Runway Models = Anorexic? Plus-sized = Size 6? {Nudity}

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Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman.

Today she weighs 23% less.

PLUS Model Magazine came out with a powerful pictorial in which it claims that most runway models meet the BMI criteria for anorexia, which is considered to be under 17.5.

The pictures show a plus-sized model (size 12?) paired with another strikingly skinny woman.

The magazine wants clothing retailers to start catering to more women as they claim more than 50% of women wear a size 14 or larger. What is a plus-sized model these days?

A size 6 to 14. Is that even plus-sized? Last time I checked those sizes weren’t in a plus-sized section of a store!

In fact the skinny women in this case is more likely to be “unhealthy” than the “plus-sized” one. These models fall within the healthy range of BMI’s. A BMI that is too low can lead to a weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer.

What do you think of this claim about the models, the call to cater clothing more to the 50%, or these photos? Should BMI be a factor in judging health as it doesn’t take into account those who have small or large bone structures or a lot of muscle.



Relephant Bonus:

Why the ‘Real Woman’s’ Body Image Debate Is All Wrong. 


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Hannah Siegle

Hannah Siegle began to do yoga four years ago initially for the physical practice, however she quickly discovered that the yoga began to do her in ways she never anticipated. The mind, body and spiritual connection that yoga cultivates has helped Hannah through the ups and downs of life, both large and small. She regularly blogs at Balancing on Two Feet on topics such as yoga, mindfulness, eating disorder recovery and all those things people don’t like to talk about. She was trained at the RYT 200 through Laurel Hodory and is currently working towards becoming a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She teaches yoga throughout Central Ohio with GoYoga ,yogaServe, and also works as an Assistant Editor for the elephant journal!

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anonymous Jan 3, 2015 4:00pm

I don't think the problem is so much that the modeling industry is extreme, but that inadvertently we are advocating body envy, no matter how the magazine covers look if young people are busy trying to emulate the covers they are not appreciating their own beauty.

anonymous Oct 29, 2014 11:07am

amazing that last photo, it looks like the plus-size model could be the mother of the skinny model.

anonymous Oct 28, 2014 7:35pm

♪ ♫I love you
just the way
you are. ♫ ♪

anonymous Oct 12, 2014 4:39pm

I am not a runway model, and I am definitely not anorexic. In fact, I eat more than most people I know, including men. I have very small bones. I am 5'8'' and weigh 97 lbs. That's right. And I'm not anorexic looking, either. I have plenty of flesh on my bones. I'm just very slender and tall. I look, in short, like a model. I am sick and tired or being told I need to eat a cheeseburger, and I'm sick and tired or seeing people with my body type referred to as "anorexic." Statistically, there are many, many people who look like me that eat three full meals a day with lots of snacks in between. In fact, most people I know with my body type eat more than the average person. I am perfectly healthy, and frankly many of these conversations are fueled by the jealously of others. Do I think my body type should be regarded as superior? No. I think all healthy people should feel good about themselves. All people should feel good about themselves, period. But anorexia will not ever get a person who doesn't have my body type to look like me, and calling people who look like me abnormal or unhealthy is offensive and hurtful. All of us have had it.

    anonymous Dec 9, 2014 1:06pm

    Your dominate gland is probably the thyroid. This metabolic body type tends to be thin and to be able to eat whatever they want and not gain weight (to a degree). If they abuse or overwork the thyroid then they will gain weight and have a hard time loosing it until they eat right for their body type. I too fit in that description and in high school (97 lbs) was asked by a concerned friend if I was anorexic. I laughed and reminded her that I have always out eaten her. At 105 lbs after having 3 babies I could still eat pretty much whatever I wanted, until having 8 babies and abusing my thyroid with too much refined grains and caffeine stimulants. I am not over weight (5'7" & 141 lbs) if compared to other body types but for me I know that I will feel better if I eat more protein and less grains and stimulants and drop ten to twenty pounds.
    So I agree with you Julia that body type is a huge factor in what is too thin or too fat to be healthy for men or women and comparisons are never a good thing. =}

