Kate Middleton, Body Fat, and Biological Clocks

Posted on September 17, 2012


Well, two things have happened recently in the press concerning Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge:  first, Katie Couric commented publicly that she thinks Middleton is “too thin”; and second, some intrusive photos of the Duchess sunbathing topless have turned up in the media.  There’s also a third thing that has been bubbling for a while, and that is the “baby watch” as the public eagerly awaits any sign that the royal couple might soon be expecting.

Regarding Couric’s remark, normally I wouldn’t find weight-related comments about public figures to be particularly interesting or even appropriate.  But… a woman who marries a future monarch has that one little niggling detail in her job description:  produce heirs to the throne.  And body mass relates directly to fertility.  Girls need a certain amount of fat to begin menstruating; adults need even more to continue ovulating. As Professor Rose Frisch found in her research, “…there is a razor-thin borderline where losing just 3 lbs in weight can tip a normal sized woman over into infertility without any outward sign at all that such an enormous event has taken place.”

As for the photos, they were an invasion of the Duchess’s privacy, but the only thing they show me is that today, a year and a half after her wedding, Kate seems not to have gained back a single pound of her pre-marital weight.

Kate was never plump by any stretch of the imagination, but in the years before her marriage, she appeared healthier, to my eye, anyway.  Way back in 2002, she participated in a lingerie fashion show for charity at her college.  She is slim, but her arms are nicely rounded and her face and neck have just the right amount of fullness.  She still looks okay at the time of her engagement announcement in November 2010.  But by April 2011, she was being criticized for apparently dropping as much as 10 pounds in preparation for her wedding.  Her face had become gaunt, the veins stood out on her neck, her arms had become sinewy and her upper ribs were visible in her open neckline.  Months later, in a July 2011 visit to Canada, she appeared much the same.    The British public waits with bated breath for any sign of a “baby bump,” but I suspect that until the Duchess puts on a little more body fat, the Brits might just keep on waiting.


Maybe this article could be taken as just one more petty criticism of a royal personage whose images are hung out for the public to pick at, but it’s not my intent to focus on her mere appearance.  Royal couples have a duty to carry on their bloodline, and I certainly hope that this royal couple is not intentionally putting off having children, but… they have been married 17 months now, and  research indicates that 90% of couples conceive naturally within 18 months.  At this point, observers might be forgiven for starting to wonder.  Kate needs to keep in mind that at 30, her fertility isn’t getting any better.  If adding some body fat might help matters, then that’s what she should do.

I understand the pressures of constant scrutiny.  It’s another big part of being a royal:   to appear in the public eye and live the life of a role model and fashion plate.  Diana famously suffered from bulimia after enduring tabloid criticisms about her weight.  To that I say:  get real.  The lady had two kids, and it’s petty, snarky, and unrealistic to expect her to magically waltz out of the maternity ward in a size 4 dress.  But the flip side of that is that rather than taking the criticism to heart, Diana might have smiled and said very frankly that yes, she was a mom now and while she was trying to work back toward her pre-baby weight, perhaps some things change forever with parenthood.  What a welcome dose of reality that might have been for the millions of regular moms out there who have discovered the same thing!

Alas, it seems that Kate Middleton has fallen squarely into the same trap that Diana was in:  the need to be impeccably thin and fashionable so as to avoid criticism.  Well, Wallis Simpson was wrong when she said a woman could never be too thin.  Biology will do what it does, no matter what the cameras show or what the media says.  If Kate wants to produce an heir, she needs to do it now, and the best way to start might be to add some calories to her diet.