The Weight Issue: A Letter From the Editor
The way we-the media, the general public, friends, family, doctors, hiring managers, strangers on the internet-think and talk about weight and health is broken.
It's not news that your weight and health are linked. The problem is that we assume that losing weight will always make us healthier and gaining weight. The truth is that, while your weight can affect your health, it's certainly not the only thing that affects your health. And focusing on weight loss, the most important solution to living health, above all else, no matter what ... well, is often ineffective, to start (see Why Diets Fail and Why It's Not Productive to Just Tell a Patient 'You Have to Lose Weight' Much worse, prioritizing weight loss as the most important pathway to health can be harmful, in part because it perpetuates a number of damaging myths. Like the myth that a person's weight is easily changeable or just a matter of willpower. Or that there's a moral value tied to size. That if you are a bigger person, then the only thing you should be focusing on is losing weight, before anything else, and by any means. That people with bigger bodies are less worthy of dignity and respect than people with smaller bodies.
Much worse, prioritizing weight loss as the single most important path to health can be harmful, in part because it perpetuates a number of damaging myths. Like the myth that a person’s weight is easily changeable or just a matter of willpower. Or that there’s a moral value tied to size. That if you are a bigger person, then the only thing you should be focusing on is losing weight, before anything else, and by any means. That people with bigger bodies are less worthy of dignity and respect than people with smaller bodies.
These myths influence the way we treat ourselves and others. The focus on weight and the pursuit of a certain type of a physical body for aesthetic or health reasons can devalue other kinds of health-like mental health. And people with bigger bodies face bigotry and fat-phobia on a daily basis: In the doctor's offices, in the workplace, walking down the street. Our society is rewards people for having smaller bodies, even if the behavior that leads to an existing body is not healthy or sustainable.
So today we are publishing The Weight Issue, a collection of stories is intended to challenge how we think about weight and health, in an effort to move the discussion to healthier and more helpful place.
As part of this package, we’re launching our very first digital cover, featuring cover model Tess Holliday. The cover story, Tess Holliday's Health Is None of Your Business, by writer Ashley C. Ford, is an awesome conversation between two smart women who talk about, among other things, concern trolls, mental health, and accessible fashion.
Tess Holliday identifies as a fat woman; she recently published a memoir, The Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat Girl: Loving the Skin You're In. We chose to feature her and give her a platform because she has insightful things to say about thriving in a world that devalues bodies of size. We also chose to feature her because size representation is necessary, especially for a health medicine. We want to drive home that you do not know how healthy or unhealthy a person is just by looking at them, you do not know what their health goals are and do not know what they're doing. are planning to do for their health going forward. And besides, that concern is trolling-using a person's perceived health, it's abusive.
Our mission is to help people live healthier lives. In order to do that, we need to make it clear that wellness is for everyone, whatever you look like, no matter where you are in your health journey, or whatever of your health goals are. If your goal is to lose weight, that's fine-we have plenty of evidence-based information about that. If your goal is completely, that's also fine. Only you and your doctor know what healthy means for you. Your body, your business.
The bottom line is that you can read and understand healthy food, like eating nutritious food, getting exercise, sleeping well, nurturing relationships, and tending to their mental health. There is no weight-or weight loss-requirement to ride.
What You'll Find in This Package
Tess Holliday's Health Is None of Your Business
Writer Ashley C. Ford spent an afternoon at Disneyland with fat positivity activist and model Tess Holliday. Their conversation is righteous, thought-provoking, and important.
How Should Talk About Weight?
SELF was launched in 1979 as one of the very first women's health and fitness magazines. In our 40-year history, we've published stories, headlines, and pictures that contributed to the culture of stigma and unrealistic body expectations. This piece of lays out how we plan to do better in the future. It includes a style guide for how to discuss weight, health, and bodies that we've been working on internally for years. ~ When Losing Weight Is The Unhealthy Choice: Essay Series
When Losing Weight Is the Unhealthy Choice: Essay Series
Guest editor Ijeoma Oluo assigned and edited four essays loosely tied to the theme of choosing not to lose weight. We asked her to do this because of her own beautiful writing on this topic. Each writer tackles this theme from a slightly different perspective, and each story is worth spending real time with:
- The Way We Talk About Bodies Has Changed. What We Do About It Comes Next, by Lindy West
- Nope, I'm Not Trying to Lose Weight, by Jes Baker
- The House Next Door, by Sonya Renee Taylor
- I Manage My Chronic Illness With A Specific Diet, But Do not You Dare Call It 'Clean Eating,' by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Weight Stigma Kept Me Out of Doctors' Offices for Almost a Decade
This reported essay from anonymous writer doctor's office are tragically par for the course for anyone with a bigger body-and why that's so dangerous. Your Fat Friend reveals that her personal experiences with weight stigma at the doctor’s office are tragically par for the course for anyone with a bigger body—and why that’s so dangerous.
Why It's Not Productive to Just Tell a Patient 'You Have to Lose Weight'
Primary care provider Elisabeth Poorman, MD, explains that losing weight and keeping it off isn’t as simple as “eat less, move more" and explores her responsibilities as a doctor in how best to help patients live healthier lives.
Everyday Athletes Talk About What Strength Means to Them
This gorgeous photo series, shot by photographer Heather Hazzan and produced and written by Nora Whelan, is a testament to the idea that fitness and wellness should be for everyone, whatever you look like, what your body is capable of, or what size you are.
The Science on Weight and Health
SELF senior health editor Sarah Jacoby digs into a tremendous volume of research in this massive report. Think of it as an exceptionally in-the-weeds resource for anyone curious about what the science of science says and shows-including what we know for sure, and what we do not know at all .
Why Weight Loss Diets Fail
Nutrition researcher Kevin Klatt examines his own history with significant weight loss, and explores the research for why sustainable weight loss is so exceptionally difficult.
Skinny Shaming Is Not the Same As Fat Phobia
Writer and fat positivity advocate Melissa A. Fabello, Ph.D.:110, explains the difference between abusive behavior and systemic abuse.
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this package, including our diligent fact-checking team and our conscientious and deliberate sensitivity reader.