anonymous Oct 1, 2014 12:42pm

This hits home for me. I have been modeling since I was 19. I'm 5'11" and, because of my body structure, I will never be smaller than a size 4, but you can usually find me at a size 6 – 8. I was told when I was 21 by a casting director that I was better off marketing myself as plus size, because no one in the fashion industry would use me for any of their "normal" jobs. Then I hear stories about girls with much smaller frames than mine, much smaller BMIs than mine, being turned away from places like H&M and Forever21 for being "too big"… I wish people would get that the more we fetishize hyper-skinny, the harder it becomes to promote a healthy lifestyle, creating a weird "binge or purge" culture in response to the fetishization.

anonymous Sep 25, 2014 10:30am

Not that this is the main point of the article, but clothing sizes are not reliable. When I was growing up in the 80's, I wore size 10 jeans. I am now 46 and still wear size 10 jeans. I weighed 127 pounds in 1985 and currently weigh 175 pounds. Just saying. I think we are deluding ourselves when we say 12 or 14 is a normal, non-overweight size.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2014 7:34pm

    Sizes were changed to fit the population.
    So were number of life vests on big boats.

    anonymous Dec 21, 2014 6:57pm

    Just what I was thinking!! In high school I wore size 8 jeans. Now I'm a little bigger physically, but I fit into size 4 and x-smalls! I read somewhere that a size 12 or 14 now is like what an 18 or 20 used to be. Makes larger women feel good about themselves when they can fit into such a "small" size.

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 11:24am

A BMI of 15 is frighteningly low and not at all healthy. Perhaps you are confusing it with body fat percentage? A larger (eg more muscled) person will have a higher BMI. It measures weight compared to height, nothing more. There are relatively few people who are healthy at a BMI of 17.5, but there are none who are properly healthy at a BMI of 15.

    anonymous Oct 1, 2014 12:44pm

    You would be surprised. This is why many high fashion designers use girls who are around 12 or 13 these days, when the likelihood of them being skin and bones (aka before puberty) is greater. While catalogue models tend to a little "fleshier", the girls on the catwalks and in the editorials tend to be skinny in ways that make your heart break.

    anonymous Oct 12, 2014 4:42pm

    You're dead wrong. My BMI has never, and I mean since middle school, made it onto the charts at all. I'm 5'8'' 97 lbs. I don't look unhealthy because I eat a ton and have a decent amount of flesh on my bones. My bones themselves are incredibly thin and long. I am living proof that you can be healthy with a BMI of less than 15. I have always looked like this, and I have always been in great health, lifted weights, and eaten more than most people I know. I'm not malnourished, I'm not anorexic, there is nothing wrong with me. I'm just different, and I'm sick of seeing shit like this all over the internet.

      anonymous Nov 18, 2014 10:05am

      I completely agree! I'm in a similar boat – 98 lbs. and 5'4" but have always been this size since late middle school. This is just how I am – not malnourished, not anorexic. I eat a lot, but consciously (tons of vegetables and fruits, lots of nutrients) and this is how my body has stayed for years. I see models and think that some look too thin, but that a lot of others are thin naturally and it's not necessarily unhealthy. It has been interested to see the clothing industry in the US adjust to fit larger people, and as a consequence, it has been more and more difficult to find clothing that fit my frame.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 9:03pm

Interesting topic! We come in all shapes and sizes, and there's no one size that's right for everyone. Ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph. Vata, Pitta, Kapha. I don't feel that BMI is a always an adequate indicator of a healthy body.

anonymous Nov 6, 2013 10:57pm

Not too impressed with the harsh comments about 17.5 being an unhealthy BMI. It's all perspective-A lot of athletes and fitness gurus have 15% BMI. And they are probably twice the size of the fashion model. Currently I'm probably at 5'5" 19% BMI, 123lbs, and a size 2-4. I'm healthy, fit, and I definitely don't deprive myself.

    anonymous Jan 13, 2015 4:52pm

    I think BMI (body mass index) and body fat percentage is being a little mixed up here. 15% body fat is great, 15 BMI is not.

