Yesterday, an article went up on Cosmopolitan.com about Simone Harbinson, an Australian woman who, after a series of health scares that included cancer, gained weight during her recovery and then lost it with a diet plan called This Bod. The story was initially titled "How This Woman Lost 44 Pounds Without *ANY* Exercise,” thus angling it in such a way as to deny that Harbinson's life-threatening health scares are anything more than an awesome way to quickly lose those "extra pounds." This is, to put it simply, totally fucked up.
Cosmo has since changed the headline to read “A Serious Health Scare Helped Me Love By Body More Than Ever,” after facing some serious, but that doesn't mitigate how atrocious the original story was, and how baffling it is that anyone at Cosmo, from the writer to the editor to the social media team that crafted Cosmo's now-deleted tweet about the story, thought this was a good idea. This should not need to be said, but: Cancer is not a diet plan, and treating it as such is wildly insensitive to the millions of people who are affected by cancer, as well as to, like, everybody who is a sentient being with emotions.
On Twitter, one woman wrote about the heartbreak she felt when her own grandfather had cancer and did everything in his power to hide his weight loss. Others responded to the headline in complete disgust.
Of course, while this example is a particularly egregious one, Cosmo is not alone in the media's incessant need to teach us to strive for the “perfect” body via anything that involves weight loss or physical self-improvement. Rather, this is a fine example of what’s wrong with the media today, its obsession with weight loss, and what happens when it's taken way too far.
Perhaps most dismaying of all is that this story isn't even about weight loss for reasons of appearance, which is how it was angled. Harbinson was trying to lose weight as a way to deal with the chronic pain caused by her sickness. (Because, lest you forget: She. Had. Cancer.) Harbinson didn’t use “*ANY*” exercise because she physically could not exercise, due to her sickness.
That nobody stopped this story with a simple, "Hey, wait a minute," has got to be the most puzzling public relations fail since Pepsi moved forward with their Kendall Jenner commercial.
Cosmopolitan.com has since removed their original tweet, yet the article is still running on the site with its newly changed headline.