In Hollywood, new moms are feeling greater pressure than ever before to lose their baby weight -- and quickly. It seems that as soon as a starlet gives birth, tabloids and even legitimate publications are on round-the-clock weight-loss watch, and the public invariably eats it up.
This year, two high-profile women became the target of cruel gossip both during and after their pregnancies.
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Bollywood sensation Aishwarya Rai has been the target of critical attention around her post-baby body, and the scrutiny has helped open up a dialogue about the unhealthy standards imposed on women.
The 38-year-old stunner, who was crowned Miss World in 1994 and frequently named the world's most beautiful woman, gave birth to a daughter in November of 2011. Since then, she has faced public and media scrutiny about her weight that borders on harassment. Videos such as FAT Aishwarya Rai Attends Mukesh Ambani Party and SHOCKING! FAT Aishwarya Rai hit the web and incited an onlsaught of comments - some supportive, some not so much.
"She's absolutely beautiful. She's gained weight, so what? She's gorgeous," wrote one YouTube user in response to the latter video.
Others weren't so generous.
"Let's be REAL AND HONEST. She used to be gorgeous, now she is ugly. 'Fat' doesn't 'suit' everybody," said a meaner-spirited commenter.
Jessica Simpson's expanding belly became the butt of jokes well before she gave birth - and the criticism has not subsided since she welcomed baby Maxwell into the world May 1.
In March TMZ announced that Simpson signed a $4 million deal with Weight Watchers to lose all of her baby weight - but in order to cash in, Simpson must lose the weight in five months. The headline on the TMZ story? "Jessica Simpson -Professional Fat Person."
Simpson's weight gain has provoked comments from a wide range of public figures, including Sarah Palin, who scolded Simpson's critics, and Joy Behar, who criticized the singer for being "fat," while complaining that piling on Simpson about her weight wasn't worthwhile.
"Remember the time that Jessica Simpson was criticized because she didn't know the difference between chicken and tuna? " "The View" host asked on her show. "That kind of thing is more fun to criticize than the fact that the girl is fat.
"Most women who are pregnant are not supposed to gain more than 25 pounds," Behar added. "She looks like she gained a lot more than that."
Satirical outlet Weekly World News recently released the faux report "Jessica Simpson Loves Being Fat." The mock news story purports that Simpson is tired of trying to shed her baby weight and has come to the conclusion that "It's a much better life being fat. There's no pressure, no expectations on you. Fat is beautiful!"
While Simpson's deal with the weight loss company indicates she's eager to shed the pounds, Rae is unmoved by the negative press surrounding her fuller figure.
"I am a mother. This can happen and it has happened with me and it's fine," she told the Indian media of her weight gain. "I've never been the one who endorse size zero anyway."
Rai proudly flaunted her curvier physique at the 65th Cannes Film Festival last month. By contrast, Simpson has barely been photographed since giving birth and is reportedly finding that her contract with Weight Watchers is too much pressure.
In Touch maintains that the singer/fashion entrepreneur is "stressed and overwhelmed" due to the daunting task of losing 50 pounds in five months. It doesn't help that photographers have camped outside the gym where she works out. Photos, some of which seem to be deliberately unflattering, are routinely being published on the internet - often alongside photos of the singer at her lowest weight.
The weight loss goal set for Simpson left some outraged.
"The pop star-turned-pro-fashionista signed up with Weight Watchers, which you would think would mean she'd be aiming to lose the safe, gradual, and advised one to two max pounds a week," reported The Stir, a site geared towards mothers. "But NO. 'In Touch' is reporting that Jessica's weight loss goal is to lose 50 pounds in just five months (!!!).
"Talk about a totally stressful way to set yourself up to fail!"