Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It’s not the size that matters

biba-april2006-1

Here we have it again. Yet another articles called “Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?”  talking about models as the biggest evil of them all appeared PLUS Model Magazine and this time I just had to respond.

The mag apparently claims that…

Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.

Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modelling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.

Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.

50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.

If we continue to ignore and rely on others to decide what we want to see, change will never happen. We have to be vocal and proactive, patient and realistic.

They also add that “not everyone is meant to be skinny, our bodies are beautiful and we are not talking about health here because not every skinny person is healthy”.

As somebody who is equally passionate about nutrition, health, fashion and beauty, I couldn’t ignore it.

I wasn’t sure what would be the best way to comment on the article, so I thought I’d use the above statements and respond to every one of them. Hopefully it won’t be too confusing.

Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.

Well, first of all, what country was used to obtain this stats? The States, Australia, Japan, Europe?

I vividly remember what women and models looked like 20 years ago and let me remind the younger audience that 20 years ago an average woman was, in fact, slimmer than now while the model standards have hardly changed. In addition to that, it’s important to remember that many models in the 1990s were at least 18 where as now they start at 16. If somebody compares an average woman (who is most likely to be in her 20s if not 30s) to an average model, it’s obvious that the weight difference will be higher.

Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between US size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modelling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.

It is impossible to please everyone, but a woman who is comfortable in her own skin won’t go out there saying that certain images should never be used in magazines because they make her feel inadequate. Why? Because her life keeps her busy and happy. The sky is blue, the grass is green and models come in certain sizes. That’s life.

From a nutritional point of view, if somebody’s diet isn’t balanced or a person carries excess amount of fat, the hormonal and nervous system may not function the way they should, which may lead to depression and many forms of dissatisfaction. Nothing to do with the models. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.

First of all, BMI isn’t a reliable marker for establishing whether or not a person is healthy. It is a well-known fact that an athlete will have a higher BMI than a woman in her, say, 70s, simply because the athlete would have more muscles that weigh more, it doesn’t also establish whether or not a person is healthy.

Models are never chosen by weight – weight doesn’t matter as long as the vital stats meet the criteria, so I’m not even sure how somebody managed to measure their BMIs without obtaining the necessary information – or what it done just by looking at those girl?

If somebody does want to do any forms of calculations, they should use waist/hips ratio instead.

Using the term “anorexia” in combination with modelling industry is not a fair play. Anyone can become anorexic. It doesn’t come with the job, but rather caused by emotional imbalances of many kinds.

Yes, some models are very slim and may get into “underweight” category, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are anorexics or unhealthy. More over, being slim may actually decrease risk of developing certain types of disease and increase life expectancy.

On the other hand, according to one of the recent surveys almost 70% of women are, in fact, overweight, which definitely increases their risk of heart disease and diabetes etc. Small percentage of these women do have hormonal imbalances that may cause weight gain, but they are a minority here. 

50% of women wear a US size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.

Fair enough, but many companies cannot afford producing large size clothes that require more complicated patterns AND more fabric that would  have to be sold for the same price as a smaller size garment. Can’t really blame them for it.

If we continue to ignore and rely on others to decide what we want to see, change will never happen. We have to be vocal and proactive, patient and realistic.

You know what would be the most wonderful and proactive thing here? Tell women that being overweight has nothing to do with being beautiful or not, but most importantly – with her health and health of her children. This is the reality. The world is getting bigger and it’s got nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the models – they maintain what they’ve got while an average woman gains more and more as the years go by.

I’m very well aware that a successful model knows a lot about nutrition and healthy eating and her diet is balanced and clean. She also exercises or walks a lot and takes care of her body and mind. After all, modelling is a job that requires beautiful skin, slim body and ability to work under pressure that can only be achieved through healthy diet and lifestyle. And talking of jobs… Ballerinas are also required to be very slim, just slim as models… Why the society is happy to accept them as a norm, but criticising the models for every bump and lump?

I feel that by writing such an article the PLUS magazine is not actually trying to help women, but rather creating yet another hype and using models as the most obvious subject because they are a minority here. Good marketing move, of course, but do the mag editors really believe they did something to improve self-esteem or life of plus-size women out there? Perhaps, it’s best to stop creating an unnecessary revolution and start writing articles that would actually provide useful information to PLUS mag readers? Say, delicious recipes for a balanced diet, dressing for your body shape, or what those 2 extra inches around the waist really do for one’s health? Just a though, you know…

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject, whatever they are. Do you think the article does have a point? Feel free to express your ideas and emotions here.

Photo source: Biba April 2006

14 comments:

  1. What an interesting topic and post! You've made some great observations on that article. I wish they these magazines provided more information about healthy eating, the importance of exercise, of taking good care of your body than making unnecessary comparisons between average women and models. And I'm again with you on this one: an average woman's weight. The fact that the world population is getting fatter and fatter does not seem to raise the questions it should.

    I, for one, feel good about being slim. I'm not model-slim, meaning that my body conformation would never meet that androgynous type, but I know what weight is healthy and looks good for my body type and height, the weight I feel comfortable about. I know there are other women who feel and look good in a plus size. Good for them as long as they are healthy too. Although I strongly believe that there is a balance and you can't deviate too much from certain parameters.

