Are Plus-Size Models Healthier?




By Lindsay Goldenberg

The January 2012 issue of Plus Model Magazine features a provocative photo shoot with America’s Next Top Model Katya Zharkova in a spread called, “Plus Size Bodies, What’s Wrong With Them Anyway?”

The article says that the fashion industry now considers a size 6, the measurement of supermodels Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley at their peaks, “plus-size.”

According to the article, written by the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Madeline Figueroa-Jones, the average model now weighs 23% less than the average woman, compared to only 8% 20 years ago. Other stats include:


- Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling 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.

Jones goes on to tell her readers to “stop buying at “Store A” and let them know you will not be purchasing clothing until they market to you.” She also offers encouragement to the readers of Plus Model Magazine , saying that “there is nothing wrong with our bodies.”

While it is shocking to hear that a Size 6 is now considered plus-size (the magazine does not offer sources for this claim), and I do definitely agree that the modeling industry today needs to intervene when models exhibit an unhealthy weight, I also think it’s wrong for Jones to come out and make a blanket statement to her audience by saying “there is nothing wrong with our bodies.”

Obesity in this country is an epidemic. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 6 children are considered obese. As a nation, we are consuming more calories than ever before, and in the past 20 years our obesity levels are the highest we’ve ever seen them. As a consequence of this, there has been a staggering increase in incidents of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

So, the statistic that Jones cites that “the average model now weighs 23%  less than the average woman, compared to only 8% 20 years ago,” makes sense, especially if you consider how high our obesity levels have become in that time period.

While Jones worries that the modeling industry is feeding into unhealthy eating habits and encouraging anorexia, she should be more worried about that fact that 1 in 3 Americans are obese, compared to 1 in 200 women suffering from an eating disorder.

Instead of encouraging women to become more like plus-sized models, I believe the message that should be given to women is that it’s not healthy to be underweight OR overweight. The focus should be on being healthy, eating right, and working out. I wouldn’t encourage a waif-thin model to love her body no matter what, just like I wouldn’t encourage an overweight model to do the same.