Are Plus-Size Models to Blame for the Obesity Trend?

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Which came first-plus-size models or plus-size people? It may seem obvious to most of us that the increasing use of curvier models in ads and on runways is a direct result of the increased demand for larger clothing, due to a growing number of plus-size women. But results from a new study published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing suggest an opposite chain reaction: The influx of plus-size models is making us obese.

Say what? (Just look at these Fitness-Inspiring Instagrams from Plus-Size Models.)

To look at the relationship between advertising and health behaviors, researchers conducted five experiments where women were shown ad campaigns that showed plus-size models in a normalized or positive way. Women who saw the ads that suggested “the acceptance of larger body types” ate more food afterward and reported a reduced motivation to engage in a healthier lifestyle. This, the scientists speculated, could lead to weight gain and contribute to the obesity crisis.

“One reason why being larger-bodied may appear to be contagious is that as it is seen as more socially permissible, individuals exhibit lower motivation to engage in healthy behaviors and consume greater portions of unhealthy food,” wrote study authors Brent McFerran, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Beedie School of Business, and Lily Lin, Ph.D., an assistant professor at California State University. “Usage of larger body types increases unhealthy behaviors.”

They call this phenomenon “the ironic Dove effect” in reference to the famous Dove #realbeauty campaigns that showcase bodies of all shapes and sizes, showing their skepticism of the effects of body-positive campaigns.

Heres’ the thing: While these researchers do acknowledge the flip-side-that too-skinny models can inspire unhealthy behaviors, such as eating disorders-we’re a bit bummed out because the simple fact is that thin is still very much the beauty ideal. Heavier body types are not usually seen as aspirational. So we’d like to think these ads are helping plus-sized women to stop hating their bodies. Unfortunately, McFerran says the study tested for this-and found no evidence that seeing positive plus-size ads helped women hate their bodies less.

The bottom line: Learning to love and accept a body that isn’t waif-thin asks women to go outside current trends and requires major courage. (Has Body Image Become Oppressive?) And despite the research, we think there’s something to be said about seeing all kinds of bodies displayed in magazines and on runways-and for making a healthy lifestyle about more than just what your body looks like. Because exercise and eating well don’t just help you look good, they help you feel good too.

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen @CharlotteGFE

Normalisation of ‘plus-size’ risks hidden danger of obesity, study finds

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research warns that the normalisation of ‘plus-size’ body shapes may be leading to an increasing number of people underestimating their weight—undermining efforts to tackle England’s ever-growing obesity problem.

While attempts to reduce stigmatisation of larger body sizes—for example with the launch of plus-size clothing ranges—help promote body positivity, the study highlights an unintentional negative consequence that may prevent recognition of the health risks of being overweight.

The study by Dr. Raya Muttarak, from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), in Austria, examined the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics associated with underestimation of weight status to reveal social inequalities in patterns of weight misperception.

Analysis of data from almost 23,460 people who are overweight or obese revealed that weight misperception has increased in England. Men and individuals with lower levels of education and income are more likely to underestimate their weight status and consequently less likely to try to lose weight.

Members of minority ethnic groups are also more likely to underestimate their weight than the white population, however they are more likely to try to lose weight. Overall, those underestimating their weight are 85% less likely to try to lose weight compared with people who accurately identified their weight status.

The results, published today in the journal Obesity, show that the number of overweight individuals who are misperceiving their weight has increased over time, from 48.4% to 57.9% in men and 24.5% to 30.6% in women between 1997 and 2015. Similarly, among individuals classified as obese, the proportion of men misperceiving their weight in 2015 was almost double that of 1997 (12% vs 6.6%).

The study comes amid growing global concern about rising obesity rates and follows a 2017 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that showed 63% of adults in the UK are overweight or obese.

Dr. Muttarak, a senior lecturer in UEA’s School of International Development, says her findings have important implications for public health policies.

“Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese,” said Dr. Muttarak. “While this type of body positive movement helps reduce stigmatisation of larger-sized bodies, it can potentially undermine the recognition of being overweight and its health consequences. The increase in weight misperception in England is alarming and possibly a result of this normalisation.

“Likewise, the higher prevalence of being overweight and obesity among individuals with lower levels of education and income may contribute to visual normalisation, that is, more regular visual exposure to people with excess weight than their counterparts with higher socioeconomic status have.

“To achieve effective public health intervention programmes, it is therefore vital to prioritise inequalities in overweight- and obesity-related risks. Identifying those prone to misperceiving their weight can help in designing obesity-prevention strategies targeting the specific needs of different groups.”

Dr. Muttarak added: “The causes of socioeconomic inequalities in obesity are complex. Not only does access to health care services matter, but socioeconomic determinants related to living and working conditions and health literacy also substantially influence health and health behaviours.

“Given the price of healthier foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are higher than processed and energy-dense foods in this country, as a sociologist, I feel these inequalities should be addressed. The continuing problem of people underestimating their weight reflects unsuccessful interventions of health professionals in tackling the overweight and obesity issue.”

The study used data from the annual Health Survey for England, which contains a question on weight perception.

Focusing on respondents with a BMI of 25 or over, about two-thirds were classified as being overweight and one-third as obese. In order to assess trends in self-perception of weight status, the analysis was based on pooled data from five years—1997, 1998, 2002, 2014, 2015—of the survey.

The proportion underestimating their weight status was higher among overweight individuals compared with those with obesity (40.8% vs 8.4%). Correspondingly, only about half of overweight individuals were trying to lose weight compared with more than two-thirds of people with obesity.

Explore further

Provider counseling for weight loss up for arthritis, overweight More information: ‘Normalization of Plus Size and the Danger of Unseen Overweight and Obesity in England’, Raya Muttarak, Obesity, volume 26, number 7, July 2018. DOI: 10.1002/oby.22204 Journal information: Obesity Provided by University of East Anglia Citation: Normalisation of ‘plus-size’ risks hidden danger of obesity, study finds (2018, June 22) retrieved 1 February 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-06-normalisation-plus-size-hidden-danger-obesity.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Cosmopolitan magazine cover criticised for ‘promoting obesity’

The world’s biggest female tennis star gets told off for wearing too much clothing on the court. An Australian study finds that girls as young as eight are suffering from poor body image. Now, in the latest salvo in the relentless war on body positivity, a women’s magazine is accused of peddling obesity after it features a plus-size model on the cover.

The current issue of Cosmopolitan magazine has American model Tess Holliday, who is a UK size 26, on its cover, along with the strapline: “A Supermodel Roars: Tess Holliday wants the haters to kiss her ass.”

Since it hit the shelves last week, the magazine and the model herself have been both praised and condemned: lauded for the public statement of acceptance that women come in all shapes and sizes, excoriated for the outrageous implication that Holliday’s body shape might actually be attractive.

