Bridget Jones is Not Fat

Bridget Jones looks just fine to me.

I’m more than glad to let pop psychologists and movie critics hold forth on Bridget Jones’ complicated relationship with her family, men, and her career. But I do have a few words to say about another complex relationship she has: with her waistline. Bridget Jones, to put the matter simply, is not fat!

Almost everyone who has read a newspaper or watched TV in recent weeks has heard actress Renee Zellweger declare that one of the central challenges she faced in preparing to play Bridget Jones was putting on enough pounds to be the fictional British scatterbrain. Reviewers have talked about her cellulite — and her big butt careening down a fire pole. While watching the movie, I was stunned to find a normal body on Zellweger. Though, in the movie she was repeatedly referred to as chubby or fat.

I kept finding myself thinking, but she’s not fat! And, sure enough, my hunch was confirmed when I read in Us Magazine (May 7 – 14, 2001) that the 5’5″ Zellweger said she gained 20 pounds above her “normal” 110 to a “whopping” 130 to play Bridget.

Only when she reached 130 pounds, Zellweger said, could she play the chunky Jones. The truth is 130 pounds would be a perfectly acceptable weight for anyone 5’5″. According to guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health , a person who is 5’5″ and 130 pounds has an ideal body mass index of 21.6. Not until she exceeds 150 — a body mass index of 25 — would she be considered overweight by American standards.

Based on those standards, 60% of Americans are more overweight (and have fatter butts!) than Bridget Jones. It’s enough to give one an inferiority complex. In fact, Zellweger’s self-described “normal” weight of 100 to 110 pounds is considered underweight and her “fat” Bridget Jones weight is right in the middle of the range of 115 – 150 pounds, which is considered healthy for anyone at 5’5″. Clearly one could say that all of this is just movies and Hollywood stuff, but it is important to get beyond false notions of weight and body appearance.

We all need to better understand acceptable weight ranges and not get distracted and discouraged by impossible standards: such as those created by recent photographs of the once again razor-thin Zellweger exulting that she is back to her “normal” weight. I think it’s important to bring this matter to light as these impossible standards lead to extreme dieting and eating disorders.

Besides, over half of Americans are overweight, and nearly 30 percent are dangerously obese — fat to the point where their weight threatens their health and survival. These people, agree most experts, need to get the message about losing weight.

Any woman at 5’5″, 130 pounds is not among them.

Bridget Jones may be batty, she might be flighty, she might have plenty of problems. But needing to lose weight is not one of them.

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