Effects of plus-size models on women's body image

- It’s beach time and body image as well as body awareness is on every woman’s mind as she shops for a swimsuit or summer fashion. Women are bombarded by billboards, television, social media and magazine ads with body shapes and sizes that don’t represent them or the majority of society.

Recently, plus size models were featured in WorldLifestyle depicting beautiful women who don’t fit the classic type of model many women grew up aspiring to be like. These plus size models rivaled the Victoria's Secret Angels and the outpouring of support continues throughout the world. Plus size models are gaining popularity as we become more educated and body aware of the effects from a society that has defined beauty in an extremely narrow definition excluding many girls and women from feeling comfortable in their body. Research from the University of Wisconsin (Depleting Body Image) found that a woman has internalized her body image by the age of eighteen.

Thin models don’t represent everyone nor do plus size models, and if the goal is a healthy lifestyle and body image, then neither extreme is advised. Just as there are health and emotional risks associated with being too thin (eating disorders, addictions and malnourishment), there are risks with being overweight (diabetes, eating disorders, addiction, and heart disease).

As a parent, it’s important what you do and say to your children about body image.  

  • Plus size models present an opportunity to talk to your child about their feelings regarding their body. When parents get engaged with what their children watch or see on social media, they better understand the pressures for girls and guys to have the “right” body image.
  • Plus size models help broaden the narrow definition of beauty. Reminding your child the importance of accepting their body and not judging themselves or others by looks alone.
  • Plus size models encourage an opportunity for parents to talk about the importance of health not weight. The leading cause of diabetes in children and adolescents is inactivity and obesity. Health is more important than how you look in a swimsuit.
  • Plus size models have been vocal and helpful in addressing issues of being bullied and pressured to be thin. Talking to your children about the hurtful effects of derogatory remarks that they or their friends may not be sensitive to should happen in every home.

The children most affected by a model’s size are those with a low body confidence.

Taking action now to help your child feel good about their body and be less judgmental of others can save your child a lifetime of dieting, addictions and suffering from a poor body image. Being careful how you talk to your body is important especially when overheard by your children. Media, including magazines, distort reality with air brushing, photography and lighting.

A society where women’s bodies are not objectified or sexualized will happen when we focus on what women do, and what they think, rather than how they’re built or appear in their swimsuit.

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