Martha Stewart is Sports Illustrated’s oldest swimsuit model


Martha Stewart has always been genetically blessed. The 81-year-old lifestyle mogul started her career as a model and still posts viral “thirst traps”.‘ well into her golden years on her Instagram account.

So if Sports Illustrated announced on Monday that Stewart will grace the latest cover of the magazine’s famous swimsuit issue – make it official the “oldest SI swimsuit cover model in the history of the publication” – it made sense. Stewart is still hot.

The performance should feel triumphant. But while she exclusively features her cover with the “TodayOn Monday’s show, Stewart focused on delivering messages that some who suffer from eating disorders or feel insecure about their own aging body may find frustrating.

Stewart explained to Today co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb that the magazine approached her to do the cover in November 2022, just weeks before the planned photo shoot in late January.

“It was kind of a wish I’d never had before,” Stewart recalled. “Being on the cover at my age was a challenge. And I think I rose to the challenge.”

She then went into detail about how she met this “challenge” with direct rhetoric diet culture — or a belief system that equates thinness with health and moral virtue, categorizes certain eating habits as good or bad, and encourages weight loss at all costs.

“I wasn’t starving,” Stewart said as she explained how she prepared for the shoot. “But I haven’t eaten bread or pasta for a few months. I went to Pilates every other day and it was great; I still go to Pilates every other day because it’s so great. And I live a clean life anyway — good diet and good exercise and healthy skin care and all that stuff.”

Stewart added that she sees her looks as “evidence of the good life.”

After discussing the hospital she founded, the Martha Stewart Centers for Living at Mt. Sinai in New York City, “which is about aging gracefully,” she went on to admit that her genes are indeed played a role in their appearance. But she also used her mother’s example to promote the ideal of slimness.

“My mom was my role model,” Stewart said a throwback photo Stewart posted a photo of her mother for Mother’s Day on Sunday. “After four children, she was still wearing a two-piece swimsuit. And after that she had two more and she was still wearing a two piece swimsuit so that’s pretty fabulous. My genes are good.”

(Just a reminder, everyone, regardless of size, is welcome to wear a two-piece swimsuit if they choose.)

The problem of maintaining the food culture, argues Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian and author of “Anti-Diet,” is that it represses people who don’t conform to a perceived “health ideal.” This, in turn, “disproportionately harms women, femmes, transgender people, people with larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.” Harrison explains it on her website.

Also problematic is Stewart’s comments in which she equates slimness with moral superiority, describing her lifestyle as “living well” and “living clean,” terms that appear to be more about wellness than nutrition.

“Dieting has become a wellness thing that’s a lot harder to spot now,” Harrison told HuffPost in 2020. “The ‘wellness diet’ is about demonizing some foods and elevating others; eat the supposedly “right” things and remove the supposedly “wrong” things. It promises health and moral superiority, but it almost always promises thinness as well.”

And yes, it has to be said that Stewart poses for an issue of a magazine that epitomizes Western ideals of beauty. While it’s certainly nice to see an older woman like Stewart doing it, perhaps it would have been more revolutionary if someone who broke more beauty standards — and didn’t embrace and amplify food culture — made it onto the cover.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, give us a call National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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