The Myth of the Effortlessly Perfect Girl (Or, Models Don't Eat Cake For Breakfast)

Sure there are naturally thin women, but women who look like models don’t eat fast food and beer every day. Can we be honest about this?
Publish date:
September 10, 2013
the frisky, eating, cake, beer

I watched "Drinking Buddies" last week. It was actually decent as far as romcoms go -- no happy ending, no super-sexist narratives about crazy/desperate/needy women, and no Rules crap.

Set in a brewery, Olivia Wilde stars as “Kate” –- a “just one of the boys” kind of character, working in a male-dominated industry. She eats fries and drinks beer every day and goes to the bar after work with the guys she works with (which is all fine and good, of course); all while looking like a supermodel, albeit a we-put-her-in-chucks-so-that-makes-her-plain-right? type.

And Wilde actually does look like a supermodel –- that isn’t the problem. But, generally, women who look like models don’t eat cake for breakfast, burgers and fries for lunch every day, drink beer constantly, and still manage to maintain a very thin figure and wake up in the morning with clear skin, perfect eyebrows, shiny hair, and fresh breath.

This might work for *some* teenagers (I was one of those who had super fast metabolism and did eat fast food and crap all the time without gaining weight until I was 21 or so ), but rarely for women nearing or in their 30s, like Wilde. And rarely, actually, for most women on the planet.

This perfect-woman-who-acts-and-lives-like-a-teenage-boy creates a destructive ideal that is all but impossible for women to live up to. Yes, there are women who can eat cake for breakfast, drink their faces off every day and never gain a pound or get a zit, but it’s rare.

For most women, it would require a huge amount of work -- the dieting, the exercising, the kale smoothies -- to fit that mold (and, actually, for most women there's no amount of dieting and exercising that will make them model-thin). It's simply an unrealistic expectation and one that no one should try to live up to.

I don’t, by any means, have a “perfect” model-thin body -– but I do pay attention.The last time I had a piece of cake was four months ago. Which isn’t to put myself in the position of advocating cake-abstinence. I’m not evil. But I also don’t see how it’s helpful for me to pretend as though I eat whatever I want, whenever I feel like it and avoid the gym like the plague. It’s just not true.

Julie Gerstein wrote about "The Myth of the Eating Actress" for The Frisky last week, pointing to "the major disconnect between what actresses look like and what they supposedly eat on TV and in interviews" and the way in which this dangerous for women. She says: “It’s not a comfortable subject, but the way that women and eating are often portrayed in media is super skewed.”

It’s for this reason that I feel relieved when an actress admits that she never eats carbs and works out six days a week -- not because I think anyone should have to do that, but because, for once, super thin and beautiful stars aren't pretending like they eat pizza every day and laze around in their sweatpants. Women already feel as though they are imperfect without the added confusion of wondering why they don’t wake up looking like Olivia Wilde.

And "The Myth of the Eating Actress" isn't just a Hollywood phenomenon. The trend coined as “the documented instance of public eating, or DIPE” has extended into the realm of us normies via the obsessive posting of food photos on social media.

In the area of Vancouver I live in (and I know y’all hate the word “hipster,” but I’mma use it anyway) there is an abundance of very thin, young, fashionable, middle class women. Many of them diet like crazy, even to the point of taking diet pills (and I know this, because the honest ones tell me), refuse to eat carbs (everyone's allergic to gluten suddenly), and are constantly going on weird cleanses and detoxes. YET every time they eat a freakin cheeseburger, it's on the internet.

Pretending that you eat poutine and donuts on the regular while maintaining a size 2 figure (if it's not true) sends women a message that says we should expect perfection and that this perfection should be effortless and natural. It tells us there's something wrong with us if we eat whatever we want but don't have tiny thighs. I'd far rather those women just say: "Yeah, actually I'm hungry all the time. That's why I'm thin," than pretend that beauty and thinness is effortless. Because it's not.

It takes me 45 minutes to blow dry and straighten my hair. It takes time to put makeup on (and I don't ever leave the house completely makeup-free, even when it looks like I'm barefaced, I'm not. So don’t “You look so great without makeup” me.). I don't eat fast food and, though left to my own devices, I'd eat pizza every single day, I rarely do. I have to take my makeup off every night and I've been using wrinkle cream since I was 25. I love doughnuts. I eat them maybe once a year.

The most "model-like" I've ever looked was when I was a bridesmaid for my sister's wedding. And we had spray-on tans that cost about $100, had to wake up at 7 AM and have our faces airbrushed on, and then spend an hour getting our hair done. All in all, it was hugely expensive, extremely time-consuming, and is something that would only be sustainable if I were wealthy and made looking beautiful a full-time job.

I say this because I think it's unhealthy and unhelpful for men and women alike to conceal the work (and yes, it is work) women put into managing and monitoring their looks.

Olivia Wilde is beautiful. And there's no way she eats cake for breakfast, has fries and beer for lunch, parties every night and then wakes up with amazing skin and slips on a size 0 pair of jeans. I'm sure that girl is every man's dream girl. Too bad she doesn't exist.