Kardashian weight-loss show perpetuates body image insecurity

Khloé Kardashian’s new show “Revenge Body” has recently garnered attention and—like many of the Kardashian’s commercial endeavors—conflict. In the show, contestants are selected to undergo a complete physical makeover with the hopes of getting “revenge” on their old lifestyles. 

Kardashian became the face of the “revenge body” movement after her split with Lamar Odom. As someone who somewhat shamelessly follows the lives of the Kardashians, I watched her transformation occur right on my Instagram feed. Her social media accounts were flooded with workout tips, gym selfies and motivational quotes. She became the poster girl for how to “win” a breakup. 

Kardashian lost a lot of weight and dyed her hair blonde, and people took notice. Her hope in creating “Revenge Body” is to allow non-celebrities to undergo the same miraculous transformation as she did.

There is a lot to unpack when looking at the problematic aspects of “Revenge Body,” such as the clear issues of putting white, patriarchal norms as the standard of beauty to which everyone should aspire or even the suggestion that self-worth and happiness are contingent upon weight loss. 

The Kardashians are no strangers to promoting similar unhealthy values. They quite literally promote these values on their social media, advertising products such as “Skinny Teas,” waist trainers and diet pills. “Revenge Body,” however, may be their most nefarious act so far.

The trailer for the show begins with a relatively positive message as Kardashian discusses her previously toxic relationship with food that left her unhappy and unhealthy, which she overcame through healthy eating and exercise. 

This quickly becomes dangerous, however, as it suggests that weight loss was the only factor in Kardashian’s newfound happiness—that her self-worth is contingent about thinness and her “obsession” with exercise.

The premise of the show is not supposed to be explicitly about revenge after a breakup, but rather “the life that you once had,” as Kardashian states on the season one trailer. Moments after this, however, contestants are asked to list who their revenge body is for. Some responses included an ex-fiancé, their mothers and their friends. 

The suggestion that problems with interpersonal relationships, self-esteem issues and unhealthy mindsets can be fixed with gym sessions, haircuts and laser hair removal is absurd and dangerous. 

Oddly enough, these physically exhausting and often painful processes can offer contestants an easier solution than looking inward and addressing the deeper emotional issues that create these feelings of inadequacy. 

It’s natural to desire change when we feel like we are unhappy with the trajectory of our lives. Channeling self-loathing and sadness into obsessive weight loss, however, is not the same as, say, getting a haircut, learning to knit or adopting a puppy.

“It’s not about a weight number, it’s how you feel,” Kardashian said in a trailer for the show. 

This is subsequently followed by clips of trainers barking orders at contestants who work themselves to exhaustion and look miserable as they stand on a scale. It may be unwarranted to expect a deeper understanding of harmful Western beauty ideals—such as body hair removal and spray tanning from a Kardashian sister—but these obvious displays of fat-shaming and harsh judgment take these issues to a new level. 

The bigger issues come into play when filming ends. The excessive amount of training and time commitment Kardashian promotes are simply unsustainable in everyday life. After reaching the short-term goal of weight loss, it may be hard for contestants to grapple with the fact that long-term issues persist—even if they drop three dress sizes.