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More Plus Size Models Won’t Make Women Obese

7 May

A recent study came out linking a rise in the number of plus-size models to obesity, claiming that if women see plus-size models, it will raise the ideal body size and make them more comfortable to eat more. It says that if a culture is generally underweight, plus-size acceptance will make them healthier, but the opposite is true if the culture is generally overweight. While I do believe that the fashion industry has a large influence on women’s body image, I find this study ridiculous. Raising the ideal body weight will actually make a lot of women healthier.

Plus-size models are actually not unhealthy or vastly overweight. They are simply bigger than a size 0 and, while closer to the average size of women, they are usually smaller than the average women’s size 14, at about a 10. They have to maintain an ideal body shape, just like other models. They stay active and eat well. They are actually healthier than “normal” runway models, because they actually eat the recommended amount of calories per day.

Emaciated runway models present an ideal body image that is unachievable for most women, and has influenced women, (including models themselves), to chase this weight, often making unhealthy choices in the process. The idea that super-thin is perfection isn’t the only cause, but it contributes to the high rates of eating disorders. Eight million Americans have eating disorders, about 2 out of every hundred people, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (see more statistics here). Yes, anorexia and bulimia are psychological disorders, but the influence of this skinny ideal cannot be helping those suffering from the disease.

There is case after case of models struggling to stay thin. Crystal Renn (pictured at right), one of the most famous plus-size models, suffered from anorexia shortly after she was discovered at age 14. She was told by agents that she needed to lose weight to be a model, so she starved herself for years to succeed. She fought the eating disorder, and came back to the modeling industry as a size 12, much healthier than she was before. She has since lost a lot of weight, and is about an 8, still considered plus-size by the fashion industry.

If plus-size models were more accepted, maybe women who are overweight would be given hope that they too can achieve a body they can be proud of. They’re still smaller than most American women, and would give them a lower weight to work towards. The plus-size models can only help by possibly lowering eating disorder rates and giving women who aren’t a size 0 more self esteem.

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