Full-figured models are not unhealthy

Our society’s obsession with thinness is the truly unhealthy aspect of professional modeling.

by Keelia Moeller

Full-figured models have finally gained the public attention they deserve. Sports Illustrated recently put Ashley Graham — a size 16, plus-size model — on the cover of its swimsuit issue.
In my opinion, this step empowers full-figured women everywhere — but not everyone agrees.
Cheryl Tiegs, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated several times in the 1970s and 1980s, believes Graham’s cover glorifies unhealthy bodies. Tiegs also emphasized that a woman’s waist should be 35 inches or less in order for her to be healthy.
Her comments represent the tipping point of my frustration with the entire modeling industry and its hypocritical claims that a small waist size correlates with health. 
Tiegs says Graham’s cover glorifies unhealthy bodies. And yet, young people see the images of impossibly thin woman every day — much more often, I might add, than they see figures like Graham’s. 
Many models attain their small frames through incredibly unhealthy means. Anorexia, bulimia nervosa, fasting and obsessive exercising are only a few on the list. 
For example, the Model Alliance conducted a survey of models in New York and Los Angeles, revealing the health hazards involved in working for the modeling industry. 
Agencies had asked 64.1 percent of the models surveyed to lose weight. Furthermore, about 68 percent of surveyed models suffered from anxiety or depression. About 31 percent of them suffered from eating disorders, and 48.7 percent had participated in fasts or cleanses which required them to eliminate or restrict their food intake over short periods of time.
These are just the statistics regarding the health of surveyed models — the survey’s other elements  revealed that it’s incredibly common for the profession to expose women to drugs and alcohol while they’re the on job.
The modeling industry and the thinness it promotes are unhealthier — for both the models and the young women who see them — than any purported glorification of plus-sized bodies. This is not to say that all models lose weight in an unhealthy manner, but it is undeniably a common problem within the industry.
Graham, on the other hand, embodies health despite her size. She has passed medical and fitness tests with top scores, receiving similar results as a size two model. 
Her Sports Illustrated cover sends a message to young girls everywhere that they do not have to be stick-thin in order for people to admire them. To me, celebrating this kind of body diversity contributes to a healthier society. 
We need to educate young people that thin does not always equate to healthy. Additionally, local organizations should provide more models like Graham with opportunities to promote body positivity. After all, models represent beauty, and beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. 
Keelia Moeller welcomes comments at [email protected].