Lots of people on social media expressed concerns that Cosmopolitan was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle

The TV presenter Piers Morgan – who, conveniently, has just returned to the couch at Good Morning Britain after the summer break – immediately took to social media to voice his outrage. “As Britain battles an ever-worsening obesity crisis, this is the new cover of Cosmo.

Apparently we’re supposed to view it as a ‘huge step forward for body positivity.’ What a load of old baloney. This cover is just as dangerous & misguided as celebrating size zero models,” he wrote on Instagram.

Holliday responded on Twitter: “To everyone saying I’m a burden to the British health care system, I’m American so you don’t have to worry about my fat ass. Worry about what horrible people you are by whining about how me being on the cover of a glossy magazine impacts your small minded life.”

To be fair to Morgan, he’s just echoing the feelings of many. Lots of people on social media expressed concerns that, by putting Holliday on its cover, Cosmopolitan was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, and suggesting that obesity is desirable.

Phew, I’m literally a COSMO GIRL!! Can’t believe I’m saying that! 😭😭
Thank you @CosmopolitanUK for this incredible opportunity 🙏🏻 If I saw a body like mine on this magazine when I was a young girl, it would have changed my life 💕
Issue hits stands 8/31! 🎉🎉🎉🎉 pic.twitter.com/sBYWY7nEwZ

— Tess Holliday 🥀 (@Tess_Holliday) August 29, 2018

Sorry, but 5ft 3in & 300lbs is NOT a ‘positive body image’ to celebrate on the front cover of a magazine as Britain suffers from an ever-worsening obesity crisis. ⁦@GMB⁩ pic.twitter.com/CwvOQtsOrA

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 3, 2018

this is exactly what the fashion industry should be doing to combat anorexia. Seeing more people with other body types like this makes girls realize they don’t have to be a specific weight to be considered beautiful or be on a magazine cover how is that even remotely terrifying? https://t.co/FJydpYgRe7

— Christine Sydelko (@csydelko) August 30, 2018

Some people’s stories and strength of spirit are too important to ignore. Tess Holiday’s story is about so much more than her body. Please read it, pass it onto women you know and realise that the secret to surviving in a tough world is by being even tougher pic.twitter.com/w0KqouoBnI

— Farrah Storr (@Farrah_Storr) August 30, 2018

26-year-old plus-size model Tess Holiday is on the front cover of the Cosmopolitan magazine. The magazine hopes the image will inspire readers to be confident about their body. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/XUwiJ9Mpc6

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) September 3, 2018

Tess Holliday speaks to Roisín Ingle on The Women’s Podcast

A poll run by Good Morning Britain today is asking: “Is plus-size model Tess Holliday’s front cover image on Cosmopolitan magazine a positive body image?” At the time of writing, about 77 per cent of the respondents had voted ‘no’.

As Morgan concedes in his Instagram post, magazines have always promoted extreme body shapes and extreme ways to get them. (I’m old enough to remember a time when magazines promoted fad diets based on amphetamines and a diet consisting only of protein shakes.) But, along with all the other outraged commentators on social media, I think he’s missing the point.

The message here isn’t about contesting medical science, which is clear on the widely accepted health risks of excess body weight. It’s about challenging our perceptions of beauty.

Holliday, who was behind the #effyourbeautystandards campaign on Instagram, said in an interview with Good Morning America that her goal isn’t to celebrate obesity; it’s to promote the notion that women should love themselves as they are. “I’m not recruiting people – I’m telling them to love themselves and it just happens to come from a bigger body.”

In truth, what the detractors seem to be most offended by isn’t Holliday’s size. Rather, it is the fact that she’s not only refusing to apologise for it; she’s revelling in it. She’s not curled up in a corner, bent double with shame and self-consciousness at her crime of taking up more space on the planet than the average human. Look at that face – she knows what the trolls on social media are going to say about her, and she is choosing not to care.

Let’s face it, no-one actually believes that girls and young women will pick up their copy of Cosmo, and just like that, decades of “thin is beautiful” conditioning will fall like scales from their eyes, and they’ll promptly decide that Holliday’s is the body shape they want to emulate.

The difference between Holliday and a Kardashian is that she seems to be genuinely joyful about her appearance

Instead, it might just make the ones who do not look like the size 4 models on the cover of every other magazine in the developed world feel momentarily better about it.

None of this is to suggest that obesity rates are not a serious public health issue. But shaming people who don’t fall within the normal BMI range is not going to help tackle it. After all, it’s not body fat itself that makes so many young people miserable, too embarrassed to exercise or seek nutritional advice. It’s society’s attitude; it’s the way people who are overweight are nagged for not going to the gym, and then taunted when they do.

The message of this cover is not that we should all try to look like Holliday. Rather, it’s that there is more than one way to be a woman, and we should celebrate our bodies whatever their shape.

In a culture where the Kardashians are promoting appetite suppressant lollipops to children, and girls as young as eight are putting their selfies through apps designed to plump their lips, widen their eyes, and narrow their waistlines, that message is practically revolutionary.

The difference between Holliday and a Kardashian is that she seems to be genuinely joyful about her appearance. Unlike most of today’s bloggers and influencers, she is not promulgating a lifestyle where women’s bodies need to be starved, subjected to punishing exercise regimes, injected with poison, cut, sliced, lasered, lifted, nipped, tucked, filtered and airbrushed into submission before they are deemed attractive.

She’s suggesting the opposite: that we shouldn’t waste away the best years of our one and only life in pursuit of some body shape deemed ‘perfect’ by the fashion or porn industries, but that we should, in her words, stop worrying about our “fat asses” and get on with living. That’s a message we should all celebrate.

What Does “Plus Size” Even Mean?

And on the flip end, I want to talk to the consumer. And I want to tell the consumer, we need to do better on who we support and influence as well. Who are we putting out there? Let’s stop giving companies promotion when they’re not targeting our people. They give two craps if you can fit into their size 14/16 because you’re not their customer. Let’s look at who else is really out there working, who is hiring the plus-size woman within the community, within the board, within the shoots.

We need to be better, smarter, supportive. I’m so tired of seeing, like, “When is Victoria’s Secret gonna drop plus size!” I don’t care about Victoria’s Secret because there’re so many amazing lines that we should be supporting and that go out of business. Small plus-size lines go out of business every year. Sometimes it’s because they don’t understand what they’re getting into, but most of the time, it’s because they’re not being supported.

Hunter: I love Premme because they show all sizes. They show the size they carry. I can’t tell you how many times I have worked for specific plus-size brands, where because I’m a 16 they’re like, “Well you’re just too big for us at the moment,” and I’m the second size up from their smallest size, 14. And I’m like, “Really? Really?” And these are some of the biggest brands in the world!

Amanda: I interview a lot of people who run fashion brands and people who represent fashion brands, and something that frequently strikes me is that just because somebody is willing to sell you something doesn’t mean they think you’re smart, or care about you. So even the brands who are willing to capture plus-size market share, who will deign to sell us something — I think a lot of them don’t have plus-size women or more diverse boards or whatever because fundamentally they don’t think we’re very smart. They don’t think we know what’s best for us.

