Teddi Mellencamp is a new addition to the cast of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. For two seasons we’ve watched Mellencamp (yes, of that Mellencamp family) be the tough girl in the group. She stands up to the Beverly Hills bullies, runs a business, works out, raises her family, and has a marriage to work on.
When she first surfaced on the show, some people were surprised that this super fit, put-together Los Angeles tiger mom used to look like a (beautiful) normal woman instead of a Bravo Housewife. I’ve never heard an internet commenter say she looks bad in her “before” photo (which actually says a lot by internet commenter standards), but the Los Angeles veneer in the second photo is some kind of skin people put on when they have money in LA, it’s just a distinct and noticeable shift in her vibe.
Teddi was inspired by her own weight loss and makeover to start and run her own business as an accountability coach. Basically the business is that she provides meal plans and cardio time minimums to her clients and they must send her photos of their weight on the scale, their meals, and engage in body checking with her depending on what level of her program they’re on. As far as I can tell she has no traditional training in mental or physical health, nutrition, weight loss, or disordered eating, but her website is intentionally vague about it:
Her business, All in by Teddi, has grown over the years she’s been on the show. She now has other coaches she works with who are hired by her once they complete the program themselves, a strategy familiar to those who have been involved with multi-level marketing companies.
At the top of her website, you can see a quote by a prominent holocaust survivor who probably never imagined his words would be used to encourage women to avoid food recreationally:
Today, a Reddit user shared a Facebook post by an anonymous woman who bought Teddi’s program and claims that she was asked to eat only 450 calories per day:
This person signed an NDA so they didn’t share what the specifics are, but from what I can gather it’s two weeks of a 500 calorie a day vegetarian meal plan, an hour of cardio 7 days a week, and texting Teddi or one of Teddi’s staff photos of your food, weight, and body.
To put this in context, 500 calories a day is not a healthy meal plan for anyone. Prisoners in concentration camps during the holocaust ate almost 3x this amount of calories.
This client describes her own experience as ‘severly unhealthy’. She became obsessed with food and neglected her work and personal life. She had panic attacks. These are the side effects she experienced after only two weeks of Teddi’s program. She says, “they don’t teach you how to live a healthier lifestyle, they teach you how to starve yourself.” It puts a darker spin on the scene a few episodes ago where we saw Teddi drunk in bed yelling “I’m so hungry.”
This isn’t a hit piece. I believe Teddi thinks she is helping women, not harming them. But the harm is objective, egregious, and bleak as hell.
To be fair, this is an anonymous woman providing the info and Teddi’s program could consist of meal plans that are all 1200 calories and up depending on the needs of whoever she is working with. Maybe she does have someone with a medical background she works with. Hopefully even a therapist specializing in disordered eating. I hope that’s the case. But the client’s claims don’t seem outrageous to anyone who has been a dieter.
It’s not empowering to want your body to change so badly you are eating 450 calories a day. (It’s also not really effective, as people who go on crash diets tend to be overloaded with “help I’m starving” signals from their body and brain until they overeat and gain the weight back). Making women happy because they’ve temporarily been able to exert some control over their body is just sad, but I understand how she got to this point.
Earlier this month I found my first diary. It’s a neon Lisa Frank notebook with ice cream cones and teddy bears and at one time had a lock on it. I kept it from 1994 to 2003 when I went off to college. I’ve flipped through it a few times over the years and just noticed a few cringey emo kid moments. This time I read the little personality form I’d filled out at the front of of the diary. My favorite TV show was Friends, my favorite color was sky blue, and the first of three goals I had for my life was to “lose weight and look better.” I was nine.
I honestly just sat down and got overwhelmed with emotion. Why hadn’t anyone told me I was nine and didn’t need to lose weight? Or that my purpose as a nine-year-old wasn’t to look beautiful for others?
Those body thoughts that were brewing in 9-year-old me didn’t stop, they grew into an eating disorder I struggled with for more than two decades after that entry. I’m still struggling with it now. It’s negatively affected my ability to have healthy relationships with men and disappeared years of my life. Teddi has young girls in her house that are listening to her talk to her clients. I can’t help but wonder what their diaries sound like.
This isn’t an accusation, it’s a cry for help.
It’s exhausting to be a woman. It’s exhausting that so many people think it’s a good idea for women to starve themselves in order to feel worthy. It’s exhausting that we know how much we hurt ourselves and then we grow up and we become complicit in raising a new generation of women who also want to disappear.