Eight months ago, when bloggers railed on paparazzi shots of her fleshy frame in a skimpy swimsuit, Jennifer Love Hewitt posted a call to arms on her Web site:
"What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my life and my engagement to the man of my dreams, instead of having to deal with photographers taking invasive pictures from bad angles. … Like all women out there should, I love my body," wrote Hewitt, who shimmied around in her skivvies as a star of Hanes' ad campaign.
The blog followed a series of particularly nasty headlines, including TMZ.com's notorious "We know what you ate this summer, Love -- everything!" The Web site later apologized, and Hewitt used the jibes to inspire women to embrace their bodies, whatever the size.
"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini -- put it on and stay strong," she wrote.
But now, the slimmed down "Ghost Whisperer" star is on the cover of Us Weekly, preening next to the headline "Jennifer Love Hewitt Exclusive: 18 lbs in Ten Weeks!"
Though she tells the magazine she lost weight to boost her energy level and not because of nasty comments on the Internet, she posed on the cover with her head high, her smile triumphant, her "butt and boobs" shrink-wrapped in a form-fitting dress. The headline beside her might as well read, "See? I'm Skinny Again. Just Try and Call Me a Fattie Now."
What's up with Hewitt bucking the weight loss bandwagon then jumping on it?
"It doesn't convey any sort of consistent message," said David Katz, director of Yale Medical School's Prevention Research Center. "One of the reasons to say 'I love the skin I'm in' is because you really do. Another reason is simply being defensive -- 'I don't want to fess up but I'm going to say I'm happy and I'm going to lose 18 pounds in three weeks as soon as I can.' I'm going to guess hers was the second reason."
"Her story doesn't make sense," Katz said. "If she had to lose weight to get her energy back, that means she wasn't OK with her weight back then. She didn't have enough energy."
Latifah Loved It, Then Lost It
It's not the first time a star has spoken out against the stick-thin Hollywood standard only to turn around and drop pounds.
Queen Latifah refused to conform to the Barbie-doll aesthetic when she migrated from the hip-hop realm into the mainstream entertainment industry. She rocked the red carpet as hard as starlets one-fourth her size and broke ground as a plus-size spokeswoman for Cover Girl cosmetics.
In November 2007 Latifah graced the cover of People magazine, grinning above the headline "200 Lbs and Loving It!" She told the magazine that at 5 feet, 10 inches tall, she weighed "in the 2's" and couldn't be happier. "I feel more comfortable with myself -- my sexuality, my mentality and my viewpoint," she said.
But two months later, in January 2008, she became the face of the Jenny Craig weight loss campaign.
"For me, it's not about a body image sort of thing. I feel pretty confident about who I am," she said at a news conference at the time. "But I do realize that I am a role model for a lot of people."
Love's Weight Loss Could Cost Her Fans
But Latifah's turnaround didn't raise eyebrows the way Hewitt's has. She never lashed out at the media for circulating and commenting on "invasive pictures from bad angles" only to later pose on the cover of a magazine bragging about her weight loss.
True, like a one-time nerd who rolls up to his high school reunion in a Maserati with the quarterback's ex-girlfriend, Hewitt may have seized the opportunity to pose on the Us cover to get back at her critics.
"It was going to be out there," said Howard Bragman, founder of Fifteen Minutes PR and author of "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?" "You've got two choices -- you can deny the weight loss and keep your head in the sand or you can control the release of it and how you did it."
But Hewitt garnered a lot of respect when she rebuked her online haters last year. And by contradicting her "love thy thighs" manifesto, some say she risks alienating the people who stood up for her.
"How do you think those same girls, with butts, boobs, et. al, are feeling now that you posed for the Us cover boasting your weight loss secrets?" Jezebel blogger Jessica Grose asked last week. "The size of your a-- is not my business. It's not anyone's business! But it seems like you're happy to flaunt it for the masses, as long as it's an 'acceptable' size."
What's more, according to Katz, Hewitt's rapid weight loss story is likely to mislead readers.
"For decades now, as obesity's gotten worse and worse, our society has been preoccupied with rapid weight loss by silly and ridiculous means. I'm not impressed by 18 pounds in ten weeks. Frankly, cholera can do better than that. So can AIDS -- that takes the pounds off really fast," he said. "People really need to get perspective. Lose 18 pounds in three weeks? So what, if over the next six months you're going to gain back 30?"
For the non-famous, Katz said the moral of the story is tried and true: Eat right, exercise, stop obsessing about the number on the scale and start focusing on feeling good. For Hewitt, no pun intended: "Maybe she should learn to love the skin she's in."