Plus-size models are…dangerous??

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As I indicated at the beginning of 2016, one of my goals this year is body acceptance. Being a large person is not easy in today’s society. People judge your book by its cover, and make many assumptions that simply are not true. Finding clothes is easier, but it is still the VAST minority in most stores. In fact a few stores are downright LAUGHABLE with the allocated space to plus-size clothing. Or if they have a large selection the majority of it is hideous, ill-fitting, or mysteriously sized.  The one thing you rarely see when shopping are mannequins of “real” sized people wearing the clothes. Even at plus-size stores the clothes are all pinned up behind the mannequin to make them look “better” (I witnessed this over the past weekend). Besides mannequins, we really don’t see a lot of plus size people, especially women, in the movies, on TV, magazines, etc. Melissa McCarthy is getting some attention, mostly for the weight she has lost recently. Oprah is now a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. We see a sprinkling here and there, but it still not the norm. So imagine my surprise when I saw this title–Seeing Plus-Size Models Could Cause Unhealthy Habits: SFU Study By Emma Paling 12/10/15*. First, an excerpt from the article, then I will have a few choice words to say…

The fashion industry has long been criticized for using scary-thin models that promote unhealthy habits — and now some researchers are suggesting the same can happen with plus-sized models, too.

A study out of Simon Fraser University’s business school found that participants exposed to larger-bodied people in advertisements saw obesity as more socially acceptable than those who saw images of only thinner models.

Research led by co-authors Brent McFerran and Lily Lin suggested that seeing plus-size models represented in a positive light — such as in Dove commercials — had a “contagious” effect on viewers.

“Those exposed to the acceptance ad had less motivation to be in better shape,” the study, published by the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, states.

In some parts of the study, participants were offered snacks or asked to put together their ideal meal, and answers varied based on which ad they’d seen.

Accepting larger bodies increases a person’s tendency to choose unhealthy foods and decreases their motivation to get in shape, the report called “The (Ironic) Dove Effect” went on to say…

…McFerran, said the problem comes from making judgmental statements about bodies — any bodies at all. Pairing overweight or obese models with the message that they’re “average” or “real” is dangerous, he told CBC News.

“The usage of a range of body types is probably a good thing, so long as we’re not holding up either one of those bodies, be it large or be it small, and saying this is what you should strive to, or this is good.”

Well, the first thing I thought was THIS IS BULLSHIT. But before I got my XL undies in a bundle, I decided to check out the research. The article provides a link so I did a quick scan. While they had statistically significant findings, their test groups were not that large, sometimes as low as around 160 people. In my opinion, I am not sure if I can extrapolate what 160 people think/do to the entire population, at least to the point that we should be concerned.  

Second, “seeing plus-size models represented in a positive light — such as in Dove commercials”…Why is this considered “positive”? I’ve seen the ads and I wouldn’t necessarily say they were positive or negative – they just were. They were revolutionary at the time because no one included women who had bigger hips, a few belly rolls or maybe even some cellulite. However I also recall women of different colors and heights as being part of the ad. Not sure I have seen any studies about that…

And why shouldn’t being plus-size be “socially accepted”? People struggle every day with their weight and all the issues that come with it. No one has the right to judge another based on the way they look lest they walked in that person’s shoes. Being overweight is not just a willpower problem. Not even close. These people may have emotional issues they have yet to deal with or a genetic makeup that makes it very difficult to lose weight or maybe even a medical condition. They are a part of the population that should be represented appropriately in the mass media because they are a very real part of the population.

And saying plus-size people are “average” or “real” is dangerous? DANGEROUS? Maybe to the diet industry but I don’t believe it poses a threat to anyone else.

The key to this article is at the very end. “The usage of a range of body types is probably a good thing, so long as we’re not holding up either one of those bodies, be it large or be it small, and saying this is what you should strive to, or this is good.” I agree about having a variety of sizes so the general public can relate, and I can even see not labeling it good or bad. To me it is no different than having people of different heights or colors. Because the world is made up of all different shapes and sizes and they all put their pants on the same way – one leg at a time.  

It is important for me to mention that I am reacting to the quotes used in this article. However, I encourage you to read the study, as it does list several variables and different interpretations of the data, some of which I agree. You always have to consider the source, right?  

As a plus-size girl who NEVER saw anyone her size in any mode of media, I would have been comforted by the sight of people my size in a commercial or a magazine. Does it mean I would have stopped exercising and ate fast food every day? Doubtful. And nowadays if a company chooses to have women of larger sizes or at least a mix, I would certainly consider buying their product. It doesn’t mean they are promoting being plus-size, it means they give a crap about an underserved population in the world (and they are really smart, because I can attest that my plus-size money spends the same as anyone else’s).  

When I first read this story, I related its findings based on the article (not having read the whole study) to my personal trainer. He said he works very hard with his children to teach them that what makes a person beautiful is on the INSIDE, not the OUTSIDE. And his mother-in-law went as far as to suggest to his daughter that instead of just stick people, she draw some that were rounder, taller, shorter, etc. That makes me smile. I think we can agree that there is no study needed to see the benefit of THAT.



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