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And you're my obsession

I love you to the bones

And Ana wrecks your life

Like an anorexia life
Silverchair: Ana's Song (Open Fire)

In a world where being very skinny is the ideal and being overweight has Unfortunate Implications, many people are self-conscious about their weight.

These (usually female) characters are obsessed with dieting in order to reach the ideal; commenting on their figure is often a sensitive point for them. However, not all characters with Weight Woe are overweight; many are just Hollywood Pudgy, and some are even told in-verse that they don't need to diet at all.

Sometimes this is a one-episode affair, usually because someone brings their weight up or they want to impress their Love Interest; but just as often it is a character quirk. In the latter case, the character is usually a yoyo-dieter, or has too little will-power to keep it up so nothing about their figure changes.

When Played for Laughs, the dieter is a Big Eater or has a huge Sweet Tooth that constantly foils their dieting plans; when Played for Drama, the dieter is suffering from an eating disorder. The latter in particular may be used for a Very Special Episode.

In real life, eating disorders of any kind are never funny, and sufferers should seek immediate help. Media often dictates that one has to be thin in order to be attractive. However, eating disorders are often more complicated, involving many emotions. Frequently the sufferer feels like they have no control in their life, so obsessively controlling their eating habits and body shape becomes the solution. (The need for control may seep into other areas of a person's life). Sometimes the control they seek is over their emotions, in which food can be used in many ways, like replacing their inner emptiness with an empty stomach or filling the void with food. In other cases the fat represents perceived badness, and they are purifying themselves by getting rid of it. This is dangerous and can become fatal if left untreated.

In fiction, however, Very Special Episodes notwithstanding, Weight Woe is usually Played for Laughs, most likely because of its sensitive nature and prevailance in real life. The control aspect is often ignored, and the cause of Weight Woe is almost always solely to do with a character's physical appearance, whether the issue is genuine or percieved.

On the other side of Weight Woe, there are those who are naturally very thin and can't put on weight. They are often accused of having eating disorders and discriminated against by others, usually out of jealousy. This often leads them to become just as insecure as those who want to lose weight. However, this side of Weight Woe is rarely, if ever, presented in fiction.

Sometimes being over- or underweight is caused by a gland issue or some other medical condition. Sometimes people falsely claim to have such a problem to avoid bullying or teasing, and quite often those who do have something wrong are thought to be lying as well. In fiction, claiming that a medical condition caused a character to be overweight is almost always just an excuse, akin to I Am Big Boned.

A Sister Trope of Muscle Angst.

Compare Huge Schoolgirl, a girl who is much taller and more developed than her peers and is insecure about it. Contrast Fat and Proud Big Beautiful Women/Big Beautiful Men, who are comfortable with their size and are usually portrayed as ideal because they are overweight. Also contrast Obsessed with Food, a person who is definitely not trying to lose weight.

Examples


Advertising

  • There was an ad for Weight Watchers (or some other diet system) that invoked/exploited this trope. A black & white shot of a pudgy woman staring at the camera, with moist eyes, as her Inner Monologue says "do you think I don't hear what you're saying behind my back?" etc.

Anime and Manga

Comics

  • Cathy defines this trope. (Ack!)
  • Fred Andrews, father of the title character in Archie is perpetually dieting and cheating on his diet.
  • A Running Gag with Wanda in Baby Blues. One story arc was solely about her trying to lose weight.
  • Garfield is sensitive about his weight and dreads measuring himself (especially since he has a talking scale that keeps insulting him). Though he alternates between this and Fat and Proud.

Fan Works

  • Katie "Pidge" Holt from Voltron: Legendary Defender always comes down with a case of this in any pregnancy fics or headcanons, usually the ones pairing her with Keith or Shiro. It doesn't matter that she's not the type to fuss over her looks, she will inevitably whine about how she looks like a beached whale or become triggered by the mere mention of hippos, needing her man to comfort her and tell her how perfect she is.

Literature

  • Maureen "Puddin'" in Robert Heinlein's short story Cliff and the Calories. She thinks her boyfriend would like her better if she were thinner, so she tries desperately to lose weight.
  • Bridget Jones, who obsesses in her diary about her weight. Her weakness is her love of alcohol.
  • Gossip Girl, the book series, had Blair as bulimic. They touched on this during the first season Thanksgiving episode of the TV show, but it was never shown to be as much of a problem as the book series, where Blair binged and purged at least once a book if not more.
  • Molly Sterling in Catherine Anderson's Sweet Nothings, thanks to her abusive ex-husband constantly putting down her full figure. It takes her first night with the hero, Jake Coulter, worshipping and cherishing her body, to get her to accept her body the way it is.

