11 Women Posed Naked for Weight Watchers Magazine to Celebrate Natural Beauty

Highlights brand's shift from shedding pounds to instilling pride

Weight Watchers has changed a lot in the years since Queens housewife Jean Nidetch started the company after a neighbor assumed she was pregnant (she wasn’t). Though still a popular way to take off the pounds, the company now preaches body acceptance before dieting, and there’s no better proof than the upcoming issue of Weight Watchers magazine.

The May/June issue features a photo section of Weight Watchers members of varying ages and body types who agreed to pose with minimal—and frequently no—clothing. They range from 29-year-old Latoya to Janie, a career women and 55-year-old grandmother. Rendered in grayscale, the images are striking, whimsical and rich in personality.

They are also, according to editor Theresa DiMasi, long overdue.

According to a recent study, 89 percent of women from the U.S. and other western countries are dissatisfied with their weight. That dissatisfaction, together with a critical view of one’s own body, is a problem that Weight Watchers sees frequently.

“One thing we hear over and over again is that life doesn’t start until you’re 30 pounds thinner,” DiMasi says. “For women, this negative self body talk keeps coming up over and over. But one of the things that happens in Weight Watchers is that, along your journey, you start accepting yourself. You start talking about yourself positively and building a new outlook on your body.”

DiMasi’s editorial team went looking for women who’d built that new outlook—and were confident enough to demonstrate it by being photographed largely unclothed. (Which couldn’t have been easy: 96 percent of women like themselves better with clothes on, according to the magazine.) But DiMasi’s staff eventually assembled 11 women willing to be photographed. They all appear in the magazine as they did under the photographer’s lights; the editors did no retouching.

“When the WW team asked me to be part of this story, I was extremely hesitant—I almost backed out of the shoot,” Janie, the grandmother, relates. “But I went through with it, and when I was taking off that robe and posing for the camera that day, there was a different feeling inside me. I realized that age is just how you feel. I felt special, I felt positive. I took control of my body and I took what it meant to be beautiful into my own hands.”

Not that Weight Watchers has left its diet mantra behind. The company still ranks No. 1 in U.S. News’ list of best weight-loss diets. And no less a celebrity than Oprah (who signed on as a spokesperson last fall) has thanked the Weight Watchers plan for the 26 pounds she recently lost.

Still, DiMasi said, Weight Watchers has “gone beyond” the emphasis on losing pounds. “For these women,” she said, “the higher calling is what they’re learning. What these women are saying is: Appreciate yourself right now. Life begins right now, no matter your size and shape, it doesn’t matter.”