    It's articles like yours I would like to read more often in magazines. It's a matter of education after all knowing what is right for you and being informed before passing on unfounded judgment on what is the optimum weight and whether models are unhealthily slim.

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  2. I fully agree with you on this point. There is no sense in provoking self-indulgence amongst overweight women and thus hiding the truth.
    I fall for beautyful, curvy, overall slender and toned body (think yoga). Neither plus-many-sized, nor superskinny models seem attractive to me, though I have to confess that subconsciously my mind recognizes those slimmer girls as ones with higher chance of being healthy.
    However, as for waist-hips ratio, I do find 1950-s models perfect. You don't see many of such hourglass figures today. And that's a bit sad, considering that age difference is only the part of the story.
    Thank you for your opinion on this controversial topic. I'd like nutritionists, not PLUS mag to be the speakers on such an occasion.

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  3. I fully agree with you on this point. There is no sense in provoking self-indulgence amongst overweight women and thus hiding the truth.
    I fall for beautyful, curvy, overall slender and toned body (think yoga). Neither plus-many-sized, nor superskinny models seem attractive to me, though I have to confess that subconsciously my mind recognizes those slimmer girls as ones with higher chance of being healthy.
    However, as for waist-hips ratio, I do find 1950-s models perfect. You don't see many of such hourglass figures today. And that's a bit sad, considering that age difference is only the part of the story.
    Thank you for your opinion on this controversial topic. I'd like nutritionists, not PLUS mag to be the speakers on such an occasion.

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  4. I think you wrote almost all the things that came to my mind when I saw these notes and I couldn't agree with you more. Well said girl!

    Blaming the models and fashion industry is such a cliché.

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  5. Well done for posting this|!!! xx

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  6. I agree with you wholeheartedly Natalia - i was chatting to a friend recently and we both commented on how by todays standards all the average people in old news reels etc looked so thin - just because the norm is now fatter does not mean it is obligatory or a good thing. No-one in their right mind would think that anorexia is something to be celebrated and a lot of models are super slim but i do not believe they are the sole cause for a complex disease, what there does seem to be is a huge amount of talk about the dangerously underweight and very little about the epidemia of overweight that is just as large a risk to health. In every culture there is a physical ideal - very rarely do we all fit that ideal - the pressure should be to be happy and healthy making the best of what you have not to have to be a zero but not to have to be overweight either - what happened to the healthy middle ? x

    http://fashionandfrank.blogspot.com/

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  7. great blogggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

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  8. Talk about preaching to the choir! What a simultaneously unsurprising yet ineffective feature for Plus Mag. Personally I think it would be positive to see more varieties of female body shape in magazines but this kind of article has been written a hundred (bzillion) times. Do something instead. x

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  9. You tore them apart girl! Good for you for taking each point by point. Most of the models today are MUCH younger than their counterparts from the past. The basis they were using, was definitely not scientific or true for that matter. I couldn't agree with you more. Now some models/ballerinas do have unhealthy eating habits, but not all of them are that way. Great post!!! Love it!

    http://averysweetblog.com/

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  10. Diet is very very bad way for weight loss

    I always prefer exercises + massage + swimming

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  11. Its funny, when I was reading through the article and you said how models are now a substantial amount more slender than the 'normal woman' I could not help but think that it is a well known fact that a much larger percentage of women in countries like the UK and the US are now overweight (even if slightly). So while models have gotten thinner since the 80s, 'normal women' have also gained weight on average.

    And on the BMI you are absolutely right. When I used to dance ballet my BMI actually indicated that I was close to being overweight due to my muscle mass and I have not changed sizes!

    The world cannot keep on blaming the fashion industry for eating disorders (although sometimes, particularly a few years ago, some models were ridiculously thin)

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  12. This makes me so angry. I have been living with an eating disorder for 3 years now and I have always believed, even as a small child that being thinner is better. I acknowedge that this belief didn't directly cause my eating disorder, however I also believe that wihout these images constantly bombarding me I might have found another outlet for my pain. Very slim is only healthily possible for certain body types and metabolisms and when all these beautiful clothes are seen on such skinny girls I believe that it can make girls desperate to be that thin. I have never met another woman who didn't wish she was thinner and I just think that these images create unhealthy expectations. The majority of women believe that they have to be thin to be beautiful. Which unfortunately has become societies expectation. I certainly don't think that this is entirely the fashion industries fault, but I also don't think they haven't played a part. Perhaps both sides need to take some responsibility.

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  13. You go girl! I couldn't agree with you more on all accounts. Those of us that are knowledgeable about fitness, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle certainly know that being thin does not mean anorexia. Yes, beautiful does come in many shapes and sizes, but it is important to take care of our bodies.
    I do agree that being skinny is not a requirement to be beautiful and it is important for magazine editors and the fashion industry to promote that message too. I think that is happening now as I see that more and more.
    Great post and great job addressing each of the statements.
    XO, Gina
    http://classyeverafter.blogspot.com

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  14. like that post. it would be great if most of us understood that everyone is different, and even in my case, when we are wider shape we can never be super skinny. But everyone can be healthy, and that is more important.

    http://theshortiesfashion.blogspot.co.uk/

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