One of my favorite things about writing for Health Magazines: the kind, whipsmart, trend-savvy editors I work for. One of them, Shaun Chavis, recently blogged about her life as a plus-sized weight loss editor for the magazine and I just had to share some snippets of her story. I actually never knew Shaun had struggled with weight – we only work via phone and email – but according to the story, she has battled a weight problem since the age of 6. Her weight has fluctuated as high as 256 pounds (she’s 5’4”), and she currently weighs in around 225, making her BMI 38.6 (obese or extremely obese). All I know is she’s a joy to work with/for and I’m extremely proud of her for standing up and speaking out. Here, some bits from her personal story on health.com:
On our perceptions of overweight people:
“We accept that people living with diabetes, cancer, celiac disorder, or any other condition know enough to teach the rest of us a thing or two. But we don’t expect people who are struggling with extra fat to know anything about how to fight it. And it really rankles some people that those who teach about healthy eating have obvious weight struggles.”
“Years of dieting—I’ve been on and off them since about age 9—have keenly honed my BS meter. I’ll skip the Lemonade Cleanse and every rebirth of the Cabbage Soup Diet, because I trust my body only to weight-loss plans that science and sense tell me should work, and I encourage you to do the same. (That said, what works for me might not work for you. There’s no single magic bullet.)”
“Sitting across a desk from a skinny-minnie dietitian to talk about getting rid of your fat isn’t easy. You wonder, ‘Will she judge me too?’ I’ve always found it easier to relax and open up about my struggles once I know that dietitian has been in my shoes. (Weight Watchers puts that dynamic to work: New dieters feel a little more comfortable once they know their leader’s been overweight too.) Someone who’s faced her own weight problems is likely to have advice that’s been tested by real life, and when you’re trying to navigate those daily challenges that can throw you off target, that’s the kind of help you need. When I took this job, I asked one of my girlfriends, a slim news anchor, what she thought about a 200-plus-pound weight-loss editor. She looked at me and said, ‘I can believe advice from someone who’s actually had to use it. Are you kidding?'"
On what a 225-pound weight-loss editor can bring to the discussion of losing weight:
“Like any other weight-loss editor (and good journalist), I’m plugged into research, experts, sources—and perhaps most valuable, success. We’ve all heard the same, tired stats about how few people successfully lose weight and keep it off. If the odds are stacked so strongly against you, why not give it all up and rip through a box of Häagen-Dazs Coffee & Almond Crunch bars? Because even though I have a ways to go, I’ve tasted success: I’ve lost 31 pounds and I walk at least three miles a day most days of the week. I also get emails, letters, and pictures from people who’ve lost 30, 50, and 100 pounds or more. Just this week, I heard from a woman who lost 146 pounds. I’m not kidding—from time to time these stories have me in tears, or running down the hall grabbing anyone in sight: ‘ohmigoshcanyoubelievewhatthiswomanDID?’ The keys to success that these readers share is a rich stash that I’m happy to share with you. The common theme? Damn the stats. It can be done.
So far, comments left for Shaun have been wildly positive. What do you think? Do you need your health and weight loss writers to be thin and fit in order to take their words seriously? I have a bulging disk right now...does that mean I shouldn't be writing about back injuries? To take the debate a step beyond, how would you feel about a doctor who smoked or a nutritionist with Type 2 Diabetes? Or do you not consider them the same category?