I think there’s still a lot of disdain and a lot of condescension toward plus-size women because it’s like, well, if we’re all that smart and we’re all that good at anything, then why are we still fat?

Ushshi: Have your values be represented by your actions. If you go up to a size 6X, and you use a 6X model, or you repost an influencer who you gave that shit to, that’s how you speak to that customer. You say, “We value you; you deserve to be seen. We are proud of you as a customer.” Most brands don’t do that, because they don’t want to. Even within plus sizes, they only want to sell aspirational fatness, which is the smallest, thinnest, closest to the standard beauty ideal. Now, if you actually want to care about your customers, change the feedback. Change how you put things out in the world. We’re starved out here for representation when it comes to brands and media.

Hunter: When we all walked in, we knew exactly what we were all wearing —

Ushshi: Literally down to the brand, down to the model.

Hunter: Because there’s only a few brands, compared to what else is out there. I’m like, “You’re wearing Rebel, you’re wearing Premme, you’re wearing Torrid.” There’s not enough for us. There’s definitely not enough for us, even though we’re getting there, inch by inch. But we still have a long way to go.

Amanda: I’m wearing a Torrid top, and I wrote something that was extremely critical of Torrid that caused them a lot of problems, like six months ago, but I bought this top maybe a month afterward.

Meredith: You can’t even do a boycott!

Amanda: You can’t boycott a big plus brand if you’re plus-size — where are you gonna buy your clothes? Like, “I think this entire experience is really condescending, and also next time you send me a discount code, I probably will buy something.”

Darlene: It’s funny because as an influencer or a model, you have so many brands that come to you and they’re like, “Oh, we’ll send you this,” or, “We’ll send you that,” or, “We want to pay you to do this.” I’ve been approached for everything, especially within the wellness space; I’ve been approached with so many weight loss things and diet things.

I remember very early on where a big weight loss company hit me up, and they were offering big money, and I remember telling my partner, “I can’t do it, I don’t believe in that.” I don’t want to tell my reader that if you lose weight, you live a more fulfilling life. You want to lose weight? Go ahead, girl, I’ll be there, your biggest cheerleader, I’ll tell you you can do it whatever the case. And if you don’t, then I’m still there cheerleading for you.

And who are these brands actually giving their dollars to? I’m going to use for example, which has this whole section called , and they look like they’re totally inclusive and blah, blah, blah — but what you don’t know is they’re paying their straight-size influencers big, big, big bucks, and their plus-size influencers they pay zero dollars.

Ushshi: They’ve also tried to pay people to not talk badly about them.

Amanda: I want brands to pay me to shut up about them.

Darlene: I’ve told everyone I know, do not work for them, please. This is a company where I will never shop, I don’t care — they could have the cutest, most fabulous clothes, they could send me a box and leave it in front of my house, I will not support them. Because to me, it is a disgusting practice that you would take your dollars, and you are clearly showing what you value and what you don’t.

Ushshi: They also never repost , and Forever 21 too, they don’t ever repost anyone outside of the very, very standard, kind of small plus-size woman on their social. So I’m like, you have a whole plus-focused social channel, specifically dedicated to plus women, but you never post any images that .

Darlene: I’ve had this conversation in many different spaces, at small conferences and things like that, and it just feels like it’s a conversation that keeps repeating itself because people don’t know what to do. If I’m an average girl sitting in the audience, what do I do? And I think that sometimes giving them options and saying these are different ways that you can make an impact or have influence. … Because the average girl who’s online, who’s home, who might not have the space that we have, doesn’t know! She doesn’t know how she can make an impact.

Meredith: What would we say to her? What would you say to her?

Darlene: What would I say to her? I would say, “You’re beautiful and I love you,” because I feel like people don’t hear that enough, especially within our community. I would say, watch where you’re spending your money, who you’re supporting; be a more active shopper. Don’t just buy a brand because it’s the trendy thing or the hottest thing; see what they’re doing with their money, who are they supporting, who are they really advocating for, is this a brand that really cares for you, or is this a brand that’s jumping on the bandwagon of the body positivity community? And then go and support the ones that are out there trying to do their best. And if you don’t know them, that’s where some of the research comes in.

I think our community needs to be just as savvy as the brands that are coming back to us. They’re thinking constantly about how to get our money, how to get our dollars, how to get us. We need to start thinking on the flip end — how are we going to be just as savvy, just as brilliant as them? We are. If they think we’re fat and lazy and uneducated, and we’re home doing nothing, we need to take that as an opportunity to show you, okay, that’s fine you can think that way, but I’m going to use what I know I have, which is much more than what you think I have, and I’m going to show you that my dollar makes a difference.

Amanda: Amen to that.

Meredith: Maybe for wrap-up remarks, we can all go around and answer that question: What would you say to that girl?

Ushshi: The average plus-size consumer.

Hunter: The average girl or plus size?

Ushshi: Is the average not the plus size, though? In America? Is that not the size 16?

Meredith: The literal average girl, who wants this conversation to actually go someplace and not just be stuck on the same things.

Ushshi: I would say, first and foremost, you are deserving and worthy exactly where you are, not 10 pounds from now, not 20 pounds from now, not a different life from now — treat yourself with respect and care for exactly who you are right now. That’s like the basic fundamental of everything. Secondly, I would say fashion is a great entry point to feeling like you deserve nice things and therefore you go out and present into the world as someone who’s deserving of things, and I think that’s the reason why it’s the entry point for a lot of people. But I think there are much bigger issues outside of consumerism and financials and the business end of it that we were talking about.

Advocate for yourself and for other fat people. Whether it’s against medical bias, whether, it’s against people making comments — if you’re a thin person listening to this and you find yourself making casual fat jokes or criticizing people’s bodies, or have a boyfriend or girlfriend that does, check them on it. That’s how culture shifts. And this is where we really need you to not just stand up for yourself but also defend people that look like and feel like you, essentially. And until you start doing that, you’re not going to stop hating yourself either, so, yeah, that’s important.

Hunter: That was absolutely spot-on. My favorite word is “worthy”; I think that is such a powerful word, and I think that we’re all worthy of being successful, of feeling like we are our own rock star, because we all are. And I’m such a true believer in telling myself this. And I think that especially right now, we’re in a time that women love to say they’re lifting each other up, but truly they’re saying, “Well, they didn’t really deserve that because they didn’t work hard enough.”

Be a part of the movement, but actually be a part of that movement and lift each other up, no matter their size. I think loving each other is, as easy as it is to say, harder to do because of how brainwashed we are as a society. And that all starts with loving yourself, and looking in the mirror and loving who you are, and knowing that you are worthy.

Amanda: I would say, first of all, your body is not a moral failure; there’s no virtue in being thin. Don’t let anybody make you feel like your body reflects on your worth as a person in any particular way.

