Is Plus Size Fashion Sending the Wrong Message?

If there is one ‘hot topic’ issue which is guaranteed to get internet users bickering on message boards and forums, it is the debate surrounding Plus Size fashion. The huge surge in popularity of Plus Size models and clothing ranges has pushed the subject to the forefront of social and cultural discussions. The problem is that nobody can seem to agree on what it means for the future of our media, beauty industries, and healthcare.

There are two distinct camps in this debate, though many opinions exist between. There are those who believe that the embrace of Plus Size fashion is not just a positive development, but an utterly essential one. These people point to the importance of body acceptance and remind young people that the media is filled with unrealistic standards of beauty.

They’re not wrong either; a two minute Google search provides thousands of unedited images which prove that celebrities actually look pretty normal without the help of Photoshop. It is something that we’ve all come to know at this point. Actresses and singers are routinely chopped and changed so that they look better on magazine covers. Thighs are shaved, waists are reduced, and even toned muscles (in the case of Jennifer Lawrence) are edited to fit a more rigorous beauty standard.

The Rise and Rise of Plus Size Fashion

The emergence of Plus Size fashion is a direct response to this social conditioning; this constant exposure to images that say ‘you aren’t good enough.’ However, some people believe that the movement has, itself, transitioned past a place of good intentions. As the emphasis for the Plus Size ‘revolution’ is on body acceptance, at all costs, more clinically obese models are making it into the spotlight. According to health experts, this is fueling rocketing rates of obesity and creating a super unhealthy generation.

So, what is the answer? Is Plus Size fashion an inspiring, positive movement or something which is proving to be very dangerous for young people? It is a difficult question and one which seems to elicit lots of emotion. This has made it hard for medical experts to have a frank, honest discussion about its consequences.

The Dark Side of Unconditional Body Acceptance

The tricky thing about engaging with this issue is striking a constructive balance between the terms ‘plus size,’ ‘fat,’ and ‘obese.’ They can all be defined in different ways and they have their respective clinical definitions too. From a social perspective, though, there is no major threat in being ‘fat.’ The word alludes to things like love handles, belly rolls, and wobbly thighs. Anybody can get a bit fat, without having to make any shocking changes to their diet.

You might eat a bit too much at Christmas, for example, and pile on some extra pounds. You might find yourself getting comfortable in a new relationship and feel perfectly content to get a little rounder in the middle. The point is that there’s a clear distinction between being ‘curvy’ or even ‘fat’ and being unarguably, undeniably obese. This is where the problem with Plus Size fashion lies. It doesn’t make this distinction. In fact, it pretends that it doesn’t exist at all.

Supersized Icons for a Supersized Age

US supermodel Tess Holliday is the perfect example of why this is dangerous. This super plus sized icon is a beautiful woman. It is not surprising that she’s ended up modeling, because she’s got a gorgeous face. Nevertheless, she is a size 22 and just a tiny five foot, four inches. She weighs a staggering 280lbs, which is way over the limit for being considered clinically healthy. According to medical science, she is morbidly obese and at risk of developing a litany of nasty illnesses and degenerative diseases.

Despite this, Holliday continues to insist that weight is not an indicator of health. When people respectfully disagree with her online – pointing to the fact that the whole of medical science believes differently – they are roundly shamed for being cruel and unfair. They are accused of hatred for overweight people and quickly drowned out by the cries of ‘body acceptance for all!’ Room for logical, constructive debate about Plus Size fashion is fast disappearing and, in its place, a touchable ‘Fat and Proud’ militia is emerging.

The Importance of Taking On the Plus Size Army

For people with a genuine concern for the future of young people, it can be really jarring to see body acceptance movements repressing any hint of a condition or proviso. It isn’t true that anybody who thinks super morbidly obese people should not be held up as role models must be fat shaming. This is a lazy accusation and one which, again, willfully fails to make any distinction between healthy and unhealthy bodies. You absolutely can be curvy, chubby, or even fat and still have a strong, vital body. You cannot be obese, morbidly obese, or super morbidly obese and say the same.

It has nothing to do with fat shaming. It is a medical fact. You cannot be a size 22 and 280lbs and consider yourself a healthy, high functioning person. You can’t move as fast as other people. You get out of breath more quickly. Your limbs are heavier and carrying them puts a bigger strain on your organs. Your heart, literally, has to expand and get larger just so it can continue to pump blood around a supersized unit. These are the medical facts.

You are at significantly greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular problems, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer, among many other ailments. The likelihood is that you will die before your friends. You are killing yourself. It isn’t about fat shaming. It is about learning how to take care of your body so that it can carry you through life and ensure that you’re around to nurture lots of children and grow old happily. To deny and ignore all of these things, in favor of unconditional body acceptance, is a form of slow suicide. These are the facts.

Why Social Evolution Is About Asking the Tough Questions

There is no doubt that the Plus Size fashion movement has done great things for women. It has inspired and motivated beautiful ladies, with a few more pounds than the average supermodel, to stop worrying about being a size zero and enjoy life. There is no such thing as a perfect body, so it is great that more people are ending the pursuit to achieve one. On the other hand, extremes are always a dangerous thing for the human body. Just as undereating is disastrous, from a medical perspective, so is consuming much more than you need to.

The hope is that, over the next few years, rising obesity rates will force this discussion to become much more open and frank. Perhaps there will come a time when ‘fat’ can truly be a positive term, instead of serving as ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. It is important that we, as a collective society, realize that tough love can be a good thing. Sometimes, the tough questions need to be asked and the hard decisions can’t be shirked.

Photo via Instagram

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