#21 – Cosmo Cover Shocker: Tess Holliday & Health vs Appearance

I’d never heard of Tess Holliday until THAT Cosmo cover. 

Her image jumped out at me in my local Tesco Express, she’s a striking looking woman and not your typical cover model (I don’t think I’m breaking news here).

A couple of days later Tess’s image started popping up all over my social media feed. Piers Morgan was going in hard (yawn), Fitness Professionals were aghast, and in general – people had strong opinions. I hadn’t witnessed this level of polarising debate since Brexit, Trump and that optical illusion dress (FYI – it was blue). 

I decided to purchase Cosmo and read what Tess had to say before passing judgement. 

To say Tess Holiday had a rough start in life is an understatement. A combination of mental, physical and sexual abuse that no one should have to endure.

She’s come a long way in her 33 years but unfortunately, the abuse continues, courtesy of those delightful faceless individuals on social media – “you’re fat, disgusting…” etc. 

I can’t stand (or understand for that matter) people who abuse others online. It’s a cheap shot, it’s nasty, vindictive and says a whole lot more about the person dishing out the insults than it does about the recipient.

One of Tess’s comments jumped out at me:

“I have lived in a marginalised body almost my entire life”.

I have no idea what this must be like but I imagine the need for a thick skin becomes a necessity once you reach her level of fame. 

One of the more thoughtful, measured responses online came courtesy of Tanya Filer. This line struck a chord re Tess’s message: 

“What she’s teaching is that we need to focus on WHO people are not WHAT they are”

That’s a hard teaching to disagree with let alone heap hate upon. If this is the overriding message readers take away from the article the world would be a better place.

The only issue I have personally with Tess’s appearance has nothing to do with how she looks and everything to do with her general health.

I can’t remember the last day I didn’t speak or write about the benefits of living a healthier life. This includes regular exercise, a nutrient-rich diet and a healthy body weight.

I’m a health professional – it comes with the territory.

Tess’s body weight is not healthy.

This is not a controversial statement. 

This is not a slight on her character. 

This is a fact.

A casual glance at the NHS website and you’ll find obesity risk factors include type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, bowel cancer, as well as being associated with a poorer quality of life.

This is an inescapable (and for some uncomfortable) truth but for what it’s worth the article didn’t read as ‘pro-obesity health propaganda’.

You can be happy at any size.

You can be beautiful at any size.

You cannot be healthy at any size. 

(FYI – This applies to underweight as well as overweight by the way).

I feel there’s an obvious question to be asked after writing those last few lines:

How happy are you going to be when you’re diagnosed with type II diabetes (or worse)?

A few take home points:

  • Don’t hold Cosmo up as a moral arbiter – their job is to sell magazines.  
  • Interpretation of the article is absolutely key. 
  • If your health is in check, it doesn’t matter what you look like.
  • If you’re obese and your health is suffering, you might want to consider losing weight. This has fuck all to do with your appearance (although by default it’ll change as you lose lbs) and everything to do with your long-term health outcomes.