People love to keep an eye on celebrity weights. Indeed, whenever someone famous puts on or loses a few pounds, you can bet that their fans and followers will start talking about it. But actress, writer and Girls creator Lena Dunham beat everyone to the punch when she discussed her own weight gain. And the way in which she dealt with the news got people talking.
Lena Dunham often gets people talking, in fact, since she’s almost as noted for stirring up controversy as she is for her talents. And many of these debates revolve around her body, which Dunham has been notably outspoken about over the years. She’s even participated in a nude photoshoot and posted a photo of her naked body on Instagram – activities that have been met with mixed responses.
But Dunham has also found herself embroiled in trouble of a different kind. In September 2016 she wrote about an incident involving Odell Beckham Jr.; specifically, she claimed that the NFL star had ignored her at the Met Gala because of her weight. “It was like [Beckham] looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards,” Dunham said in the article for her Lenny Letter newsletter.
This assumption earned a lot of backlash, and so Dunham was forced to issue an apology. However, she mentioned her weight in that statement too. “Despite my moments of bravado,” she posted on Instagram, “I struggle at industry events – and in life – with the sense that I don’t rep a certain standard of beauty. And so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses, it’s hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage.”
Dunham continued, “I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what [Beckham] was thinking [and] then presented those assumptions as facts. I feel terrible about it.” But this would be far from the last time that Dunham would write about her body.
In February 2018, for instance, the writer and actress revealed that she had been through a hysterectomy after an endometriosis diagnosis. Dunham’s piece for Vogue saw her relate some of what she had felt before and after her procedure. “Sometimes it takes a while for the reality of infertility to set in, the rage. The doctor needs evidence he’s operating on someone resolved enough to give consent and never take it back,” she explained.
And Dunham also went into detail about how her body had buckled under the condition. “In addition to endometrial disease, an odd humplike protrusion and a septum running down the middle, I have had retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse, so that my stomach is full of blood,” she wrote. “My ovary has [also] settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk.”
The end of Dunham’s article, however, implied that she was bouncing back after the operation – although she was saddened that she could no longer get pregnant. “I was meant for the job, but I didn’t pass the interview. And that’s okay. It really is,” she revealed. “I might not believe it now, but I will soon enough. And all that will be left is my story and my scars, which are already faded enough that they’re hard to find.”
Then, after Dunham had received good feedback about her Vogue piece, she took to Instagram to thank her well-wishers. “Your body failing you is a loss that’s hard to explain, and yet the amount of messages I’ve gotten from women in a similar predicament has been so overwhelming, loving and heartening,” she wrote. “Thank you to the village of women who took care of me through this entire process.”
But the star didn’t stop talking about her body. In July 2018 – not all that long after her operation – she once again posted on Instagram. And the photo she shared was a composite of two shots each depicting Dunham during different periods in her life. Most notably, in one image she was thin, while in the other she appeared to be heavier.
Alongside the images, Dunham wrote, “On the left: 138 pounds, complimented all day and propositioned by men and on the cover of a tabloid about diets that work. She added, “Also, sick in the tissue and in the head and subsisting only on small amounts of sugar, tons of caffeine and a purse pharmacy.”
Then Dunham contrasted that message with her description of how she had felt at a higher weight. “On the right: 162 pounds, happy, joyous and free, complimented only by people that matter for reasons that matter, subsisting on a steady flow of fun/healthy snacks and apps and entrees [and] strong from lifting dogs and spirits,” she continued. The message was clear, then: Dunham actually preferred her body when it was bigger.
“Even this OG body positivity warrior sometimes looks at the left picture longingly, until I remember the impossible pain that brought me there and onto my proverbial knees,” Dunham finished. “As I type, I can feel my back fat rolling up under my shoulder blades. I lean in.”
And in the comments to the side of the post, many people expressed happiness at Dunham’s attitude. “I too stare at pictures of myself when I was blonde and skinny, and I loved how clothes fit me, [although] I was not happy and in a bad place mentally,” one person wrote. “[However,] I am not happy and free as you say, and I still have negative thoughts about myself. It’s like a cycle I can’t get out of. Thank you for sharing this!”
Unfortunately, there were also some rather more negative remarks. “I’m not judging you, but when you’re 60 your heart and knees will be screaming,” came one comment. “Every day you wish you wasn’t FAT… Keep lying to yourself and convincing others to be unhealthy and insecure is the way to go… NOT!” another individual said.
Celebrities often find themselves as targets of trolling – particularly in relation to their bodies. Many, however, have fought back. Precious star Gabourey Sidibe, for example, had a scathing riposte to people who had mocked her at the 2014 Golden Globes. “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night,” she tweeted.
Lady Gaga has had to deal with talk about her body too, after people criticized her weight at the 2017 Super Bowl. However, the pop star responded on Instagram, writing, “I heard my body is a topic of conversation, so I wanted to say [that] I’m proud of my body. And you should be proud of yours too – no matter who you are or what you do.”
Even Beyoncé, one of the most famous women in the world, isn’t immune from body-shaming. Her hit song “Bootylicious” is actually all about the topic. The superstar has explained, “I wrote ‘Bootylicious’ because, at the time, I’d gained some weight. And the pressure that people put you under – the pressure to be thin – is unbelievable. I was just 18, and you shouldn’t be thinking about that.”
Unfortunately, poor body image is still a problem among many people – especially girls. And a 2018 study by British researchers Martin Graff and Oktawia Czarnomska has indicated that women who spend a long time on social media are more prone to dislike their own body. This dissatisfaction in turn may even lead to eating disorders.
Seeing celebrities celebrate their imperfect bodies, then, could potentially be beneficial over time. And since her post in July 2018, Dunham has uploaded images of herself in underwear, in body paint and once again completely nude to Instagram. Hopefully, then, her actions will have a positive impact on how women of all body shapes feel about themselves.