Obesity: a positive body image or a serious health threat? – Lydia Torrington

If you have been paying attention to the news lately of if you’re a keen subscriber of the Cosmopolitan magazine, you will have picked up on the huge controversy and discussion surrounding their latest cover of Tess Holliday. For anyone who doesn’t know, Tess Holliday is a morbidly obese size 26 model who promotes body positivity. Her cover of Cosmo included a message telling her haters to “kiss her ass”. While we can all admire her unwavering nerve in the face of negativity and the magazine can be praised for its public acceptance of women in all shapes and sizes, the criticisms of this cover go beyond their simple middle finger to the haters.

 In the last few years, countries such as France have taken serious steps to ban the promotion of too-thin models. Models have to pass a BMI test by a doctor to prove they are not underweight. Also, the fashion bible Vogue has decided to not picture models considered too skinny. This is to limit the perfect skinny image of a woman and to take steps to reduce the existence of the illness of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. Whilst this is certainly a positive step, there are many who are naturally skinny who may be offended by this exclusion from the fashion industry.

If we are taking steps to stop showing excessive thinness and the health issues that come with it, surely, we should be doing the same for excessive fatness (obesity) and the large number of health issues that come with that. Among these issues is include that overweight people are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes than normal weight people, overweight people are much more likely to have high blood pressure, levels of cholesterol and angina which all can lead to heart disease or stroke and overweight people are more likely to develop cancers such as gallbladder, colon and prostate.  To throw some comparative facts at you, Obesity costs the UK economy £27 billion a year while anorexia costs £15 billion. In fact, more money is spent on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than on the police, the fire service and the judicial system combined. While I am in no way saying that anorexia is less of a problem, I think that we should be equally trying to encourage a healthy weight at both ends and never be encouraging or promoting an unhealthy weight and the serious health risks that come with it. How can we be pushing to reduce obesity when we are showing it as desirable on the front cover of a popular lifestyle magazine.

I think that body positivity and promoting different body images is extremely important for the self-confidence of people all over the world to teach them to love themselves. However, although I do not agree with or support the infamous Piers Morgan on many of his controversial opinions, I think that his twitter tweet on this topic is speaking the truth. He says that “5ft 3in & 300lbs is NOT a ‘positive body image’ to celebrate on the front cover of a magazine as Britain suffers from an ever-worsening obesity crisis” and that the cover is “just as dangerous & misguided as celebrating size zero models”. For the only time in my whole lifetime, I agree with him in the way that I think that this cover is damaging to all the work that the NHS and many people do to encourage healthy eating and exercise. For an obese person reading this, they may question why they should be going out and exercising to lose weight if being obese seems to be so acceptable and even desirable that an obese person can be a famous model on the front cover of a huge magazine.

Cosmopolitan editor Farrah Storr has defended her decision to put Tess Holliday on the cover because she claims that she is not celebrating morbid obesity, but she is celebrating the confident person that Tess Holliday is. However, it can be argued that her unhealthy lifestyle choices that cause obesity are who she is and that this shouldn’t be celebrated.

All in all, this is a very socially sensitive topic on both sides but what it boils down to is that being obese is just as detrimental to your health as being seriously underweight, so we should be doing our best as a nation and worldwide to discourage both extremes and to promote a healthy lifestyle leading to a healthy weight and this cover is dangerously doing the opposite. Let the debate begin……

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