But also I think, and this is something that my career is based on at this point, is that if you can find a way to needle the brands — whether it’s on Facebook or on Twitter or in Instagram comments, sending emails to whoever — if there’s a brand that you want to be able to shop at, or somebody who you think should be doing better or differently, or you think is representing something poorly, bother them. Bother people until they’re willing to answer the questions you have; bother people until they’re willing to address you; bother people until they’re uncomfortable. Because that’s the only way. Unless people are uncomfortable, nothing changes.

Pro-tip for those of you who have never been shopping as a plus-size woman in the UK: there are very few places on the high street for women over a size 16 to buy clothes. The shops we do have are treasured failsafes when we spill soup down our shirts and need a replacement fast, and until this week, New Look had been one of them. The fashion chain’s Curves section (what one of my plus-size compatriots calls “fat fucker paradise”) was a high street haven.

But as we’ve learned since, it’s not quite the accepting sanctuary we thought it was. That place we could go to with our smaller friends and actually buy something, instead of just awkwardly looking at the scarves, has been charging us extra. The discrepancies in pricing between larger and smaller sizes have been met with anger by customers who feel discriminated against, as well as the usual prejudice from those who think plus-size people shouldn’t be allowed to exist. So much anger, in fact, that New Look has been quick to splutter about “reviewing the pricing structure of our plus-size collection in a way which works for our customers and our business”, in a bid to shut everyone up.

Whenever the debate about plus sizes starts, there are two areas of concern – what about the strain plus sizes place on businesses, and what about the strain plus-size people are putting on themselves/the NHS/seating on public transport? These are concerns that never change with each new debate, or make a difference.

“More mass = more material = more money” has come up a lot during this round. Yet the fact that New Look doesn’t charge extra for its Tall range doesn’t back that up. Maria Wassell, who noticed the price discrepancy (and used to work in retail with a plus-size brand), called the business arguments “basically rubbish”. As did Emily Sutherland, features writer for fashion trade journal Drapers. They’d know.

New Look is reviewing its prices. Photograph: newlook.com/PA

If you’re plus-size, you know that those who have a problem with plus-size people aren’t going to be placated by the business facts. Because they’ve got lots of other things fuelling their concern. The traditional health concerns for individuals, or our impact on the NHS, or they just think we look icky, or that we’re lazy and awful and should look after ourselves better; they can do it, why can’t we. The chairman of the National Obesity Forum, Tam Fry, believes having to pay extra for clothes provides an incentive for women to lose weight; that women “will think seriously about staying in shape” because of it. This view has not been met kindly.

Fry has form on this point: he stepped in to defend TV presenter Lizzie Cundy last year when she said plus-size people should be charged more for their clothes, but those who are bigger for health reasons could show medical prescriptions to qualify for discounts – presumably if they are well-behaved and don’t eat too much cake. A bizarre, hilarious, unworkable idea, and Fry’s suggestion of “ the deserving from the undeserving” matched it in ridiculousness.

Being charged extra for being bigger is no incentive to slim – it’s an obstacle to be dealt with, and plus-size people already manage to clear other such obstacles every day without losing weight.

There’s the world we don’t quite fit into, the judgment, the TV and advertising that pretends we don’t exist, the dearth of products for us on the high street. We still exist despite these things. The New Look pricing obstacle? We’ll stay big despite it, and we’ll shop elsewhere. Or maybe we will lose weight (for a myriad of other reasons) … and still shop elsewhere.

Plus-size people are growing in numbers, and are a good investment for businesses – we’re loyal to the brands we have, because we don’t have many. We deserve loyalty in return. For those of us who found a haven in New Look, we should be able to shop for clothing at the same price as our smaller counterparts. Otherwise all we’re left with is an incentive to find another store.

• Phoebe-Jane Boyd is a content editor for an online media company

Movements

These are the many movements in fashion, food*, or social media that have fought against size discrimination and for inclusivity.

  • Body Neutrality: Body neutrality came to be in response to the body-positivity movement. Instead of requiring us to love our bodies no matter what at all times, body-neutrality supporters believe we should simply accept ourselves as we are. It’s about not beating yourself up if you have a low day or forcing positivity on yourself at all times. It’s about removing value from our appearances entirely.
  • Body Positivity: According to “Bad Fat Broads” podcast producer Ariel Woodson, body positivity is “about removing the structural inequities that make some bodies worth more than others.” It’s about celebrating all bodies, regardless of size, color, or level of ability. Even though the movement is hugely popular today, some detractors say it’s disconnected from its roots. They fear that it’s now being used to turn a profit and that too much of the media’s representation of the movement features conventionally beautiful, mostly white, thinner, able-bodied women. Some even argue that it’s a watered-down, more palatable version of the fat-acceptance movement.
  • Fat Acceptance/Fat Activism: The fat-acceptance movement was born out of the civil rights revolutions of the 1960s. Instead of the “be-ins” of the Vietnam resistance, early demonstrators staged “fat-ins.” Those activists eventually formed the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a volunteer-based group devoted to broadening the rights of and fighting discrimination against large-bodied people. The movement has been seen as having a first, second, and third wave, reaching a crescendo with the evolution of fat-activist blogs and the “fatosphere” in the mid-2000s. (We have this movement to thank for many of our favorite influencers and bloggers!)
  • Health at Every Size: The Health at Every Size movement, or HAES, was pioneered by researcher and educator Linda Bacon, Ph.D. The central tenet of HAES is challenging the assumptions we’ve made about how weight and health are interconnected—and understanding that diet culture profits off of our weight-related fears and insecurities. Bacon’s approach is focused on learning to accept your body, whatever the size, and trust that listening to our body yields in what’s truly healthy.
  • Intuitive Eating: Similar to HAES, Intuitive Eating is about acknowledging the inherent problems with diet culture, neutralizing our relationships with food, and listening to when our bodies are hungry and full. The movement also reminds us that some bodies are naturally larger than others and that striving for a size that’s smaller than that will ultimately hurt us and be impossible to sustain.
  • Victorian Dress Reform: This movement from the mid-to-late 1800s is considered by some to be a precursor to today’s body-positivity movement. Middle-class feminists fought against restrictive corsets and overwhelming petticoats, which altered the body’s natural shape. The movement eventually led to a shift in fashion that gave women the freedom to wear different silhouettes.

*We included food-related movements because so much of the discrimination against people of size uses what we eat as a weapon against us. These movements encourage us to look at food and weight as neutral, rather than as good or bad.

Concepts

These are the ideas that have either helped or hindered us loving ourselves at any size.

