Plus Sized Role Models?

A couple of weeks ago a friend on Facebook posted a status that went something a little like this:

“I’m body positive BUT being overweight or obese is nothing to be proud of. I’ve recently put on weight and still within a healthy BMI however I have noticed a large negative impact on my wellbeing such as fatigue and heartburn. If that’s what I’m experiencing, imagine was the overweight models are experiencing! There’s nothing wrong with junk in the trunk but there’s a difference. Health should come first, sorry about the rant”***

I responded simply “I am obese and I am proud of who I am”. She did respond saying something along the lines of it’s different for regular people and she was strictly speaking about those in the public eye because they are “role models for society”. A few of the responses supported her spiel, a couple disputed. But I think it’s important to lay some truths down – you know, I’ve been a model exactly one time now – I’m an expert! *wink*

Okay, so plus size men and women KNOW that they are plus size. We have mirrors, we buy our own clothes, we have scales and of course, we hear and read the largely unwarranted comments from loved ones and strangers alike. Some of us love our bodies the way they are, some of us don’t. Some of us are trying to change habits to better themselves and some of us are not. It’s not really up to anybody else to say what we should do. But that’s just “normal” people. Not society’s role models.

Plus sized models are gaining popularity and traction with robust movements such as #effyourbeautystandards and #bodypositive. They promote loving yourself at any size, looking after yourself mentally (and physically) at any size. It’s about living without the ‘shame’ of being larger than “normal”. And for those lessons I am eternally grateful. Without role models such as Tess Holliday and Gabbi Fresh I wouldn’t have learnt that my body can be and is fine, capable and able. One of the comments that came from my friend’s post was that having these models “normalise and encourage” obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. These bodies exist no matter whether the models are there. Having a big body is not unusual. Plus sized models aren’t standing there and commanding us to be gluttons and become as fat as possible, they aren’t promoting “fat” – they are showing those with bodies similar that we can be beautiful, we can be admired, we can be considered worthy and we can be confident in ourselves. It is almost as if self confidence and self love is supposed to be those who are of a specific size.

I have personally struggled with mental health issues and poor relationships with food (a story for another time), and yes, I am bigger than I have ever been before, but you know what? Right now, I’m happy with who I am. I am proud of who I am. I know that I need to do something about my health, but I also know that if I don’t start immediately I am not a bad person. I am just a person. A person who is under no illusion that I should do something about my health, but also a person who understands that “getting skinny” isn’t the only health goal available to me.

So yes, while people may look at plus sized models and say how poor they are at being role models, there are other people out there saying thanks – thanks for allowing me to see myself in a positive way, thanks for allowing myself to love myself, thanks for giving me a chance. Plus sized models are normal people too, one rule cannot exist for me and another for them. I know I am large, just as they do. Plus sized models have lessons that all of us can benefit from – Love yourself at any size, at any condition. Love yourself, and be kind to others.


*** Not actual comment

Feature image: Tess Holliday (Munster) shot by Christine Harbour



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