The magazine's February cover features three women of different shapes wearing exercise gear with the coverline 'This is healthy!'. The cover stars are track and field athlete Morgan Lake, fitness influencer and disability rights advocate Sophie Butler and plus-size blogger Callie Thorpe.
Callie Thorpe is a 30-year-old blogger and influencer who promotes body confidence and plus-size fashion. Thorpe has over 250,000 Instagram followers and also writes about travel, food and her life with her husband.
In an Instagram post, Cosmo shared a further nine covers for the issue which are not on sale in stores. Models featured on these include yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley and paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds.
Alongside the post, Cosmo wrote: "These 11 incredible women with 11 very different bodies are proving wellness isn’t one-size-fits all."
In a post to her Instagram, Thorpe said the cover was “beyond her wildest dreams”.
She wrote: "I’m so grateful for the chance to discuss an issue I believe is often ignored and that is this one dimensional understanding of health.
"How it’s used to shame others. How there is a distinct lack of diversity or support in ‘wellness spaces’ and how poorly fat people are treated in the name of health.
“It’s not lost on me that we have all survived the perhaps one of the most challenging years of our lives. And now more than ever it’s clear that mental health is so important and health isn’t linear”.
Some readers claimed the magazine was irresponsible for calling a range of body types healthy, and made references to the link between Covid and obesity.
One Twitter user wrote: "Weird time for @Cosmopolitan to do this cover given the relationship between obesity and death/serious illness from Covid."
Another commented: "Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death and raises individuals’ risk to complications from COVID-19. I’m sorry, this is not healthy."
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday 12th January, Piers Morgan also criticised the cover, saying: "There’s nothing to celebrate about being obese in the middle of a pandemic, where you have a 70 per cent bigger chance of being ill with coronavirus if you are obese."
But others defended Cosmo's choice, pointing out that feeling negatively towards our bodies is bad for us, and that you can't make assumptions about someone's health by looking at them.
One Twitter user wrote: "We need more visibility of people of all sizes, so people feel less shame & stigma (which IS VERY bad for you)".
Another person wrote: "I think it’s great that a magazine like this is trying to change the stereotype of what women see as healthy. I spent all of my childhood feeling ashamed that I was bigger than everyone else, and there was no one my size on tv, and yet every time I went to the GP I was healthy."
When The Independent contacted Cosmopolitan UK for comment, they said the response to the cover had been "overwhelmingly positive".
They said in a statement: "Cosmopolitan UK is all about uplifting our audience and promoting diversity, belonging and positivity. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from our readers for our February issue.
"Our aim is to make sure that no-one feels excluded from the wellness space and we hope this issue will help inspire our readers, whatever stage of their fitness journey, feel empowered to make their mental and physical health a priority during this time.”