anonymous Sep 5, 2013 6:36am

As has already been pointed out it is not the models who have become thinner, it is the 'average woman' who has become much fatter. Why not try the comparison between the average athlete and the average woman? That would show you who is the healthy weight…

The problem is not pictures of models (and I know many of them), it is the industrialisation of farming which sells us all toxic food and tells us it is good for us. Historically people were healthier when their food intake was rationed during wartime!

    anonymous Sep 5, 2013 8:15am

    Just to clarify, the same applies to men as well, I am not being sexist. Take a walk down your local high street, and count the number of fat people you see and the number of anorexic or 'unhealthily thin' people. Draw your own conclusions.

anonymous Sep 5, 2013 5:19am

I don’t understand why everyone is focusing on the fact that obesity is on the rise. I’m pretty sure everyone is already aware of that. The “plus size” model in this image is not plus size, she is healthy and average. Making women feel as if healthy and average is fat is toxic. Just another way society manipulates people to have them spend their life focusing on emptiness. I am a fit lady that also has very big hips and a juicy booty. My waist has always been 30 inches, but I wear a size 13 in pants. I have come to love my curves, but growing up was made to feel ugly and ashamed for the healthy womanly blessing given to me. I am currently 3 months pregnant and have never been more thrilled about my wide hips! I will always make sure my child eats well and is active, and hope that they never feel the pressure and misery I felt growing up regarding my body even though I was exceptionally healthy.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2014 6:37pm

    I'll agree she is average, but she is definitely overweight.

      anonymous Dec 8, 2014 3:21pm

      Are you serious?? A size 12 is not overweight. AND the reason that there is so much obesity in our world is because we focus so much on thinness and dieting which is scientifically proven to NOT work,

anonymous Sep 6, 2012 11:56pm

I've seen so many skinny models who fall off their feet because of imbalance. I think their light weight is one of the factors it keeps on happening. The beautiful models of the Sydney modelling agency is not an exception to this, although I must say their models are really beautiful and professional on the runway.

anonymous Apr 20, 2012 2:13pm

[…] from when we were four years old. In fact, we still live in a society that reinforces the notion of a high-class lady as being pre-pubescent thin, impossibly beautiful and, above all, very proper. Any other type of woman is troubled, ‘too much,’ crazy, a slut, etc. (You’d never […]

anonymous Mar 23, 2012 4:34am

[…] Gone was my perfect symmetry. Complete devastation. My face was my livelihood. I had no other career. […]

anonymous Mar 16, 2012 6:11pm

IMO AJ is a capable driver, but he better get a move on. Shell is not gonna want a car that’s not least sniffing around a Chase spot come August.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 1:28pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jan 27, 2012 4:11pm

[…] shape has never remotely resembled that of a store mannequin or the girls I see in ads. God forbid, I should wander into Chico’s or […]

anonymous Jan 21, 2012 10:30am

I think it has to be noted that while she does weigh 23% less now, the societal norm is also QUITE a bit larger now… in fact from 1988 to 2002 the average BMI of the female population went up almost two points… which is QUITE significant and cannot be discounted.

If you took today's model and plopped her into the modeling scene 20 years ago she wouldn't weigh 23% less than the average population as the average population was thinner.

    anonymous Sep 27, 2014 5:21am

    And women 20 years ago were shorter as well. But if you took todays fashion model and plopped her into the modeling scene 20 years ago she would weigh less than the other models and likely be taller than them all as well.

    In the last 20 years, a terrible fashion has emerged… the no body fat trend. If you look back on models pre mid 90's you will see they were soft looking, even if they were lean. They had a layer of fat which made their faces rounder and their bodies looked smoother. A fashionable looking woman these days has little body fat, their faces are harsh and their bodies extremely lean, showing sinew and bone. Kylie minogue, Madonna, kate winslet, michelle pfeiffer… it suddenly became unacceptable to have any fat at all and these beautiful women look nearly skeletal these days.

      anonymous Oct 27, 2014 7:49pm

      Well, you didn't name any models, actually. One of the top models in 1994 was Kate Moss. That was the time of heroin chic and grunge looks. Not exactly high body fat looks. And the height hasn't changed either. Kate was an anomaly at 5'7 back then and still is. All the super models of the late 80s/early 90s were 5'10, 5'11 – the same as now.

