The changing size of magazines

September 06, 2018

Following on from the debate around Tess Holiday appearing on the cover of Cosmo this month, we thought we’d take a balanced look at all of the issues involved. *Be sure to post your opinion down below in our comments section at the bottom of the blog! 👇🏼* 

First here’s a few facts...

- The average size in the U.K. has gone up to a size 16

- For most people the road to obesity starts in their teens and nowadays younger as last year. The NHS & The Guardian discussed that in a study, that 124 million children worldwide were overweight & obese

- Obesity kills around 30,000 people a year

- The risk of developing Cancer, Heart disease and just about every other nasty condition are all raised when morbidly obese. There were 617,000 hospital admissions in 2016/17 where obesity was a primary/secondary diagnosis

- Evidence shows that both “quality of life” and your functional capacity is reduced especially in older age, if you are obese

- There are exceptions to almost every rule

Being morbidly obese makes you statistically more likely to live a life of pain (emotional and physical) and be less able to enjoy your old age throwing the grandkids around or doing the gardening. However, all of this is only an increased likelihood. There are many obese individuals who will buck the trend and live long, happy, totally fulfilled lives.

So what does all this mean when we look specifically at whether a woman (or a man!) weighing over 20 stone “should” be on the cover of an obviously influential magazine?

As usual there are 2 sides:

1. Of course she should be, why not?

This is a really simple argument. For decades we’ve been parading the vision of skinny being beautiful. It’s not! It’s just one body type, which when you get anywhere near a size zero, is unhealthy to maintain for long periods.

Skinny is not healthy! Skinny is not fit! Skinny in itself is not beautiful!
So why on earth is there an outcry when someone who happens to be obese is on the cover. It makes no sense?!

2. No, we should only be portraying healthy body weight in Magazines
We banned Cigarette smoking from the covers of Influential Magazines like Cosmo, and this is the next biggest killer and cost to the NHS, so of course we shouldn’t be promoting this body image as glamorous or even normalising it in any way.

Like many trending public debates, opinions like those we’ve paraphrased above are what come to the top, while the voices of reason get swept under the radar, which is the big shame.


So what do we think at RWL?

A massive shout to Tess. She has had the courage to portray herself as a proud and confident woman, which will give hope to millions of people who are suffering emotionally because of their body image. 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼

Every single person is on their own unique journey, with their health which most often includes an element of their weight (whether under or over weight). We simply cannot tell from a photograph, where you are on that journey and we can never know whether someone has prioritised their mental health over their physical health (or any number of other unknowable variables), which would all make perfect sense to do.

Equally, we have to ask the question: “does this image make being morbidly obese somehow more acceptable in our society”? Well we were stuck on this so we conducted a poll, and I think people will be surprised at the findings 😨

When asked if after seeing the front cover, you were more or less likely to want to be healthy. A whopping 72% said yes. Turning the “making it more acceptable” argument on its head!

Here at RwL HQ we would LOVE for a world of healthy, happy bodies of all shapes and sizes all running around without judgement, envy or ridicule. We feel as though Tess has definitely opened up the possibilities of more body sizes & shapes on the front cover of magazines and showing more diversity 🙏🏼

But... this is why the world of magazines should lead the way in promoting variety for both genders constantly, without it being such a shock or headline. No one really batters an eyelid when an overweight man appears on the front cover of a magazine.. so why should this be any different for women?


Now you've seen what we think, what do YOU think? Be sure to comment what YOU think about this debate below within our comments section at the bottom of the blog! 👇🏼🙏🏼


What do our #rwlfitties think?

"It's hard to comment on.. I applaud her confidence and think so many could learn a lot from her with regards of how to love yourself.. in the other side I don't like seeing people who are unhealthily thin in magazines or unhealthy over weight if it's done in a way that glorifies it."

"Those are exactly my thoughts. If people who are looking unhealthily underweight get all the stick, then it’s not very fair to applaud those who are unhealthily overweight. BUT I wish I had that much confidence and like you said, many could learn a lot about self love from that."

"This isn't a healthy way to be so i think its wrong advertising it. They seem to go from one extreme to the other! Its great putting girls on the front of mags that are'nt 'skinny' but a curvy size would be better than someone who is at a very unhealthy weight?"

