No Other News The Same: Women and Weight

Earlier this week, my friend called me in tears because her yoga teacher told her she had to lose weight. The teacher told her that unless she modified her diet, she wouldn't be able to progress in her yoga practice. My friend is a size 4. Most women dream of being a size 4.

If even the most supposedly forgiving and spiritual type of physical activity, yoga, is starting to shame already fit women into thinking they need to slim down in order to be healthy, we are in big trouble. We should know now as a society that being a size 0 doesn't equal perfect health. The more we prioritize size over wellness, the harder it will be for individuals to actually be healthy.

Recently Elle Magazine ran a cover of four women in comedy featuring Mindy Kaling, Zooey Deschanel, Amy Poehler and Allison Williams. The pictures of Deschanel, Poehler and Williams were full-body shots. The picture of Kaling was cropped, just showing the actress' face and torso. Immediately the public started to wonder why. Was Kaling too large to show her whole body on a magazine cover? Keep in mind Kaling is a size 8.

Yet Kaling herself said in a talk show interview that the public outcry deflated her sense of accomplishment at making the cover of Elle. "The implication was, 'What, Elle, you can't put her big, fat body on the magazine?'" she said, slightly joking. "'Why? 'Cause she's just fat and gruesome? Why can't we look at her beautiful fat body?'" (Reported by the New York Daily News). Kaling is funny, innovative and extremely successful. Yet when I google "Mindy Kaling", the first item that comes up on my search engine is "Mindy Kaling weight".

Being thin doesn't necessarily equate being healthy. Some believe that exercising rather than dieting is the important part, and that thin people can, in fact, be extremely unhealthy. In an article entitled The Truth About Size Zero, a former Vogue editor quotes a Russian model refusing a snack in one of the only English phrases she knows, "It is my job not to eat."

Marilyn Wann writes about weight bias; "A highly accurate way to predict a person's risk of dying is to see how easily they can get up from the floor. I'm trying to imagine how different our health care system would be if, instead of focusing on weight and weight loss, caregivers did the sitting-rising test instead. How much healthier would we be? How much more would we actually enjoy healthy living, free from weight judgment?" One yoga teacher writes about learning to be at peace with being the biggest person in all of her classes as a size 10. She realized she went up a size from doing so much yoga and cross-fit, yet she was stronger, more muscular, and more fit than ever.

I'm not for one second saying that gaining an excessive amount of weight is healthy. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of American adults are obese, and approximately 17% of children and adolescents are obese. Extreme weight gain is a health problem. Being a fit, healthy size 10 is not.

Yet there is hope (and despair for the weight loss corporations). Currently, the amount of dieters is at an all-time low, which is surprising considering the fact that it's still prime New Year's Resolutions time. Instead of dieting, some Americans are simply eating healthier. Some are also becoming more tolerant of a couple of extra pounds.

What if, instead of worrying about size and weight, people (and women in particular) just worried about wellness? The organization I work at teaches young people that health can come in all shapes and sizes.

One young woman, after a summer with us declared, proudly, "I'm big and healthy. I'm blealthy."