anonymous Jan 20, 2012 3:19pm

We also need to take into account that there is more pollution in our environment which is effecting our thyroid gland. If the thyroid is not working properly and becomes sluggish our metabolism changes, we gain weight and it is impossible to lose the weight no matter what the amount of food we eat. Our food is ridden with chemicals and are Genetically Modified so our bodies do not know how to process it. Wheat allergies (GMO wheat) are up and many who are over weight might have gluten issues. The gluten just sits in the body causing inflammation and bloating and won't allow nutrients to absorb into the body so if the nutrients aren't absorbed we eat more. There is so much more to weight gain than saying fat people just eat too much. The allergies can also cause leaky gut and this goes on and on.
Most doctors do not check thyroid levels or check for wheat and other allergies. The just prescribe to hide symptoms. We really need to look at how FOOD is processed and how this processed food is metabolized by our bodies………the very dark secret about our food supply!

anonymous Jan 16, 2012 4:05pm

Thanks so much for bringing this to light. The statistics are truly shocking and appalling! Great piece Hannah! – Jeannie

Bob Weisenberg Jan 14, 2012 9:35pm

Just posted to Elephant Health & Wellness on Facebook.

Bob W.

anonymous Jan 14, 2012 12:29pm

So many are lost in the unhealthy extremes and what a healthy body weighs has become, sadly, ambiguous to most. I think the anorexic-looking models perpetuate the insecurity that leads average weight women to feel defective in their appearance. Feelings of being defective feed insecurities, which can lead to turning to food for comfort, and weight gain. Obesity has become more rampant than anorexia, and yet I feel the two are feeding off each other, no pun intended! Skinny and Fat are two sides of the same coin. A healthy body is not part of either one of these pictures. Yes! I feel we need more clothing companies catering to healthy bodies! And the shame of being too fat, or the glory of being too thin, needs to disappear. I am a self portrait artist who uses her own body as art. And my body represents that of an average sized woman. t is "obese" from a runway model's perspective, perhaps. But it is still art! It is still beautiful! 🙂 Thank you for always encouraging society to return to healthy assessment of beauty, and the kinds of bodies we feel happy and free in!

anonymous Jan 14, 2012 7:02am

I agree that it is not healthy PSYCHOLOGICALLY to show the runway/print model ideals as a woman with sticks for appendages, no boobs (unless they are plastic) and a backbone that you can count all the vertabrae on. I aspire to be more healthy, leaner, and fit, but I do not aspire to be a stick-figure. Unfortunately, the "clothes hang better" on skinny models adage appears to be true; there are many things I cannot wear (or shouldn't wear!) because of my shapely body. Every woman should be able to think for herself and aspire to her personal best version of fit, not the one that is shown as "normal". (and really has nothing to do with beauty or fitness or proper BMI, or any of that – it's about selling clothes, and selling us a bill of goods while they are at it.) – Alexa Maxwell

anonymous Jan 14, 2012 6:17am

Great discussion everyone! Keep it up

anonymous Jan 13, 2012 7:38pm

There's a fine line between skinny and too skinny, as well as a fine line between curvy and unhealthy. The reason runway models now weigh 23% less is because in the last 20 years obesity rates in America have doubled.
I totally support embracing the curve and that the runway model is too thin. However there is a point where we need to decide whether advertising and glorifying unhealthy lifestyles and obesity is the right thing to do either. I recently saw a reality show depicting plus size models, one of which loved her body but had to quit and lose weight because she developed diabetes and other health issues. Neither extreme should be acceptable to glorify in the media.
Whatever women grace our magazines or television screens, we should realize we have no control over it, and be comfortable in our own skin. I was raised knowing the people in the media are not who I should try to emulate, which is something I'm going to ingrain into my children as well.