  • Diet Culture: Anti-diet expert Christy Harrison writes that “diet culture is a form of oppression, and dismantling it is essential for creating a world that’s just and peaceful for people in ALL bodies.” It’s something that’s so ingrained in so many of us that we don’t always even realize it’s taking hold. It’s rooted in the false belief that health and weight are intrinsically linked and that achieving a thinner body will give us more value. Though many dieting programs purport to know the secret to being thin, they profit from the cycle of losing weight, gaining it back, then returning to the diet to start again. If they truly “worked” in the way they promise, then how would they stay in business?
  • Fatphobia: Though the term “fatphobia” isn’t in any official dictionaries, FEM Magazine defines it as “the fear and/or hatred of fat bodies.” This fear and hatred is what fuels diet culture, weight bias, and the size inequities we see in the world. Historically, fatphobia has targeted women, notably women of color, in an attempt to make our bodies simultaneously more conventionally “attractive” and not overtly sexual. Since then, misinformation about health and dieting, alongside the unfair scrutiny of women’s bodies, has continued to be the norm.
  • Self-Love: This word means exactly what it sounds like—showing love to your mind and body and going after your own happiness. (Yes, shopping for clothes you love totally counts.)
  • Sizeism: Sizeism is defined as “discrimination or prejudice directed against people because of their size and especially because of their weight.” A future without sizeism would mean that everyone, no matter their size, has equal access to clothes they love, equal access to professional opportunities, and equal quality of life. Unfortunately, weight discrimination isn’t illegal—in fact, in 49 states, employers are allowed to discriminate against their employees based on weight.
  • Weight Bias: Simply put, “weight bias” is discrimination against someone based on their weight. It can be used interchangeably with “sizeism.” This discrimination is firmly anchored in fatphobia.

Why Plus Size Models Don’t Promote Obesity

There are so many things wrong with the statement, “plus size models promote obesity” that it will be difficult to cover them all here which is why I will start with the most simple and obvious one. A model wearing clothing is not promoting anything other than the item he or she is hired to wear. If you feel there is mixed messaging in the image portrayed, that has nothing to do with the model themselves. It would, however, have everything to do with the companies who hired the model, photographer, art director, and advertising team to create the image and symbolic messaging behind it.

To claim that by simply showing a woman who is larger than the average straight size model (who is 5’9″ and a size zero – four) is promoting obesity is a direct reflection of our warped view of health and the female body. From my personal experience, I can tell you that at my smallest size, which was a size six, I was my most unhappy and unhealthy – even though that was when I was complimented the most by others. According to the statement we are discussing here, I could be hired as a model and not be promoting anything “unhealthy” because I looked how the other models looked. Now, I am a size twelve and I am back to a healthy weight after having my baby and I feel amazing. According to this statement, when I am hired as a model it means that I too, am “promoting obesity” because I am a plus-size model.

“Oh, not you, the really overweight ones.” This is what I have been told when I challenge people who voice this belief. I think we should really take a step back and acknowledge that the conversation around health doesn’t belong in the fashion industry, it belongs in the health industry. It shouldn’t be a concern of ours how other people are choosing to live and treat their bodies. One thing I have learned from working with countless amounts of girls and women is that weight is extremely personal and people who struggle with weight management struggle with far more than you could ever know from looking at them. Instead of continually shaming plus size people, especially women who are only now being given an opportunity to enjoy fashion the way that smaller women always have, we should be happy for them.

Self-love and confidence are multi-dimensional and I believe that the exclusion of larger girls and women in many aspects of our culture has severely damaged their sense of self from a young age. I know it did mine. I want to encourage all people to care for themselves and create the lives they want to live. You never know where that journey could begin…. it could be as simple as finding a cute pair of jeans that actually fit.

Together we can work really hard to heal our own pain and toxic relationships we may have with our bodies by understanding that regardless of our size we still have these shared experiences. We can close this discussion with two truths: 1.) Fashion should be for everyone and 2.) Health is a personal journey that each person much choose for themselves. They are not one in the same and it is time that we separate the two in the press. Let’s make fashion about exactly that, fashion! Why do we need to be obsessed with models bodies when we can be appreciating colors, prints, styles, and finding the best way to express our selves to the world? Just in case no one has told you, you deserve to wear clothing that fits, is comfortable, and that you feel beautiful and confident wearing, period. Now, that is something I think plus size models promote and something I will always stand behind.

Do Plus-Size Models Really Cause Obesity?

So have we found a root cause of the obesity epidemic: those darn plus-size models? Plus-size models are those who have a dress size of 8 or higher. (I am assuming that the definition applies to female models only as most male models are sized in the 30’s. Otherwise, every male model would be plus-sized). A study from Simon Fraser University study has spawned headlines such as “Study Claims Plus Size Models Will Cause Obesity,” “Are Plus-Size Models to Blame for the Obesity Trend,” and “Plus-Size Models are FUELING the Obesity Trend.” Should we now wage war against plus-sized models and build armies of waif-like models as a counter-strike? Should we rename the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC), the Global Plus-Size Model Prevention Center (GPSMPC)? Well…as a Meat Loaf song once said, “Stop right there.” Before you jump to conclusions (which does not count as proper physical activity), let’s look closer at the study and the evidence.

Published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, the study, entitled “The (Ironic) Dove Effect” and authored by Lily Lin and Brent McFerran, consisted of five experiments that showed a sample of women advertisement campaigns that feature plus-size models in a normalized or positive way. The result? After viewing plus-size models in a positive light, women ate more and reported less motivation to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Does this study really link plus-size models to obesity? What this study does re-affirm is that advertising, television, the internet and the movies can substantially influence people’s perceptions and behaviors. Just look at how perceptions of attractiveness have changed over the years. Would Kanye West or the Michael Jordans (both His Airness and the one with the B as a middle initial) have been considered attractive in the 1950’s before people with darker complexions became part of the mainstream media? How many of today’s celebrities would be appealing in prior times? Would tattoos, nose and tongue piercings and a lot of things now considered fashionable have even been acceptable decades ago? And the study confirms that perceptions of your own attractiveness can be strong motivating factors to change diet and exercise…as well as to starve yourself and pursue plastic surgery and Botox.

Are models such as Robyn Lawley, the first plus-size model to appear in Sports Illustrated, helping… cause the obesity epidemic? Is she so powerful that she and her laptop can overwhelm the effects of other models and the many other factors that affect metabolism, diet and physical activity? (Photo by Jason Carter Rinaldi/Getty Images)

But there are multiple reasons why this study does not really link plus-size models to obesity:

The study did not measure diet, physical activity, weight change, body mass index (BMI) or any real measure of obesity over time.

To do so the study should have followed the women and their diets, physical activity, weight, BMI, waist circumference, etc. over a longer period of time. One episode or even a few episodes of increased eating do not lead to obesity. Also, obesity results not just from the sheer number of calories consumed but also the type of calories. Eating 5,000 calories of broccoli is not the same as drinking 5,000 calories of soda.

Plus-size models are not all-powerful and do not control the many other factors that affect metabolism, diet and physical activity.

Unless plus-size models have figured out a way to harness the Force, they have limited influence on the whole system of factors that affect your metabolism, diet and physical activity and thus your BMI such as your social circles, environment, what’s in your food, the medications that you take, culture, job and economic status.

