These critics don’t really care about public health.If they do, they’ll read the room | Family and Relationships

I see we’re still doing that kind of thing where we look at people in swimsuits and pretend we’ve got their full medical history and recent blood work.

Our “patient” this time is singer and model Yumi Nu, who has appeared on one of the covers of Sports Illustrated’s four new swimsuit issues. She looks amazing in both skin and swimwear, and she’s very comfortable. But you can’t see her ribs. And her belly is not concave either. And her curves don’t look like they were put there by a surgeon, all of which upset the delicate balance of people’s fantasy worlds.

Professional poker player Doug Polk tweeted his thoughts on Nu’s cover to his 156,000 followers.

“I know we want to focus more on positive body image, especially in a time when people are more critical of themselves than ever (mostly from social media),” Polk wrote, “but putting obese people in the The cover of the sports illustration (sic) sends a dire message about health and wellbeing.”

He continued: “Obesity is a choice and it can seriously impair your quality of life. It will make life more difficult for your body and have long-term health effects on your body. It’s not healthy and it’s not beautiful. “

Self-help writer/clinical psychologist/popular YouTube star Jordan Peterson tweeted a photo of Nu’s cover with the comment: “Sorry. Not beautiful. No amount of authoritarian tolerance would change that.” (He left Twitter when backlash mushroomed.)

Their ideas were echoed by thousands—and importantly, condemned—for several facts.

First, Sports Illustrated knows how to keep moldy and dirty gimmicks like the annual swimsuit issue from disappearing off the cultural radar.

Second, indulging in an extremely narrow set of beauty standards, heavily inclined to conflate slimness with fitness, but still have a strong foothold in the same culture.

Remember when Jillian Michaels, the personal trainer, former host of NBC’s “Biggest Loser” and a promoter of dietary supplements at the center of multiple lawsuits went after Lizzo?

“Why are we celebrating her body?” Michaels asked on BuzzFeed’s now-infamous morning news show. “Because it wouldn’t be great if she had diabetes. …I love her music. My kids love her music. But I’ve never been like, ‘I’m glad she’s overweight.'”

(We’re all celebrating, Jill. It’s not that hard.)

Diagnosing a person’s diabetes risk simply by looking at it is clearly misleading. Lizzo’s blood sugar may be very good, while someone much younger than her may have dangerously high levels. The same goes for cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Her ability to dance, run, sing and play the flute all at the same time on stage (in heels) means a level of physical fitness I’ll never know.

Likewise, Polk didn’t know what would make Nu’s life more physically difficult, or her long-term health prospects. He looked at a picture of her.

But her health is not the point. The health of Lizzo, the health of Ashley Graham (a former Sports Illustrated cover model whose curves caused similar waves), the health of the public—that’s by no means the point of these rants. Growlers aren’t actually talking about health. They’re talking about looks.

You won’t see online provocateurs and former reality TV hosts worrying about whether cover models and pop stars wear seat belts, bike helmets or sunscreen, or live around secondhand smoke, or follow annual mammogram recommendations. The only risk factors they thought needed to be weighed were those that masked their tedious body shaming.

If public health was really their concern, they would read the room.

According to the Center for Eating Recovery, the rate of eating disorders among children under 12 has risen 119 percent over the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of teenage girls admitted to emergency rooms with eating disorders has nearly doubled during the pandemic. The National Eating Disorders Association reported a 58% increase in calls and texts from March 2020 to October 2021. Eating disorders remain the deadliest psychiatric disorder, with an estimated mortality rate of about 10% for people with anorexia nervosa.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think our kids don’t notice – and internalize – the grumpiness that occurs whenever traditional, narrow definitions of the body’s ideals are challenged. Tweets, comments, and talk show one-liners are all thrown into the toxic waters our kids swim in, reminding them that their bodies better be presented in a way that is otherwise seen as shameful, unhealthy, unbeautiful, and certainly not Worth celebrating.

Talk about being unhealthy.

I applaud Sports Illustrated for pushing us towards a more inclusive approach to beauty and a broader definition of wellness, even though the desire to sell the magazine is at the heart of their mission.

If these covers bring us closer to a time when we think all bodies are worth celebrating – because of their power, because of the way they allow us to run, paint, wheel or write, because they hold our hearts, for the memory of them they persist And make – and then I say the ends justify the means.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Tribune News Service. You can reach her at, find her on Twitter heidistevens13 or join her Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act Facebook group.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn income from eligible purchases.


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