Live Action Television

  • The 2 part episode "Our Lips Are Sealed" from Degrassi has Emma developing anorexia as a way of dealing with the stress in her life.
  • Elliot during season 7 of Scrubs treats a woman with anorexia. Dr. Cox points out that Elliot weighs even less. By the end of the episode, she realizes that she is there to help her patients whether she is healthy or not. A year later, the same patient comes back, even more underweight, and Elliot is convinced that it is still anorexia, when in reality it was AIDS. However, Elliot puts the patient through a lot before eventually figuring this out.
  • The TV Biopic of Gilda Radner (from Saturday Night Live) portrayed her as bulimic.
  • Cassie on Skins is shown to have anorexia, in addition to problems with drug abuse, low self esteem, and some personality issues...In one episode she demonstrates to Sid how she fakes people out by pretending to eat.
  • Hurley on Lost is said to have a problem with over-eating.
  • During Season 8 of Frasier, as a way to mask Jane Leeves' pregnancy, Daphne gained considerable weight. While Niles pretended not to notice, she was the target of many fat jokes. She was sent to a weight loss clinic, and the psychology behind her weight issue was explored, in a sensitive and realistic way, in the episode "Daphne Returns."
  • A Very Special Episode of Full House had DJ freaking out about wearing a swimsuit to a pool party and going on a starvation diet. She collapses after pushing herself too hard at the gym, and is cured by a heart to heart with Danny at the end of the episode.


Film

  • Eating disorders are the subject of many a Lifetime Movie Of The Week.
  • In the movie Zoolander, Matilda confesses that she suffered from bulimea when she was a teenager. The other two characters, who are both male models, respond by saying that they do it all the time (once they figure out what she's talking about).
  • The movie Fatso is about a man (played by Dom De Luise) struggling with being obese, his food addiction, and his enabler mother.

Music

  • 4st 7lb by Manic Street Preachers is sung from the perspective of a girl who is enthusiastic about losing unhealthy amounts of weight. The lyrics were probably written by Richey Edwards, who was suffering from anorexia at the time.

 Stomach collapsed at five

Lift up my skirt my sex is gone

Naked and lovely and 5st. 2

May I bud and never flower

  • Sophie by Elanor McEvoy tells the story of a girl with Anorexia.
  • Canadian band Furnaceface's song "She Thinks She's Fat" includes the lyrics "She calls herself a cow/I say how 'bout a little bestiality." While it's Played for Laughs, the subject is also bulimic: "She eats ten buttered popcorns/and then she throws up..."

Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Patti Mayonnaise in an episode of Doug when she overhears Doug commenting on her weight (he was actually referring to a homemade vehicle he was making).
    • Doug himself had this in an episode of the original series after a week with his grandmother, in which he packed on quite a few pounds from indulging in junk food. He's back to his normal weight at the end of the episode, but not before showing insecurity about the "little tummy" he's always had.
  • In one episode of Hey Arnold, Harold becomes insecure about his size and strives to lose weight when he overhears Sid and Stinky mocking him. He goes on a cruise with the purpose of helping kids lose weight, but is even bigger when he returns. He manages to lose the extra weight with some help from Arnold, though.
  • Drawn Together has one episode where Toot Braunstein attempts to lose weight, both through bulimia and anorexia.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa Simpson had an episode of this when some kids at school made fun of her weight.
    • Homer bounces around this. Sometimes he wants to be thinner, but at least once he had woe because he wanted to gain weight in order to qualify for a disability so he could work from home.
  • Theodore and Eleanor from Alvin and The Chipmunks sometimes become self-conscious about their weight.
  • Played for Laughs in Daria. Especially the episode Arts and Crass which is centered around Daria and Jane creating a piece for the art competition about a girl with bulimia.
    • Later played for drama when Sandi Griffin gains a little weight after being bedridden with a broken leg for a few weeks. Quinn helps her slim down to her original size by the end of the episode, though Sandi has at least learned enough to accept that new Fashion Club applicants' weight should be judged on a case by case basis.
  • On American Dad Stan became anorexic. While he is shown to be getting heavier during the course of the episode, this is really a delusion and he is finally shown to be Nothing but Skin and Bones.
  • Played for Laughs in the later seasons of Family Guy where Meg Griffin is shown to be an overeater, and makes a habit out of throwing up after meals. She has far more issues than that however. Stewie even tells her one time that she should consider becoming anorexic and bulimic like the female ballerina dancers since it "seems to work out for them".
    • When the popular girls at school throw up, Meg says she loves to throw up to fit in.
    • Brian's dumb exgirlfriend Jillian is bulimic. Stewie calls her fat to make her throw up, and she makes comments about how she is losing her teeth.
    • When Lois becomes a Hollywood starlet, she shows off her newfound anorexia by having her friends play her ribcage like a xylophone.
  • Carla in Kidd Video was constantly on a diet, despite being pretty slender already.

Real Life

  • Tracey Gold, who played Carol Seaver on Growing Pains, seriously battled with anorexia nervosa for much of her life. Her condition became life threatening during filming of Growing Pains when her character was mocked as "fat" in multiple episodes, making her more obsessive about weight in real life. In 1992, she had to resign from the show for medical reasons, and would not return until the series finale.
  • Karen Carpenter of the popular 1960/1970's pop-rock group The Carpenters suffered from anorexia nervosa, and died from complications of the condition at age 32.
  • Lord Byron - obsessed with his weight and fasting
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