She’s “excited” about her health but the scrutiny to follow isn’t worth celebrating.
Samantha Armytage has been announced as WW’s newest ambassador and has lost 10 kilograms since joining with the company in January. The Sunrise host announced her new role in an Instagram post, encouraging others to “join me on my new journey”.
“Let’s have positive body image for all! Remember; it’s not about being skinny, it’s about being healthy and strong,” she wrote in the caption.
Formerly Weight Watchers, the company has rebranded as “WW” in an attempt to separate itself from the increasingly maligned weight loss sector and instead turn its focus to the booming wellness industry that’s now worth $4.2 trillion globally.
The 42-year-old is “excited” that the company’s emphasis has shifted to wellness but says losing weight has been a “nice bonus”. Armytage is clearly overjoyed with her renewed health and wellbeing – good for her, I say – but what her partnership will mean for her going forward is not something to celebrate.
Armytage has a long and fractious history of having to defend her body in the media. Because she’s an intelligent, outspoken, size 12 woman who’s unapologetic about not complying with TV’s cookie cutter size 8 mould, she’s attracted the attention of paparazzi and tabloids that profit off capturing unflattering images of her.
In 2014, after The Daily Telegraph ran old “scruffy” images of her, Armytage delivered a passionate speech on Sunrise, saying, “I have never said I am a model, I have never pretended I was skinny”.
“I do the best I can with what I’ve got and I work really hard at it because I have to. I understand that there is interest in my life, even when I’m not on duty. I don’t understand why newspapers need to dredge up old pictures that have absolutely no news value on such a big news day,” she said.
In 2016, the Daily Mail apologised after publishing unflattering paparazzi pictures of Armytage where her panty-line was visible and the TV presenter found herself, and her body, back under microscopic scrutiny.
It’s ludicrous that one of our country’s most respected female journalists is constantly reduced to the number that appears when she stands on the scales. But the problem with Armytage’s new WW role is that, now she’s contractually obliged to discuss her wellness journey publicly, she’s unwittingly become an active participant in the machine that glorifies thinness and deifies weight loss.
For the first time ever, her body really is now of “news value”. And so begins the unforgiving before-and-after exposes, the relentless paparazzi stalking to get that lucrative celebrity-eating-burger money shot, the magazine covers claiming “shock weight loss” or “shock weight gain” and the 24-7 scrutiny.
Do I think this treatment of Armytage, or any woman in the spotlight, is fair or justified? Absolutely not. Am I placing any blame on Armytage for unintentionally opening herself up to the vicious judgement that goes hand-in-hand with weight loss company ambassadorships? God no, not at all.
Unfortunately, it’s the grim reality of living in a society where a woman’s appearance is considered her most valuable and redeeming asset. Sadly, when a woman’s weight is thrown into the equation, the judgement and discrimination she faces reaches fever pitch.
A 2016 study by Sheffield Hallam University found obese women are the least likely to be hired by an employer. In the same year, the University of Exeter discovered women who weighed around six kilograms more than other women of their height earn around $2,762 less. The University of Pennsylvania discovered in 2017 that obese people are often typecast as being “lazy” and “unattractive”.
The direct correlation between a woman’s weight and her perceived worth in our community is exasperating and tiresome. Let’s hope the renewed interest in Armytage’s body also brings her brilliant, non-physical traits into the spotlight, too. Another “nice bonus”.