'Self' Publishes Style Guide for How It Plans to Discuss Weight and Health

And more inside its first-ever all-digital Weight Issue.
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Tess Holliday. Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage

Tess Holliday. Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage

Condé Nast shuttered health and fitness magazine Self's print operations in December 2016, but the title — and its editor-in-chief Carolyn Kylstra, who replaced Joyce Chang — remains committed to inclusive coverage surrounding overall wellbeing. But this week, Self took what is perhaps its biggest step toward modernizing the conversation around wellness yet: On Tuesday, the now-digital publication unveiled its first-ever Weight Issue, a comprehensive collection of features meant to challenge how we view weight and health.

In a Letter From the Editor, Kylstra admits that the system in which we both think about and discuss weight "is broken": There remains so much emphasis on weight loss being the most important gateway to health and happiness when, in many, many, many instances, that's not always the case. "Much worse, prioritizing weight loss as the single most important path to health can be harmful, in part because it perpetuates a number of damaging myths," writes Kylstra. 

To debunk these myths (that, for instance, "there's a moral value tied to size," and that "people with bigger bodies are less worthy of dignity and respect than people with smaller bodies"), Self has published a style guide on how it plans to talk about weight going forward, with the hope that this very public transparency will hold the title accountable. 

First, the site outlines its mission and values, the latter of which include the following four standards: inclusivity, accuracy, empathy and autonomy. It then lists an extensive number of recommendations for words and editorial context regarding weight and weight loss — because, as Kylstra notes, Self is committed to supporting bodily autonomy and "a huge number of people do want to lose weight for a whole host of reasons, from aesthetic goals to genuine concern for their health." In this current era of detox teas and fad cleanses, "accurate, safe, realistic information" remains crucial for those who seek it. 

Such guidelines are listed below:

  • "Don't assume that everyone wants to lose weight or change their bodies."
  • "When reporting on weight loss, diets, body modification or fitness challenges, make clear that this information is not appropriate for everyone, and that it might be a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider if you have any questions."
  • "Avoid implying that a person has to look a certain way or be a certain size to wear specific clothing or participate in specific activities."

Kylstra also acknowledges that these guidelines are a work in progress — "we will inevitably make changes and evolve our thinking and positioning on some of these points," she writes — but for Self, it's an important next step in examining its role in the broader cultural dialogue.

Elsewhere in the Weight Issue, writer Ashley C. Ford profiles model, author and fat-positivity activist Tess Holliday as the edition's digital cover star; bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo guest-edited four essays loosely tied to the theme of choosing not to lose weight; a photo series tapped "everyday athletes" to pose nude and discuss what strength means to them; and more. 

As the way we talk about our bodies changes, so too should the way platforms facilitate those conversations. You can read Self's full style guide here, and click through its entire Weight Issue over on Self.com.

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