The Real Housewives of Orange County star Shannon Beador has faced a lot of ups and downs during her tenure as cast member, including: her husband David's very public extra-marital affair, allegations of spousal abuse by fellow cast member Vicki Gunvalson and vicious feuding with multiple castmates. In season 12, Shannon is dealing with an issue many women can relate to -- being overweight. Shannon's unique position as a Bravolebrity gives her a platform to reach out to other women whose self-image takes a hit every time they look in the mirror or go out in public.
More often than not, the Housewives use their fame for personal gain or self-promotion. There have been exceptions when cast members have spoken out on issues such as addiction, physical and sexual abuse, alcoholism, animal cruelty, LGBTQ rights, eating disorders and police brutality. Shannon's weight obsession may seem inconsequential in comparison, but since fat shaming is still a perfectly acceptable form of abuse and the Housewives' franchise often emphasizes superficiality over substance, Shannon's struggle is a very important storyline and goes much deeper than her ability to fit into skinny jeans.
Thin Is In
Real Housewives' cast members, for the most part, can boast small waistlines. Real Housewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel became a millionaire building a brand called Skinnygirl. Over the years, stars from every installment of the franchise have had zero problem admitting to multiple plastic surgeries and procedures (fillers, Botox) to keep them looking younger and attractive. Lately, there's even been an increased focus on procedures like vaginal rejuvenation, promoting the idea that even the most intimate body parts can't be tight or fit enough.
With casts comprised of ex-beauty queens, models, actresses and socialites, only a handful could be considered close to average in size. Housewives can be ex-cons, alcoholics, pill poppers, negligent parents and liars and they don't endure the same level of ridicule as Shannon has for being less than picture perfect. The proud exception to the rule is The Real Housewives of Atlanta whose more voluptuous cast members make no apologies for their weight and even celebrate their figures. Bless you, Phaedra Parks and your booty-baring thong bathing suits.
Shame on Fat Shamers
Shannon blames the change in her physique on the stress and admits she turned to food and alcohol as coping mechanisms. Shannon has stated that she feels embarrassed and ashamed about letting herself go. So far, Shannon hasn't had much of a support system, claiming her husband has grown distant emotionally and physically. Her best pal Tamra Judge, who spent season 11 readying herself for a fitness competition by foregoing booze, denying herself guilty pleasures like...food and working out non-stop, has said that she believes Shannon wants to be healthy but lacks motivation. When the two went to dinner, Tamra chastised Shannon for her food choices in front of fellow ultra-thin cast members Lydia McLaughlin and Peggy Sulahian.
One of the most disturbing reactions to Shannon's physical transformation was that of her trainer, Dr. Tim Ramirez (Ramirez is a chiropractor who hocks supplements and cleanses on his Pacifica Wellness website.) When Ramirez weighed Shannon, his response was "Wow, okay." Pretty nasty stuff, given not many women would allow the results to be broadcast on national TV (Hasn't this guy heard if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?) Then he suggested he take a step back as Shannon disrobed, and once again let out several more "wows" at the sight of Shannon in a sports bra. Ramirez told Shannon she should be disappointed in herself. Perhaps, Ramirez should consider a career in motivational speaking instead.
Shannon insists on her Bravo blog
that Ramirez is a long-time friend, and she wasn't the least bit offended by his behavior. Which brings us to the harshest critic of Shannon -- herself. Shannon needs to be mindful of throwing around the "f" word (fat) with such disdain. It's understandable she's dealing with a severely negative self-image, but just because she's battling some bulge doesn't excuse insensitive behavior (The average American woman weighs 166.2 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
-- roughly six pounds less than Shannon at her episode 3 weigh in.)
We all want to be onboard with Shannon getting healthy, but in addition to showing kindness to herself, Shannon needs to extend it to others in the same boat and consider the feelings of women who can't afford a personal trainer to shed excess pounds.
The Real Housewives of Orange County should continue to chronicle Shannon's journey to lose weight, and she should be applauded for being brave enough to invite fans along and encouraged to discuss it. Shannon wrote on her blog "I am learning again that I am a strong person that can accomplish any goals I set if I work hard and am committed." Hopefully, the end result will be the message that women should embrace and love themselves no matter what their size as long as they're healthy. That could be the most "real" thing the show has ever done.
Can you relate to Shannon's struggle? Do you think she's whining about her weight too much? Is obesity an issue the show should tackle? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
(Image Courtesy of Bravo)