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Friday, June 22, 2018

Plus-size clothing and overweight models are normalising obesity, warn experts




Sarah Knapton, Science Editor 22 June 2018




Ashley Graham models for Swimsuits for All




The normalisation of 'plus-size' clothing and overweight models could be fuelling the obesity epidemic because it leads people to underestimate their own weight, a new study has shown.

The plus-size movement may help promote body positivity but it is having the unintentional consequence that people start believing they are a healthy weight, researchers claim.

Sociologists from the University of East Anglia said it could undermine efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic where more than three in five Britons are overweight or obese.

Many companies now have plus-sized ranges including Marks & Spencer’s Curve, which caters for women sized between 18 and 32.





A plus-sized model for Marks & Spencer

Speaking about Curve, Associate Professor Dr Raya Muttarak, of The University of East Anglia said: “By introducing a new design and styling tailored for plus-size customers and using carefully selected fabrics complementing fuller figures, Curve primarily contributes to promoting body positivity.

“While this type of body-positive movement helps reduce stigmatisation of larger-sized bodies, it can potentially undermine the recognition of being overweight and its health consequences.”

The study published in the journal Obesity warned weight misperception has increased in England.

An analysis of almost 23,460 people who are overweight or obese found those who underestimate their weight had risen from 48.4 to 57.9 per cent in men and 24.5 to 30.6 per cent in women between 1997 and 2015.

And the number of obese men misperceiving their weight in 2015 was almost double that of 1997 - 12 per cent versus 6.6 per cent.



Plus-sized model Ashley Graham walks the runway at the Christian Siriano fashion show during New York Fashion Week Credit: Angela Weiss AFP


Prof Muttarak added: “Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese.

“The increase in weight misperception in England is alarming and possibly a result of this normalisation.”

The study found men, the poor and the uneducated are more likely to underestimate their weight status and consequently less likely to try to lose weight.

Members of minority ethnic groups are also more likely to underestimate their weight than the white population but are more likely to go on a diet.

Overall, those underestimating their weight are 85 per cent less likely to try to lose weight compared with people who accurately identified their weight status.

The study used data from the annual Health Survey for England, which contains a question on weight perception.

It focused on respondents with a BMI of 25 or over, about two-thirds were classified as being overweight and one-third as obese.

It pooled data from five years - 1997, 1998, 2002, 2014, 2015 - to assess trends in self-perception of weight status.


The proportion underestimating their weight status was higher among overweight individuals compared with those with obesity (40.8 per cent compared to 8.4 per cent).

Consequently, only about half of overweight individuals were trying to lose weight compared with more than two-thirds of people with obesity.

A spokesman for Marks & Spencer said: “We’re committed to offering great choices across all our ranges. CURVE is a unique collection our design team developed with insights from thousands of customers in response to the increasing desire for stylish pieces to fit and flatter fuller figures.”

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