    anonymous Jan 13, 2012 7:51pm

    I agree, I think average is overweight now. BMI is a silly index, too. There is a wide range of what weight is normal given your body frame and level of fitness. It is difficult to tell by looking at someone whether they are thin naturally or because they are undereating. Being overweight does significantly increase your risk for chronic health problems while being underweight is linked to longevity as long as it is not in the extremes of anorexia/bulemia. I think people should stop being so judgemental……

      anonymous Jan 13, 2012 9:55pm

      Jessie, have you seen some of the ghastly skeletal forms on runways and ads (Free People most recently) where the models are skeletons with rail for arms. No flesh allowed. This is not an issue of how thin is thin in the normal world or being judgemental it's about the prevalent move towards killing off the real human form of a woman (obesity and plus size models seem always to get compared to the super skinny models when they are not related at all.
      Is it then the fashion industries norm of size zero or plus size 14 or above. Nobody seems to talk about size 4-10 which is healthy normal and NOWHERE to be seen.

anonymous Jan 13, 2012 7:29pm

The average woman these days eats 24% more. That is why now the models appear to be 24% lighter.

    anonymous Jan 13, 2012 7:45pm

    I agree. This could have been mentioned as well… 20 years is a long time and obesity is on the rise….

      Kate Bartolotta Jan 13, 2012 8:25pm

      Obesity is on the rise, but it seems that both ends of the spectrum (thinness vs. overweight) have gotten more and more extreme.

        anonymous Jan 15, 2012 3:17pm

        Throwing out rising obesity rates to explain the use of skinnier and smaller models doesn't really make sense. Yes, the American population eats more and is in general getting larger. But that doesn't suddenly take a size 6 jeans and make it a plus size.

        Will showing average size women in fashion ads get rid of obesity? No. But will it help some young girls/women from developing unrealistic body image issues and eating disorders? I believe it can.

          anonymous Sep 5, 2013 6:46am

          While I agree with you in part, a size 6 is not what it used to be either. In Europe, sizes are standardized. Here they aren't, so a size 6 today is much larger than a size 6 twenty years ago. All the sizes are larger. I do think we should have more typical-sized women in magazines. I also think clothes should come with enough fabric at the seams to let them out if your tall/long and there should be more in between sizes, like shoes. That's another topic.

          I think the problem isn't just that we are constantly conflating fat = unhealthy and skinny = healthy – which we do – but rather that because we live at such extremes, our idea of a fat or skinny person is completely skewed. Because of the fashion industry's pre-delection for super skinny models on whom to drape their creations and the unchecked use of photoshop, we think emaciation and absurd, humanely impossible proportions are just normal. And a woman with a healthy amount of body fat and muscle seems fat, because the bar has been set so incredibly low. Then we go on these campaigns of fat acceptance, when really, these women are perfectly normal and healthy. Not that I think fat acceptance is a bad thing. I don't think obesity itself in unhealthy necessarily, but rather can be a correlation with certain diseases and conditions. In any case, shame doesn't help anyone.

          anonymous Oct 28, 2014 2:49am

          Seriously, people, when will you learn anything about eating disorders before talking about it? As a person with a long story of eating disorders I find it really offensive that you believe it goes like this:
          skinny models on tv => thin is beautiful => I wanna be thin => anorexia.

          Please ask any girl with eating disorder if she had happy childhood and life with no traumas and she just developed ED because of skinny models everywhere. Or ask any therapist if he treats eating disorders by convincing his clients that the right body image is size 8 and over.

          I know this article is not about eating disorders, but as many of you find direct connection between body image in media and developing anorexia, bulimia etc. I think it's the right place to write it:
          The source of eating disorder has NOTHING to do with food or desire to be thin. They're just symptoms!

          People used to tell me that I was too smart (!) to have an eating disorder or that I looked good and boys don't like skinny so I should stop this anorexia thing. Or that I just watch to much of Anja Rubik (I'm Polish) on TV and she's way too skinny. I don't even like her looks, and I don't even care! And I looked good before and boys liked me before (and it definitely wasn't the aim of my ED) and, please, IT IS NOT ABOUT MY VANITY.

          Don't confuse anorexic-looking with anorexic and don't confuse developing eating disorder with possible supporting it.