women do appear to shift their weight for whichever personal reason, it often continues to fan the body shaming flames instead of extinguishing them.
As the princess of pop perfectly captured such a catch-22 in her "Piece of Me" lyric, "I'm Mrs. 'She's too big, now she's too thin.'"
Amid a endometriosis battle, the actress appeared to change shape—something some spectators took notice of and responded with a new shade of disapproval. "Suddenly I got all these people saying, 'You're a hypocrite. I thought you were body positive. I thought you were a person who embraced body types of all sizes,'" Dunham continued. "I do. I just understand that bodies change. We live a long time. Things happen."
Four years later, the actress had shed 80 pounds and was a newly minted Weight Watchers spokeswoman—a move that shook her supporters. As the public alarms were sounded, Hudson had to accept that she would not be able to win over everyone.
"There really is no winning with losing weight," she told Piers Morgan in 2012. "First you can't do it, then you do it, then you're too small and it goes from there and it never ends, but that is why you have to do it for you."
"I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes," Gabourey Sidibe, who secretly underwent laproscopic bariatric surgery, told People of her inspiration to lose weight.
"I did not get this surgery to be beautiful," she elaborated in her memoir. "I did it so I can walk around comfortably in heels. I want to do a cartwheel. I want not to be in pain every time I walk up a flight of stairs."
"I still feel hot, but every day is different," she told the magazine. "It's when I put on the jeans that used to fit a year ago and don't fit now and give me the muffin top, that's when I say, 'Damn!' "
For Ashley Graham, a longtime model and body activist, simply appearing like she had lost weight after launching a career in the plus-size industry triggered immense digital backlash.
"To some I'm too curvy. To others I'm too tall, too busty, too loud, and, now, too small — too much, but at the same time not enough," she wrote in a piece for Lenny Letter. "When I post a photo from a 'good angle,' I receive criticism for looking smaller and selling out. When I post photos showing my cellulite, stretch marks, and rolls, I'm accused of promoting obesity. The cycle of body-shaming needs to end. I'm over it."
"For the past sixteen years, my body has been picked apart, manipulated, and controlled by others who don't understand it. But now my career has given me a platform to use my voice to make a difference," she concluded. "My body is MY body. I'll call the shots."