Plus-size does not mean fat or obese .

Not being very experienced in wearing women’s clothes, I am assuming that women’s clothing size (like men’s clothing size) is not the equivalent of body mass index (BMI). One can have a larger body frame but still be a healthy body weight. Also, healthy body weight and size can vary by individual.

There is no epidemic of plus-size models but there is an obesity epidemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not routinely track the movement, incidence and prevalence of plus-size models. But a quick look at fashion magazines and television still shows that the vast majority of models are not plus-sized.

The timing of the obesity epidemic has no relationship to the history of plus-size models.

While obesity has been on the rise worldwide since the 1980s, plus-size models are relatively new additions to mainstream fashion and advertising. For example, only this year did Robyn Lawley became Sports Illustrated’s first plus-size model.

Obesity has been increasing in men (and all age groups) as well.

No one seems to be talking about the relationship between plus-size men in movies, television and advertising, and the obesity epidemic in men. However, it is true that Rush Limbaugh (whom Al Franken described as a “Big Fat Idiot”) first entered the public consciousness in the 1980s. So, could Rush Limbaugh be the cause of the obesity epidemic? (Of note, Limbaugh has apparently lost a lot of weight in recent years which may mean that Franken needs to remove the word “fat” from the title of his book.)

Obesity has been spreading worldwide.

The obesity epidemic is affecting practically every country in the world as seen in this map from the World Obesity Federation. For example, many lower-income countries are dealing with the combination of under-nutrition (not having enough to eat) and obesity. While plus-size models may have great powers, how far does their influence really extend?

How well does the sample of women in the study represent all women in the population?

Different people process information differently. For example, the influence of a model on a person could depend heavily on how well the person can relate to the model. In other words, how similar is the person to the model in background, race, ethnicity, etc.?

Model Crystal Renn suffered anorexia earlier in her life after she was told to lose weight to be… able to model. Plus-size does not mean overweight or obese. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Plus-size models add needed diversity to the modeling industry.

Plus-size models do add some diversity (with an emphasis on the word some) and realism to an industry that sorely lacks both. How many female models have body shapes and sizes that are similar to the full range of women with healthy body shapes and sizes? How many female models look like scientists, firefighters, athletes or store owners? How many male models are of Black, East Asian, Indian or Native American decent? As fashion model Cameron Russell indicates in the following talk, regardless of the model’s body shape, what you see is rarely reality…as airbrushing, camera angle and makeup mask what is really underneath:

Obesity is more than just appearance.

While the Simon Fraser University study provided useful insight, it and its reaction also does raise a fundamental problem with current public perception of the obesity epidemic. Obesity is not just about appearance and getting people to eat less. The causes, the potential solutions and the impact are much more complex. Obesity leads to many psychological, social and health problems and a wide variety of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. If appearance is your only (or strongest) motivation to live a healthier lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight, then you have a misunderstanding that no model, regardless of her (or his) body frame will solve.

Nike clearly wants our money, and lots of it, but by putting a fat mannequin onto its shop floor it’s at least making it explicit that fat women are welcome. That’s significant anywhere, but perhaps more so in sportswear. Despite every fat person being told that the people who abuse us are only doing so ‘for our health’, we receive just as much hostility when exercising. Fat women are jeered at while out running and laughed at in gyms. That’s what happens when you combine an environment that is heavily associated with weight loss and six packs with the fact that no matter where you are, you’re always going to encounter people who find your body objectionable.

If fat people are supposed to lose weight because our bodies are unacceptable, you would think exercising would be the one thing we could do without being criticised and harassed. We can’t, because the issue with fat people isn’t really that we might be unhealthy but that others find us revolting. Nike isn’t going to change any of this by selling plus size workout gear. True acceptance would be the understanding that whether fat people exercise or not, and whether we want to lose weight or not, we are deserving of the same respect as everyone else. I want to be able to walk down the street without the fear that someone is going to shout at me to eat a salad (again) – not because I do, but because it doesn’t matter either way. A big mannequin isn’t going to make that so.

“When it comes to changing perceptions, normalising fat people’s existence in public spaces is important”

Nike have made it explicitly clear that fat women are included in their audience, and not just as an afterthought or an also-ran. We’re meant to shop there, we’re meant to wear those clothes and we’re meant to exercise if we want to! When it comes to changing perceptions, normalising fat people’s existence in public spaces is important.

It’s exactly because those perceptions are changing, even if it is slowly, that people are so upset to see a visibly fat piece of plastic advertising exercise clothing to visibly fat humans. The idea that fat people can be out in public accessing the things that they want that are designed for them must be horrifying for people who would rather we didn’t exist at all.

AS a plus-size blogger it has been incredible to watch the rise of the body positive movement.

But sadly, some of my curvy icons seem to be shrinking before my very eyes.

7 Ashley Graham showing off her beautiful body on the catwalk back in 2016Credit: Getty Images – Getty

I thought the world was becoming more accepting of ALL shapes and sizes.

Plus-size high fashion models and celebrities are finally creating a seat at the table for us, but sadly, some of those curvy icons seem to be shrinking before our very eyes.

Plus-size model of the moment Ashley Graham is noticeably smaller compared to a few years ago.

She could have succumbed to the pressure of being smaller, or perhaps her management encouraged her to drop a dress size or two.

7

Is she now so changed by the fame, or weighed down by the pressure to achieve the ‘ideal body’ that she’s attempting to lose the curves that made her arguably one of the most famous curvy women in the world?

Ashley has received major backlash on Instagram after posting regular fitness videos with people accusing her of betraying the sisterhood.

Why is seeing plus-size women exercise a taboo?

7 Ashley Graham working it for the cameraCredit: Instagram

We are called lazy and criticised if we don’t, and mocked if we do, but having a passion for fitness does not automatically mean that someone isn’t happy with their body.

People exercise for different reasons, not purely for weight loss so Ashley is probably just trying to maintain a size she feels comfortable at.

I do appreciate that some might feel let down by a role model heavily changing their appearance, but the pressure on women in the public eye to change and conform can be overwhelming.

7 Rosie Mercado walks the runway during the Pulp Fashion ShowCredit: Getty – Contributor 7 Rosie Mercado looked noticeably different when she hit the red carpet at the 2017 EMMY AwardsCredit: Getty – Contributor 7 Khloe Kardashian showing off her before and after photo on InstagramCredit: Instagram

What I find most frustrating is when a respected plus-size celebrity or a model chooses to lose weight, they claim to have a new lease of life now that they’re slimmer.

It could be with a new fitness DVD or ‘before and after’ images all over their social media.

This really doesn’t sit well with me as they’re essentially saying that their life wasn’t OK when they were bigger – not a great message to project to a potentially all plus-size following.

I can even see why some women would feel ‘betrayed’ to see their favourite curvy role model three sizes lighter.

