On a day we saw actor Parineeti Chopra’s dramatic new photoshoot to announce to the world how much weight she’s lost in the last few months, comes this new debate: Can plus-size models be held responsible for triggering an obesity epidemic in the world?
As the spotlight on plus-size fashion is getting bigger and brighter, it is feared that its runway walkers may be fuelling obesity epidemics with their natural body shapes. The increasing use of plus-sized models in advertising campaigns may be contributing to growing rates of obesity, according to the study from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.
The study found that as advertising campaigns increasingly use fewer images of models that are underweight and aesthetically flawless, instead utilising non-traditional models with larger body types, the tactic can have a detrimental effect on the public’s lifestyle and eating behaviour.
The study’s authors posit that efforts to increase acceptance are resulting in increasing the amount of thought consumers put into their appearance and heightening body anxiety -- ironically the opposite of what many of these marketing campaigns are trying to achieve.
The findings have implications for both public policy makers and advertisers. The researchers advise both to be mindful of how individuals’ bodies are portrayed in the media, and develop new strategies that don’t focus on suggesting any shape is “good” or “bad”.
Although, this study demonstrates that accepting larger bodies results is associated with negative consequences, research also shows that ‘fat-shaming’ or stigmatising such bodies fails to improve motivation to lose weight, says co-author Brent McFerran.
He noted that since neither accepting nor stigmatising larger bodies achieves the desired results, it would be beneficial for marketers and policy makers to instead find a middle ground -- using images of people with a healthy weight and more importantly, refraining from drawing attention to the body size issue entirely. The study is published in Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.