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Dear Glamour, loving your body is never dangerous

Date: November 15, 2011 | Posted By: Jennifer

Jess Weiner, not looking nearly concerned enough about her weight.

In a recent article in Glamour, body image activist Jess Weiner describes a health scare that made her re-evaluate her relationship with her body. At 250 pounds, with high cholesterol and low blood sugar, her doctor informed her she was pre-diabetic. Weiner made some lifestyle changes, dropped 25 pounds, and found herself with a clean bill of health. A positive, inspiring story. However, the problem is how this story is framed.

Weiner writes, “It didn’t matter in that moment, sitting half dressed in a paper gown, how many books I had written or speeches I had given about loving your body and accepting yourself as you are. The cold, hard truth was that accepting myself as I was was putting my life in danger.

What puts someone’s life in danger is NOT their weight—it’s their lifestyle. Poor nutritional choices and lack of exercise are unhealthy, no matter what your weight is. And loving yourself doesn’t mean not taking care of your body. In order to lose weight, Weiner went to a nutritionist, learned to avoid foods with “unhealthy chemicals and extra sugars”, and joined a gym. Healthier food choices and regular exercise are your best options for improving health, whether or not you lose weight.

And yet Weiner attributes all her improved health to those 25 pounds. At the end of the article, she admits, “I’m still focused on losing more weight—30 more pounds is my goal — so I can stay out of the diabetes danger zone.” As J. Eric Oliver says in the book Fat Politics, “This is like saying ‘whiter teeth produced by elimination of smoking reduces the incidence of lung cancer.’” Healthy choices make you healthier. Weight loss is a side effect.

Imagine if Weiner had lost 25 pounds in an unhealthy way, by crash dieting or getting gastric bypass surgery. Would there have been such a positive change in health? Of course not. Everyone has that story of the skinny friend who can eat fries all day without gaining weight. Isn’t it time we STOP confusing weight with health?

What’s more, Weiner actually suggests that her self-acceptance was the source of her health problems. The very headline — “Did loving my body almost kill me?” — implies that hating yourself is actually healthier. In a country where up to 24 million people suffer from eating disorders and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, this idea isn’t just wrong—it’s dangerous.

Newsflash: Loving yourself will never kill you. Not taking care of yourself might. And hating yourself won’t help anything at all.

- Magdalena




What Do You Think?

6 Responses to Dear Glamour, loving your body is never dangerous

  1. Ashley on 11-16-2011

    I think you are misconstruing a lot here. You should trust that Jess knows what is best for Jess. She never said or implied that loving your body is dangerous for everyone. She was implying that she was neglecting her health and making poor lifestyle choices. Sadly, a lot of people can easily slip into a disordered state of mind with the whole loving your body thing. I have seen it happen, because they want to make excuses for their poor eating habits or sedentary lifestyle instead of pay attention to what they are putting into their bodies and maintaining healthy levels of physical activity.
    • Magdalena on 11-16-2011

      I definitely have no objection to Jess (or anyone) taking care of her own body. However, she conflates weight with health all throughout the article. Her message is "just because you accept your size doesn't mean you shouldn't take care of your health", which is a great message! But her conclusion is "losing weight is good for you and not worrying about your weight is dangerous," which I just cannot agree with. I'm happy for her that she feels so healthy, but I wish she wouldn't spread the message that self-acceptance is somehow bad for you.

      By the way, even if people do have a sedentary lifestyle or make poor nutritional choices, that's their responsibility and their choice. No one is obligated to be healthy, and judging people for not eating healthily or not exercising isn't really productive. People who don't exercise have just as much right to love their bodies as people who do, because what they choose to do with their bodies shouldn't be anyone else's business.
  2. Reagan on 11-16-2011

    Wow- big fail by Glamour, and awesome points by About-Face, as always.
  3. Kate on 11-16-2011

    Seriously, the way they framed this story in Glamour (I don't know anything about Jess besides this article) was AWFUL! For me, it wasn't until I decided to love and respect myself no matter what my size that I was able to make healthy changes to my lifestyle. Hating yourself and berating yourself will never lead to positive change. And ACCEPTING yourself means forgiving imperfections, moving forward, and making caring, healthy, choices in your life. I love myself no matter what my weight. And I weigh 125 pounds less than I once did. Self-love and weight loss are not mutually exclusive.
  4. Melanie on 11-16-2011

    I saw your link on Facebook and had to read it! I think this is a beautiful article, and I completely empathize. Have you done any research into the links between better mental health and increased physical activity? I agree that exercising or being sedentary is one's own choice, but in my own observation, it seems to me that active people are happier than non active people (or maybe it's just that active people are more happy than me!). I know in America especially, we generally equate exercise with painful, germy grunting in sweating on a stationary machine as we watch cooking shows (food porn, really). To me, that just seems to perpetuate the cycle of negative body image, which is a form of depression, is it not? But when I or my friends make the active decision to engage in our present with something truly fun--going dancing, taking a walk around a lake, walking our dogs, browsing an out door market, going to the zoo or the museum or what ever, we feel so much happier and healthier, because we're engaged in this world. Negative body image makes people think they don't deserve to "be here," which is just silly and not at all true. I think " healthy activity" has become as misconstrued as "healthy eating."
    Congratulations on having an article published!!! I'm so happy for you :) I hope you continue to write more on this subject, because the world needs as many level headed intelligent females as it can get.
  5. MM on 11-27-2011

    I think this can go both ways. The Glamour article definitely phrased it wrong - it certainly wasn't body love that was harming Jess Weiner, and at the end of the story she would still be "too fat" compared to society's ideal but is much healthier due to her lifestyle changes.

    On the other hand, I've heard a lot of people in the fat acceptance sphere acting pretty cavalier about poor lifestyle choices. I am a big supporter of HAES and body-positivity, but there are people who say things like "I just ate a whole bag of Doritos, DEAL WITH IT!" and that's not really behavior to be proud of. Loving your body should mean taking care of it properly.