People, People, People, c’mon already

2015… start of a new year. resolutions, new beginnings, all that jazz. And time for People’s annual “Half Their Size” edition where they share some inspirational stories of folks who have lost pounds by the hundreds. Celebrating healthy living, active life styles, and better health. What could be wrong with that?
People Jan-2009I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been doing this, honestly, I’m not exactly their typical demographic. Here’s the cover from January 2009. It’s kind of interesting to see some of the other things that were big five years ago. But take a look at the cover, the choice of words about the feature articles.

Half Their Size
Real People
Real Diets
Every Budget

I suppose I could have gone to the library, tried to track down a copy of this edition and see what the articles were like inside, but based on the cover… hard to imagine there is anything to bad in the articles.

People Jan-2011I couldn’t find a copy of the cover for 2010, but 2011 was pretty much a repeat. Only two people instead of three… “How They Did It” vs “How They Lost….” but the rest of the taglines are the same. Real, real, real – people, diets, success. And what looks like an interesting article about Neil Patrick Harris of course. Bret Michaels… is he a musician?

Anyways… I figure 2010 likely followed this same formula. But something changed in 2012.


People Jan-2012

How They Did It” is still being featured. And it’s all about “Real Success“, but now with exclamation points! But wait a sec? What’s this about “No Surgery!” and “No Gimmicks!”? Just what do they mean by that?

People Jan-2014

I couldn’t find a copy from 2013, but that part seem to be the message they want to get across now, because it showed up again in 2014… but now they’ve also removed the “Real Success” line… not that I doubt these folks had real success…

But you can see, there is a definite evolution to the wording they use on this annual cover theme.

And it continues to carry over to the 2015 cover as well.


People Jan-2015

It’s weird, because People has covered bariatric surgery before, without negative connotation, from an article in 2002 on Al Roker to as recently as a few months ago with Rosie O’Donnell, so it’s not like they’re simply smack-talking surgery as a treatment option. They’ve also given favorable treatment to the surgery as a treatment option for the young girl, Alexis Shapario who last year had bariatric surgery to curb the hunger monster that was plaguing her after a tumor was removed from her brain.

Even when you look at Carnie Wilson, who has become a sort of defacto celebrity face for bariatric surgery… for both the ups and downs… they maybe haven’t celebrated the procedures, but have overall maintained a fairly neutral portrayal.

And I actually did pick up a copy of this edition to see what it was like inside. There was no mention of any surgery.. except an article about one woman looking at body contouring surgery to remove excess skin after having lost over 200 pounds. The rest of the articles around the theme include brief bios for fourteen women and three men who lost a nearly combined 2,800 pounds. Then there was the one-page, At-Home Workout sheet by someone I think is a trainer for The Biggest Loser (with promos for his book and the TV show), a few recipes promoted as being part of Cooking Light Magazine’s new online meal-planning service (recipes that included BBQ pizza and Banana/Chocolate S’mores), and a page about recent Celebrity Slimdowns.

All in all, so not worth the $5.99 cover price I paid.

Now I get it. People is not a “news magazine”, so I’m not trying to say it’s their job to give surgical options equal time or anything, but considering that surgical options, for many people are the best option not just for losing significant amounts of weight (from 45-80% of excess body weight on average depending on the procedure), but maintaining that loss for five, ten years or more… it’s hard to figure out why they not only seem to be going out of their way not to mention surgical option during these annual editions, but continue to associate surgery in such a negative manner on their covers?

If you need some scientific proof, the National Institute of Health’s US National Library of Medicine (aka PubMed) has hundreds, if not thousands, of reports about the results from the various bariatric surgery procedures, like this one: Five-year outcomes of gastric bypass for super-super-obesity (BMI≥60 kg/m²): A case matched study.

These decisions do not happen in a vacuum, especially on a cover. The words that go on that cover are carefully chosen based on the message they want to get across. Because for many, those words are what get them to pick up a copy at the check-out stand and decide to purchase it. At some point, a few years back, the editorial decision was made to put the words “No Surgery!” on the cover of this annual edition about people losing dramatic amounts of weight. So not only was this decision biased, but it is also deliberately doing their readers a disservice.

They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but People, we do.. and will continue to judge you by this cover.

If you would like to help express to People bout how this sort of cover matters, then consider signing the petition started over on change.org

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