My dear friend and mentor Jess Weiner, author of Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds From Now and the Global Ambassador for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, is in the national spotlight again, this time with an important, and some say controversial, article in this month’s Glamour Magazine.
In her very honest piece, “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me,” Jess writes about her personal journey of body acceptance. In the past several years, Jess examined her approach of encouraging overweight women to accept their bodies at any size after discovering she had some health-related challenges, including being on the verge of becoming diabetic. That fateful doctor’s visit resulted in Jess developing the Conscious Weight Wellness ™ movement, in which Jess encourages women to use their knowledge of their weight as a barometer of their health, not their value as a person.
After the piece came out, I checked in with Jess to find out more about how her journey can positively impact teens. Here’s my question and Jess’s answer:
Me: Body acceptance is just one of many factors most teens struggle with – acceptance to fit in, acceptance into certain cliques and groups, acceptance for sexual orientation, acceptance to be seen as who you are. How might your message of Conscious Weight Wellness translate into these others aspects of teens’ lives?
Jess: My hope with Conscious Weight Wellness is that teens focus on the word Conscious – which is to be aware – to be awakened to your bigger purpose – and to gently inquire within. Whether you are dealing w/ weight, sexuality, or other identity issues that can seem overwhelming and put a lot of pressure on you to ‘fit in’ the consciousness I want to encourage is one that allows you to see your true worth – to ask hard questions of yourself and others – and to know that while you really are valuable just as you are, there is also nothing wrong with seeking to enhance, shift or change areas of your life (or beliefs) as you grow. We are fluid. Our lives are not static. We change and grow – and that includes our beliefs about ourselves, our bodies, and others. Don’t be afraid to allow that growth – be gentle with yourself – and be conscious that the changes you are making are coming from deep within and not a desire to solely please someone else. In particular with girls and weight – I want girls who struggle with being overweight to know that wanting to lose weight is okay as long as it is in combination with the other numbers associated with their health (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars, etc.) – and that they recognize that their worth is not just about a number on the scale – they are worthy of full and complete confidence which comes from taking care of yourself inside and out!
I love that answer and the openness with which Jess is going about this shift. In putting her story out there, Jess is so powerfully demonstrating one of my core beliefs: When you speak your truth, challenging though it may be, everyone, including yourself, benefits.
Though Jess admits she has been concerned about a backlash from some about her change in philosophy, she knows it was worth it to boldly speak her truth about body acceptance. Jess’s willingness to have the hard conversations, model beautiful authenticity, and be vulnerable as a way to inspire others is what makes her one of the most powerful role models I know.