Between the true crime, the conspiracy, the self-help and the variety show, the world of podcast media has ballooned both in number and popularity this past year. Like other forms of entertainment media, the podcast format has proven its resilience by finding ways to cater to everyone, bringing content to viewers that they want to hear.
It’s rare, however, to find a podcast that challenges you — a show that caters not to what you already know, but redefines your understanding of the world. It’s even rarer to find a podcast that is wholly educational in a funny and easily digestible package. “I Weigh,” Jameela Jamil’s “podcast about shame,” is just that, and it’s a must-listen for Gen Z.
The story of how “I Weigh” came to be is worth telling, if only for some context. In 2018, actress and activist Jameela Jamil posted a photo with the hashtag #IWeigh. Fed up with the recent slew of Instagram ads that targeted young users with non-FDA approved diet/detox products, Jamil used the hashtag to encourage people (women in particular) to “weigh” aspects of their personality — rather than their physical weight — while simultaneously pushing Instagram to change their policies regarding targeted ads and minor protections.
She was successful on both counts. Instagram banned diet/detox ads for minors, and the hashtag got major traction. People from all over the world posted photos of themselves weighing their passions, best qualities and life stories — all with the hashtag, #IWeigh.
Riding on her tidal wave of success, Jamil began an activist platform by the same name. Now an Instagram page and a website, “I Weigh” works to complicate the way society views shame, advocate for progressive policies and amplify marginalized voices. While body neutrality still plays a huge role, Jamil has expanded her arsenal of educational tools and support networks to tackle issues such as fatphobia, transphobia, mental health awareness and widespread acceptance.
From the movement sprang a new project: the podcast. The “I Weigh” podcast invites authors, activists, influencers and celebrities to chat with Jamil. Always funny and often quite vulnerable, these conversations take the audience through personal stories of shame and overcoming trauma and tragedy, all while challenging societal norms of worth and looking toward a better future. With each guest comes a new set of questions and new lessons, each worth exploring alongside Jamil as she expertly showcases diverse voices and celebrates “progress, not perfection.”
The podcast cuts no corners. Content-wise, there’s something for everyone. It represents honest and individual experiences in a universal way. Yet the show truly shines when it pushes viewers outside of their comfort zone, showing realities of worlds entirely different from our own and casting a human light on journeys we could never have understood otherwise.
Reese Witherspoon and Demi Lovato, two A-list guests on the show, taught viewers about the behind-the-scenes of a hyper-glamorized life in Hollywood, policed as it is by body standards, sexual misconduct and an intense pressure to succeed.
Decorated comedian Catherine Bohart took Jamil through her personal experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder, detailing her journey while making the case for the normalization of therapy and psychiatric medication.
Roxane Gay, an award-winning novelist and columnist for The New York Times, talked about her experience with systemic fatphobia, drawing distinctions between modern body positivity movements and societal discrimination against fat people.
Each of these guests, among the many others Jamil has spoken to, invigorate listeners with a daily dose of activism, education, and even hope for progress — opening eyes to the world in a different light and entertaining them all the while.
Despite the heavy topics and frank discussion, the podcast is anything but morose. In fact, it’s laugh-out-loud worthy. Between the hilarious Jameela Jamil telling her own stories with no filter and the guests’ own humor, the shows are engaging both intellectually and emotionally. In their willingness to be vulnerable, both Jamil and her guests shed the shame that has made society so unwilling to accept others.
By championing progress and rejecting ideas of perfection, “I Weigh” allows guests to be open about their traumas, their gaffs and the ways in which they’ve bounced back and held themselves accountable for their pasts. The podcast introduces listeners to people who are genuine in a way public figures are rarely allowed to be, and through humor and heart, it allows audiences to shed their own shame.
Jamil does an excellent job of both running the show on the air and off. She handpicks guests from diverse backgrounds, making sure to highlight leaders and outspoken activists on movements she may not necessarily be able to speak to. For example, after the “I Weigh” hashtag became popular, many tabloids began to refer to Jamil as the “face” of the body positivity movement.
On a recent episode with fat activist Stephanie Yeboah, however, they both highlight that the body positivity movement is not one to be co-opted by a thin woman like Jamil. Rather, they collectively assert that body positivity is a movement by fat people who face systemic, societal discrimination — think medical, workplace, hiring discrimination and more.
By literally handing the mic to those with the actual background and education to speak on these social issues, Jamil doesn’t just perform activism — she uses her platform to legitimate the voices that the world needs to hear.
For so many who’ve become used to celebrities simply adding their voices to movements they can’t really speak on, often out of a need to be “seen” as an activist rather than doing the work, it’s a refreshing change.
On the mic, Jamil is just as much of a gem. She’s endlessly witty, often making jokes that leave guests and listeners in stitches. She allows guests to open up without ever pressuring them to do so, and her casual tone makes the whole affair feel more like a chat with friends than an interview.
“I Weigh” isn’t the be-all and end-all of the world’s problems. Listeners and Jamil alike recognize that. But it offers a unique glimpse into a new type of activism, one Gen Z shouldn’t forget about in the years to come.
Based on education and offering an optimistic view of progress, “I Weigh” is all about learning. Learning from tragedy, from past mistakes and even from getting called out. The podcast shows what can happen when we stop demanding perfection and accept that activism is often an imperfect road, but nevertheless a lifelong journey.
As we’ve seen recently, a simple post or self-ascribed title isn’t enough to be an advocate for others. Learning about the world that other people inhabit through their experiences yields so much more insight than any social media thread will ever accomplish, and the “I Weigh” podcast puts this education in the palm of your hands — in a fun, engaging and transformational package.