7 Chloe Elliott striking a pose for her 35K Instagram followers

That person they admired for loving their bigger body – different from the ‘norm’ – celebrating their rolls, stretch marks and curves has essentially sold out and conformed.

If these women chose to change their bodies for whatever reason – that’s fine.
Your body, your life.

But it still makes it difficult to digest when there are barely enough plus-size role models as it is.

I can’t wait for the day where we regularly see body confident plus-size women in the media completely unashamed of their bodies, and proving that you CAN be happy without striving for weight loss.

I promise you there are people out there like that- just take a look at the plus-size blogging community.

It is a shame that even as adults, so many successful plus women in the media still feel the pressure to shrink, meaning one less curvy role model for the rest of us.

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Previously, we revealed that M&S has launched a new Curve collection for sizes 18-22? We’ve picked the best pieces so you can stay ahead of the trend.

If you’re a fan of Ashley Graham you might want to check out the pictures of her wearing a killer PVC dress – she looks incredible.

Also, you might be interested to read plus-size model Lucija Lugomer’s honest post about her stretch marks – it had a BIG reaction online.

Ashley Graham flashes her bum in new ‘empowering’ Love Magazine Advent Calendar

Plus-Size Model Is Famous For 75-Inch Hips. 2 Years Later, She’s Slammed For Losing Weight

Amy is the Director of Trending Content at LittleThings. After graduating from Florida State University with a creative writing degree, she moved straight to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She loves discovering and sharing viral videos, watching movies with her Muppet-like poodle mix named Cali, and doing the robot whenever possible.

Rosie Mercado wanted to break into modeling, but was often rejected because of her size. People in the fashion industry loved her beautiful face in photos, but told her that she would find more work if she lost weight.

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After her divorce in 2009, she entered the Miss Plus America Pageant and was discovered.

Soon, Rosie’s 75-inch hips made her a famous plus-sized model. At her heaviest, the thirty-something mom-of-three weighed over 400 pounds.

But a few years ago, she decided to get healthier and began exercising. The more months that passed the more weight she lost — until she was down 250 pounds in just a couple of years.

Rosie documented her weight loss journey on social media.

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But instead of being “fat-shamed” by critics of her modeling, like she’d been in the past, it was her own fan base that turned against her. She never expected the backlash.

“I got hate mail,” she told TMZ. “They told me to go jump off a bridge and kill myself for losing weight.”

In the clip below, Rosie appears on The Doctors to reveal her dramatic weight loss and positive, confident attitude.

Please SHARE Rosie’s story with your friends on Facebook.

Are plus-size models making us fat?

Fat Mum Slim / Apr 2011

I’ve been fat all my life. Ironically, I was the smallest of all my siblings at birth, but after I turned around eight that all changed. I have my Dad’s genes, a childhood incident behind me and a lifetime of food issues, all which I’ve spent years, tears and energy trying to change.

As child I didn’t know plus-size models {or fashion} existed. I just knew that sometimes I had to shop in the women section to get things to fit. I was both tall and chubby, not a great combination when looking for clothes as a pre-teen. As a teen and into my twenties I managed to make do with the fashion available in normal sizes, managing to squeeze into some items and adjusting my wardrobe with the limited options available. Even at my skinniest I was still limited in what I could wear, or find in stores.

It has only been since having a baby that I’ve stumbled across plus-size options, and even when I first discovered them I felt almost taboo to be shopping at ‘big girl’ shops. Having plus-size options secretly excited me, because after a lifetime of not having any real choices I began to feel like I could piece together outfits that I actually liked. For me, seeing plus-size models wearing plus-size clothes made my happy, and more accepting of who I was and the body I had.

Two doctors, Dr Davide Dragone and Dr Luca Savorelli, from the University of Bologna in Italy believe that plus-size models are detrimental to our health. They believe that curvy models lower the incentive for overweight women to lose weight and make healthy eating habits.

Whilst seeing plus-size models made me happy and more accepting of myself, it didn’t ever stop me from wanting to be healthier and get to a size that was better for my well-being. I don’t believe, personally, that plus-size models are detrimental to my health. In fact, most of the plus-size models I’ve seen are only a size 18 at most, so they’re not bordering on morbidly obese by any means.

I believe there will always be a place for plus-size models and fashion in the world. I hope one day I don’t need it {and I’m actively working towards that}, but for now it allows me to choose clothing that fits and brings joy to my life. I wouldn’t shy away from sharing all body shapes and sizes with Lacey. I want her to know that every body is beautiful, but in the end health, and being healthy, really matters.

I just think back to that chubby not-so-little girl that I once was, struggling to feel like I actually fit anywhere, and then that sigh-of-relief-feeling I got when I stumbled across plus-size fashion. I don’t believe plus-size models are making us fat. I think they’re giving us hope, helping us find self-acceptance and bringing joy as well. At least to me anyways.

Do you believe plus-size models are making women fat? Or are at least lowering women’s incentives to lose weight?

Ashley Graham, the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, looks absolutely gaw-geous in the mag this month.

View this post on Instagram

Truly speechless!!! This cover is for every woman who felt like she wasn’t beautiful enough because of her size. You can do and achieve anything you put your mind to. Thank you so much to the entire @si_swimsuit team! I’m so excited to be a part of your family. I love you all!!! #siswim #beautybeyondsize

A post shared by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@ashleygraham) on Feb 13, 2016 at 9:05pm PST

But yesterday, Cheryl Teigs, a 68-year-old former SI swimsuit edition cover model, made some pretty loaded comments in an interview with E! about Ashley’s weight. “I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 ,” she said. “That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it. No, I don’t think it’s healthy. Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”

She then went further on Twitter:

To clarify re bodyweight. Being anorexic/bulimic/overweight all connected to health problems. I want all to be as healthy as they can.

— Cheryl Tiegs (@CherylTiegs) February 26, 2016

So can you really equate being plus-size with being unhealthy?

Absolutely not, says Michelle May, M.D., founder of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs and Training. “I do not agree with Cheryl at all—she’s completely innaccurate,” says May, who adds that comments like the ones Cheryl made lead to weight bias, stigma, and judgment.

Sign up for Women’s Health’s new newsletter, So This Happened, to get the day’s trending stories and health studies.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that body mass index (BMI) is not a reliable way to measure someone’s health. Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles found that close to half of Americans (34.4 million to be exact) who are considered overweight by their BMI number (25 to 29.9) are healthy, as are 19.8 million who are considered obese (that would be a BMI of 30 and up).

RELATED: 6 THINGS PLUS-SIZED WOMEN ARE TIRED OF HEARING WHEN THEY WORK OUT

And, more than 30 percent of people who have BMIs in the “normal” range (18.5 to 24.9) are unhealthy. This group of people often goes without having diseases diagnosed until they’re in advanced stages, since they believe they’re healthy, says Linda Bacon, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of California-Davis and author of Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight. Even when you see disease more among heavier people, it’s because of other variables correlated with a heavier weight, not the weight itself, says Bacon. For example, there’s a strong correlation between weight and poverty and a strong correlation between poverty and poor health, she says.

