Plus-Size Top Model Winner Talks about Healthy Body Image
When size 10 contestant Whitney Thompson won America’s Next Top Model, it was both a surprise to many and the starting-point of a heated controversy about dieting, modeling, and its influence on the body image of young men and women.
The majority of model competitors are size 2 or less, which is the dominant trend in the fashion industry, and has been cited as some as being a major factor in the low self-image experienced by young women especially, and many people praised her victory as a step forward in helping people establish a healthy body image.
However, experts on health and dieting have said that this victory sends the wrong message to children whose obesity rates continue to grow.They say that Thompson’s victory sends the message that “it’s okay to be fat.”
In response, Thompson points out that she is not at all fat.In fact, she points out, her body mass index is right where it should be.She is a healthy, active woman who maintains her body weight, but she is, in her words, not going to starve herself, and says anyone who “[encourages] people to starve themselves or throw up after every meal [. . .] should be shot.” She points out that being underweight is just as unhealthy as being overweight.She says, some “models are literally starving to death.”
I would add that for years we have had super-skinny models, and during all this time the obesity rate has continued to climb.Paradoxically, the promotion of ultra-skinny models leads to bad body image, which may inspire dieting and exercise in the short term, but then people find that their diet is either not working or causes them to lose their curves.Their inability to reach the model ideal drives people to despair of ever looking good, which leads to obesity through complete neglect of their bodies and “comfort eating.”
Perhaps the promotion of a distribution of healthy body types will help people to understand that, even though many of us cannot achieve the ideal favored by the modeling industry, it does not mean we can’t look good.Even cosmetic surgery procedures like liposuction cannot make us look like the skinny models, but through body contouring and a proper use of proportion, you can look good, and, many would say, better than models, who, to use Thompson’s phrase, “look like a hanger,” and are only good for hanging clothes on.