"I think it’s equally as good as it is bad.  I think it’s amazing that she’s a confident woman who is happy enough and open enough to be on the front page of a magazine regardless of her size. It’s shows young girls and women that it’s okay to be who you are and happy with who you are no matter what you look like. My doubts come in when you think about the message of being healthy and wanting to promote a message about having a healthy lifestyle and active life. I don’t know how much she works out or how well she eats, but a message about confidence is one thing, a message telling young girls it’s okay to be unhealthy is another."

"I find it’s so difficult to talk about without seeming your ‘fat shaming’ which I’m totally not doing, (and without needing a disclaimer), I think for a confidence and self-belief message it’s incredible and all young girls to aspire to have the confidence to not care what anyone else thinks. When it comes to body positivity, it’s great. But when it comes to actually promoting the message of living a healthy lifestyle (which regardless of the topic of the article, it will be) I think it’s wrong, because obesity is such an issue in this country, and although I want magazines like this to promote healthy girls and women with amazing healthy and realistic bodies, (not everyone’s ‘healthy’ is runway model) I think this is the wrong message to promote with this woman’s body."

"I love that fact that women are feeling more confident to be any size especially in the modelling industry but I do think that people forget that it should be more to do with what’s healthy for that individual and what’s not. In my opinion I don’t think promoting obese individuals is a good thing. I think too many people think that because ‘they own it’ as in the way the look and feel then it’s ok to be any size no matter how unhealthy they are."

"I love it for the confidence element and versatility, but I also think that it’s just another extreme to using underweight models or stars, and it’s just as unhealthy."

"I love the idea of being confident in your own skin. It’s something that we all strive to have. This just seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum of using an underweight model and it is just as unhealthy."

"I agree. I am all for healthy women being on the front cover. Not everyone is stick thin, you just need to walk down the street to see that but it is about promoting ‘health’ and I think that people may start to see this figure as healthy when I am not sure it is. I think they have gone too far. Plus sized models, definitely but not obese."

"I wish they’d use an actual “average” size woman on the front of magazines, like a 10/12/14 healthy woman who eats well and works out! It’s a shame it has to be either a size zero or a size 24+ and no inbetween!"


Now you've seen what we think & what our #rwlfitties think.. but what do YOU think? Be sure to comment what YOU think about this debate below within our comments section! 👇🏼🙏🏼


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  • Anita Gibbs October 18, 2018

    I think how you look and what you want to achieve is a personal thing. When I have seen ladies modelling for example on the simply B adverts they look great at a size 16 plus however at 5ft 2 inches and a size 16 myself I think I look too large and have cellulite in all the wrong places, my husband loves me for who I am however, I am self critical and the I could do better phrase comes to mind.

  • Gem September 10, 2018

    In a world where we have all been conditioned to see fat as unhealthy and slim/skinny as the preferred and healthy, I feel the discussion sparked by the Cosmo article so far alone, is enough evidence that the power of the media and magazines such as Cosmopolitan have over what we deem to be as socially acceptable.

    The lady on the front cover, Tess (I personally have never heard of her which says a lot in itself for diet culture and who is more commonly presented through the media), is obviously giving an impression as oozing with confidence and of having a lot of self love. I remember a saying from when I was younger which was “just because it sounds like a dog, it doesn’t mean it is a dog” which was basically our stranger danger talk as children (just because the lady is nice and offering you sweets, doesn’t mean she is a nice person). Tess is clearly acting as though she loves herself and is happy in where she is in her life HOWEVER that doesn’t mean to say that she truly is. Just like the slim, fit and ‘healthy’ models they use as cover stars. It doesn’t mean that they are physically fit at all or have a healthy mental health.

    The media is such a powerful weapon used to control the masses and force conformity amongst the majority whether that be the latest fashion trends, ideal body type, career choice or whatever and is a very dangerous political tool.

    There have been many studies that scientifically state and evidence that being obese/over weight in itself isn’t an automatic sign that you are unhealthy, but it is an indicator that you are at risk of developing other health-related problems. Just like there are many scientific studies which state the same for underweight individuals.

    I therefore feel that we need to continue to question everything we read as to what is fact and what is designed to create a reaction. I also feel that it is important to acknowledge that we can celebrate an individual for their successes without immediately concluding that an unhealthy or negative lifestyle is being promoted at the same time.

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