When we think about the importance of diversity and inclusion in communication today, we typically consider factors like race, ethnicity, age, and gender. Yet one puzzle piece often remains glaringly absent from this picture: diversity in body size. Marketing and promotion materials, in general, tend to overlook people in higher-weight bodies, but the omission may be most striking when it come to the language and images we use to convey health messages.
Whether you work in the food, fitness or healthcare industry, it’s wise to consider breaking away from the outdated, yet still pervasive, skinny-equals-healthy mentality. Indeed, the nutrition landscape is already starting to change. Though it remains a new and contested concept, the Health at Every Size movement is gaining momentum among credentialed influencers, and word from FNCE 2019 is dietitians are increasingly talking about wellness overweight.
Not only does a myopic focus on thinness fly in the face of emerging research – data show, for example, that typical dieting thoughts and behaviors can paradoxically lead to weight gain– it also implicitly excludes the roughly 70% of Americans living in larger bodies, reinforcing the message that healthy spaces, services, and products are reserved for a privileged few and ostracizing would-be clients and consumers.
To ensure a more modern and inclusive approach to wellness communications, consider the following strategies:
- DON’T focus on weight. DO focus on behavior change.
- DON’T pin health to weight-loss metrics, like numbers on the scale or inches off the waistline. DO underscore other well-being measures, like improved blood sugar, blood pressure, sleep quality, energy, and mood.
- DON’T assume widely used terms like “overweight” and “obesity” will resonate with your audience. If referring to weight makes sense for your program or product, DO consider more neutral alternatives that may be more respectful and engaging (“higher weight” or “larger body size”, etc.).
- DON’T rely on “thinspirational” images (think: the tummy with the tape measure, or ultra-thin/mega-fit models); DO feature motivational images that reflect a range of relatable bodies.
- DON’T limit your influencer relationships to Insta-models only; DO work with a broad range of influencer types – including body types – who demonstrate how health and wellness come in all shapes and sizes.
Diet culture is slowly but surely dying, and a new era of woke wellness has begun. Are you helping lead the way?
 Fothergill et al., 2016
 Stice, Burger, & Yokum, 2013
Jean Owen Curran, MS, RD is an account supervisor at FoodMinds, based in our Chicago office