The growing popularity of body-positivity along with an increased presence of plus-sized fashion models has brought on this idea that as long as you’re happy with the way you look, obesity is not an issue. This is not the case. Almost 70 percent of adults in America are either overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. Teaching women to accept their bodies regardless of their weight rather than encouraging them to lead healthier lifestyles is only going to increase that number.
Plus-sized model Tess Munster, also known as Tess Holliday, was recently signed by Milk Model Management, making her the first model of her size to be signed to a major agency, according to plus-model-mag.com. Her signing has been seen as a huge milestone to some body-positivity activists, but I see it as a setback. When talking body-positivity, we should include health as a primary component. Having been named one of the top plus-sized models in the world by both Vogue Italia and Refinery 29, there’s no doubt the woman is both beautiful and talented, but at five foot five and 260 pounds, according to her Model Mayhem page, she is definitely not healthy. The ideal healthy weight for a five foot five woman is between 114 and 144 pounds; at 180 pounds and above a woman of this height is considered obese, according to http://www.rush.edu.
In addition to her modeling career, Munster has proclaimed herself a body-positivity activist and is the founder of the #effyourbeautystandards movement. The movement encourages women to screw the strict standards society has set for what it means to be beautiful, and has her followers Instagramming and Tweeting selfies proudly marked with the hashtag, #effyourbeautystandards, telling the world to “eff” off and let them love their bodies.
While her message is both powerful and important, she is misleading women in the difference between beauty standards and health standards. “Currently, about 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are considered seriously overweight, and 15 percent of children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight,” according to stanfordhealthcare.com. Munster is proof that it is possible to love yourself regardless of your weight, but is it healthy? Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, according to the American Heart Association. I’m not saying that women need to have a flat stomach and perfectly toned muscles to be happy with who they are, but simply that health and confidence in who you are should exist in harmony.
Body-positivity activists have commonly shamed agencies and brands for promoting health risks and diseases like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa by using abnormally underweight models. They are chastised for encouraging women to put their health on the back burner in order to be skinny. However, the use of extremely overweight models and the resulting advocacy of the numerous health problems associated with obesity don’t seem to be of the same concern. No, these women are seen as role models and self-love gurus. The whole point to the #effyourbeautystandards movement that Munster created is to love our bodies; in that mindset, we should want to take the best possible care of what we love most. We should all want the best for whom we love the most. The way I see it, self-love is not just accepting who you are, it is also striving to take the best possible care of yourself.
In a world dominated by the media where we see gorgeous models on every other billboard, magazine and Instagram post we pass by, self-acceptance and body-positivity are more important then ever. But with the obesity epidemic threatening our nation’s health and well-being, self-love and body-positivity activists need to start encouraging women not only to be comfortable in their own skin, but to do their best to make sure the skin they’re in is healthy.
Emily Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org