Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Should We Encourage Plus Sized Beauty?

After Women's Running magazine featured a plus sized cover girl, the internet was divided over whether plus sized beauty should be encouraged and represented in the media. I often get into this debate on Twitter (sigh) so I thought my beauty/lifestyle blog would be a relevant place for me to gather my thoughts. Hint: The answer is obviously yes. It frustrates me that this even needs to be discussed, but plus sized figures must be equally represented in the media. Disclaimer: As a UK size 10/12, I'm aware I'm not best positioned to speak on behalf of the plus sized community. I speak from observations I've made about others around me and my personal opinion on the beauty industry as a whole, so please comment below if you feel I'm overlooking anything.
First, let's talk about the ridiculous definition of "plus sized". Despite the UK average for a woman being a size 16, models are classed as plus sized from a size 12. Despite being a 10/12 myself, I'm a 'large' in Hollister and a snug 'medium' in Urban Outfitters. By this logic, an average size 16 girl could be 'XXL', HOW CAN AVERAGE BE BASED UPON XXL? Not only does this make online shopping difficult, but it has a detrimental effect on confidence and self esteem.The media would have you believe that an 'XS' is the only appropriate size for young girls, of course this is true for some but this is simply not a reflection of most of our society. It's important for retailers to cater to a more realistic range of bodies and lower the bar.

My second issue is those who condemn plus sized models for being "unhealthy". (They tend to be of the conservative persuasion, you know the sort that hate feminism, immigrants, human rights etc.) Are you all health professionals? Do you know every one of these people personally? I don't think so. So what gives you the authority to stop someone else doing what they want? The range of healthy BMI's is actually pretty wide and people carry weight differently depending on their height, figure, bone and muscle structure. There isn't one definitive image of "healthy" so it isn't accurate or fair to judge health purely on physical appearance. 

You also have to consider that metabolism varies from person to person. It's quite possible that a smaller person eats more than a larger person, but you wouldn't realise as no one is calling them greedy or disgusting. Furthermore, a truly healthy diet involves balance and variety. Foods containing naturally occurring good fats are far more beneficial to your health than many "diet" products loaded with chemicals. Crash dieting does more damage than maintaining a slightly higher yet stable weight.

It baffles me that so many people are willing to cast aside plus size models as unhealthy but accept slimmer models (who are overrepresented, their body type makes up just 5% of the population) without second thought. A huge problem in the industry is drug addiction and using drugs as a means of radical dieting. You Obese Police don't consider this to be an unhealthy lifestyle. You think this is healthier than a Big Mac? What about slimmer models who smoke or drink, should they be shamed out of modelling too? Who sets the standards?

Of course, being overweight isn't ideal and some larger people are physically unhealthy. However, I believe mental health to be of more importance than physical health. I usually hear the argument "fat people are a strain on the NHS, wasting tax payers money blah blah etc". Politicians waste significantly more money, target your abuse at them.

Consider this, shaming people won't help. Of course being overweight isn't ideal and there's no question it's a rising issue, but not one to shame. In fact, a study by experts at UCL found fat shaming actually has the opposite effect. Such needless bullying leads to low self esteem, depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia and countless other mental illnesses. These sufferers also rely on NHS support so you're not helping that situation by pushing people further into it. A healthy mental attitude and well-being have a more positive impact on life. Encouragement beats shame. 

Two brilliant role models are Youtubers Louise Pentland (SprinkleofGlitter) and Sarah Rae Vargas (RavingsByRae). They know they're larger ladies, you don't need to tell them. However, they focus on promoting self love, acceptance and embracing what you have. This is especially important for an audience of young girls. They wear what they want and do what they want. They're happy. Surely this is a healthier lifestyle than constantly feeling ashamed and embarrassed, feeling you're worth less than anyone else. 

You don't have the right to punish people for their appearance. It's nothing to do with you. Weight doesn't define a person. Plus sized ladies (and men) have as much right to chase their dreams and feel beautiful as anyone else. It's not about encouraging obesity, no one sets out with that goal, it's about encouraging happiness. Your spiteful attitude is the unhealthiest thing here.

Anna x