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.