“What that tells us is that when we try to assess a person’s health simply by looking at them, we’re going to make major mistakes,” says May. You can’t—and shouldn’t—judge a woman’s health by how she looks in a swimsuit. Case closed.

Christina Heiser Christina Heiser is a health reporter and writer specializing in overall wellness, nutrition, and beauty and skincare; she has held previous staff positions at Women’s Health, Everyday Health, and Webedia.

Are You Healthy at Any Size?

There are those who advocate that you can be healthy at any size and being overweight isn’t really that bad for you. There are doctors who agree and some doctors who state that this is a very irresponsible point of view. Each side has valid points, but the ultimate health determination is your own doctor, your physical shape and mental attitude.

Pro Weight

Plus-size women or those that are a size 14 are the average sized American women and some experts agree that this size is a healthy size. This growing attitude is endorsed by Regina Benjamin, M.D., the surgeon general. This is awesome news for the 33 percent of American women who are overweight, but not exactly obese. Or is it?

One model feels that bulking up has been great for her new lifestyle. This former 95-pound model was depressed and lived on little besides vegetables and diet soda. Now her life is filled with runway gigs and photo shoots. She says, “The caliber of work I do is much higher now that I have energy.” At 5’9″ and 170 pounds she is considered overweight according to her body mass index or BMI. Yet she looks great and feels even better.

Doctors use BMI to measure whether a patient is carrying a healthy weight or obese. Those who score above normal are potentially unwell according to last year”s myths. Research is now proving that the correlation between weight and health is exaggerated. Studies have found that people with an overweight BMI have lower incidences of lung cancers, bronchitis, osteoporosis and anemia than their normal BMI friends. Those with overweight BMI scores also have a lower risk of dying early.

Love to eat? Keep it up and be a pear shaped woman or a man with an overlapping tummy. It’s okay. Thigh, butt and hip fat are chemically stable and stable fat keeps harmful compounds from destroying your digestive system. Thigh fat secretes adiponectin that helps the body metabolize sugar and uses the chemical leptin as an appetite regulator.

More positives to being overweight? Extra weight may not be great, but it beats fad dieting. Research proves that yo-yo dieting can slow metabolisms and cause cardiac stress. These types of diets actually lead to long term weight problems.

Pros for Weight Loss

Doctors and fitness experts cry that there is no chance dieting is worse than being fat. Weigh loss is definitely difficult but you should still pursue weight loss in the name of health. Extra weight can increase your risk of developing breast cancers, and women with normal cholesterol and blood pressure and weight still develop heart disease at higher rates then weight managed women. If you are overweight you may look “healthy”  but you probably are not all that healthy.

Fat placement is definitely a problem. Gaining weight through overeating does not give you an option of where the pounds end up on your body. Thigh fat might be beneficial but abdomen al fat is definitely not. Visceral fat is interior fat, is very dangerous and can coat your organs and release inflammatory acids that are linked to coronary diseases and cancers.

Weight gain is definitely not good looking. There are those who have love handles that escalate into a heaviness that is almost obscene. You might want to realize that your forbearers who had to hunt and gather to eat actually evolved into a lean species and that is where we should strive to land. Not unhealthy skinny, but BMI lean.

To put things into perspective, your heart is only as big as your fist. How can it possibly power a huge body with rolls of fat and miles of visceral interior fat? States one researcher, asking a small muscle to power an overweight frame is like putting a little engine in an SUV.”

The average woman is beautiful but she is also more than 20 pounds overweight and verging on the edge of obesity. This may be great news for those American women who are in the 33 percentile and not quite obese, but with just a few more French fries you might just tip into the obese range.

Agreements

Both pro-fat and pro-lean agree that fitness is the key and pounds are much less important than the type of body fat you carry. BMI is becoming more out of date as a measurement, but still serves a purpose and it does give a benchmark where to start with weight loss.

There is no disagreement on exercise as being crucial to health. Exercise reduces mortality risk by almost 50 percent regardless of weight issues. Aerobic exercise and resistance training trim waistlines and that includes the padding you see and feel as well as the visceral fat that lies on the inside overtaking your precious organs. If you workout you will find that visceral fat will stop forming and start disappearing.

One interesting study found that the plus-size person who regularly exercises at the gym is by far healthier than the thin couch potato. Movement equals health.

Healthy fat might be fun since you may feel free to eat what you want, but there is nothing fun about being so far overweight that you cannot bend over to tie your shoes. What is fun is having energy to throw around a ball, run and walk up stairs or play baseball with a bunch of kids.

If you equate being overweight and being healthy, that is a definite irresponsible idea. Look around you are realize that we have heath care costs that are rising on a minute by minute basis and these costs are related to adding on excess pounds. You may never be or should never be rail thin. Be heavier and healthy but make sure you are eating right, exercising and moving; that’s the way to be healthy at any size.

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From American model Ashley Graham’s advocacy of self-love and acceptance, to British beauty Iskra Lawrence calling out the ‘thigh gap’ as a myth, average-sized women are increasingly not only being noticed but being pushed to the forefront of the fashion industry, and we for one couldn’t be happier.

Getty Images

And, apparently, there’s more to this happiness than was previously believed, as it turns out that when the media represent normal-sized (read: a range of) women, not only is it reassuring for those of us whose thighs do touch, but it’s also been proven to boost our mental health.

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Hanging out with #TheOne bag from @farfetch

A post shared by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@ashleygraham) on May 2, 2017 at 9:49am PDT

A new study by Florida State University has found plus-size models are improving women’s mental health, with participants being showing to pay attention to, and remember, images of average and plus-size models, more so than when viewing images of thinner models.

The research involved recruiting 49 women in their twenties who all expressed a desire to be thinner.

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🙌 #CHxFortnight coming soon! Photography by @lililand Hair and Makeup @blairpetty More to come, stay tuned! #BeBold #BeYou #BeOneofaKind

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Each were shown various images of thin, average and plus-size fashion models before begin asked questions about their own body satisfaction and how much they compared themselves to the models.

As researchers recorded their psychological responses they found when average and plus-sized models were displayed, women made fewer comparisons, paid more attention to the models and reported feeling higher levels of body satisfaction.

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Meanwhile, when slimmer models were presented, women were found to make more comparisons, remember less about the models, have lower body satisfaction and poorer psychological health.

Russell Clayton, author of the study and assistant professor in the FSU School of Communication told the Florida State University News: ‘We found overwhelmingly that there is a clear psychological advantage when the media shows more realistic body types than the traditional thin model.

‘Therefore, it might be a useful persuasive strategy for media producers to employ plus-size models if the goal of the campaign is to capture attention while also promoting body positivity,’ he added.

We think you’re on to something there, Russell.

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