Before the New Year kicked off, Cosmo released this piece, showing off “Plus-Sized” Supermodel Robin Lawley’s new Swimwear. The piece has gone viral, and for good reason. Robin Lawley is listed at 6’2 and 180 lbs, with a 32” waistline and a 42” hip measurement (at least according to this “Plus-Sized Model” listing.) Thus, her Body Mass Index (the universal height-weight ratio used to assess obesity throughout the world today) is 23.1, which puts her in the “normal” weight category according to accepted standards.
Do yourself a favor, and take a look at the pictures in the first link; she is clearly a beautiful woman. In fact, she is drop dead gorgeous, and my guess is that most people will agree with me. Upon initially looking at her, the first thing that comes to mind is her beauty, not “she’s bigger than most models.” So I see an inherent problem here. I see a picture of a seemingly physically healthy and beautiful woman. However, her beauty is overshadowed and undermined by the label that comes along with it: “Plus-Sized.” In the fashion industry, this term has become synonymous with being larger than a size 8. It’s no secret that the woman in those photographs has a higher body fat percentage than most other models. Perhaps it is even an accomplishment that a “Plus-Sized” model made it into the magazine in the first place. But for goodness sakes, she is 6’2, which means she’d have to extremely skinny in order to fit into that size 8. What are us mere mortals who aren’t worthy of a magazine cover spots supposed to think? Is any woman above a size 8 therefore considered a “Plus-Sized” human being? I think not.
Models have always fascinated me. The word itself denotes an ideal. A role model is someone to look up to. A model airplane replicates what an actual airplane is supposed to look like. A model citizen presumably perfectly abides by the rule of law of a specific nation. Likewise, we as a society tend to view the human models that appear in magazines, television ads, and Hollywood films as ideal looking human beings. And why wouldn’t we? They are good-looking. They are lean. They are sexy. We see their bodies and think “Wow, that’s impressive. I’d love to look like that.”
But the truth is that the images of the beautiful people we see on the covers of magazines, appear in Hollywood films, and walk the runways wearing designer clothing are fabricated; they aren’t entirely real. The small and fit Victoria Secret Models wear push-up bras in order make their breasts appear larger. Fitness models, like bodybuilders, go through days of intense dieting in order to manipulate their water weight to appear leaner before their photo shoots. They exercise before the photo is taken in order to get “a pump” (in which their muscles are more striated and veins more vascular), and get lathered with oil in order to create better light reflection. But it doesn’t stop there. Even after the photo is taken a fake tan is given, skin blemishes are alleviated, abs are made tighter, and muscles are enlarged, all with the aid of computer-based software. The photos we drool over and the bodies we wish we had are not even completely authentic.
I don’t mean to take anything away from these people. Their bodies are the result of hard work in the gym, proper nutrition, and determination to succeed. When they appear on the cover of a magazine, they deserve it; they earned it. But there are surely some negative consequences to our society’s adoration of fabricated bodies. Admittedly, while each and every one of us has our own preferences to whom we are attracted to, now more than ever before there is this notion of an “ideal” body type for each sex. Men should be tall and handsome, with nice muscular tone. Women should have nice curves but still be fit and lean. I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to be attracted to fit women. But does the fact that for my entire life fit women have been portrayed as sexy and desirable via the media have anything to do with it? It’s at least something to think about: as a white male that is relatively fit (at least I think so), I’m expected to be attracted to white females that are also fit.
Consequently, what has ensued is a society in which too many people are uncomfortable with their bodies. Too many people look themselves in the mirror and do not like what they see. Too many people think they have to change in order to be accepted. Too many people feel the need to change their physical appearance in order to be beautiful. According to this study, between 40 and 60 percent of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight or becoming too fat. Additionally, the prevalence of eating disorders has more than doubled in over a decade. What’s the most hypocritical thing about all of this? It is in the best interest of large companies and for the American government for us to feel this way! They want us to feel self-conscious about the way we look. They want us to feel undesirable. They want us to spend money on gym memberships, personal trainers (ironically, I happen to be one), weight-loss pills, cosmetic surgeries, special foods, and much more. The system that we currently live in is flawed. A double standard exists, in that our capitalist system promotes consumption of goods while also glorifying “sexiness,” which essentially comes in the form of thinness. Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In says it best, arguing, “In the interest of economic growth, contemporary US capitalism has helped to create obesity as a material phenomenon and then made it a moral problem that must be resolved in a way that is equally kind to capitalism.” In essence, others make money off of our insecurities. The media has created a form of unattainable happiness, which we all seek but will never find. It’s sickening.
So where does this rant end? Goddammit, the model in that picture was beautiful enough to be a model. Nobody needed a Plus-Sized label next to it. To any female who has ever felt self conscious about her body, you are beautiful. YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL. I may have never seen you before. I may not know you. I may never meet you. But I know it’s true. And the only person that can convince you otherwise is yourself.
Many people seize the New Year as an opportunity to make changes. People will turn to the gym to finally get their “dream body,” and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, as a Personal Trainer it is my job to encourage it. I for one am always looking to improve my body composition. To me, there is always room for improvement. But make sure your “dream body” is in fact yours. If you are physically healthy and like the person you see in the mirror, don’t think you aren’t good enough simply because you don’t look like a cover model. And if you are going to make a change, do it for you. Not to impress another person. Not to feel like you’ll be more accepted. Do it to be healthy. Do it to be more confident in yourself. Do it to become stronger. Do it because you want to look a certain way. Do it for you, and do it the right way. Respect your body, and realize that health is the greatest form of beauty out there. And at the end of the day, a smoking hott body means nothing without the mental wellness to go along with it. Be yourself. Love yourself. And any person out there who you feel the need to change for isn’t really worth your time. And finally, as clichéd as it sounds, its not just what’s on the outside that counts.