Staff Writer | Katrina Williams
“Would my life be better if I were thinner? No. But it would be better if I wasn’t treated so poorly because I’m not.”
Best-selling author and body advocate Jess Baker spoke these words during J.C. Penney’s “#HereIAm” campaign, a clothing line for plus size women.
The movement encourages overweight woman to love their bodies and challenges people to accept a heavier weight, rather than shame it.
Although this movement has good intentions, companies have begun to question the effects that fat acceptance has on health.
Clothing Designer Ashley Nell Tipton has spent the majority of her career promoting the movement through her clothing designs and involvement in “#HereIAm.”
“Healthy is a relative term … and quite frankly, whether someone is ‘healthy’ or not is their business and nobody else’s. Fat does not always equal unhealthy,” Tipton said.
Tipton sides with a great deal of people who believe in changing perspective instead of changing weight. Another one of these people is advocate and writer Jes Baker.
“I am on a mission to turn our society’s concept of beauty on its oppressive head,” Baker wrote on her blog site, themillitantbaker.com. She went on to say, “I genuinely know for a fact that every person in this world is worth of respect and feelings valued regardless of their size, shape, shade, sex ability, gender, age, or health records.”
The fat acceptance movements strives to promote overall self-worth and empowerment, regardless of body weight. On the other side of the argument are opinions like Sophie Hurlock’s, an online blogger. In her opinion piece for studybreaks.com, Hurlock wrote about her concern.
“If we no longer portray cigarette smoking as cool because we know it causes lung cancer, why are we trying to make obesity look healthy when we know the health risks associated with it,” Hurlock said. She added, “the nation’s weight issue is more than just an illness; it’s an epidemic.”
Hurlock’s opinion aligns with the growing rates of obesity in American children and adults, especially in women.
State of Obesity, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about obesity in the United States, has been keeping records of these rates since the 1960s. Since the study began, the percentage of women in the survey who qualify as obese has risen from 10 percent to 30 percent.
This has lead health professionals and counselors, such as Michael Otto, Ph. D., to question the effects of the fat acceptance movement. According to an interview with Otto from the American Psychological Association, exercise is directly related to psychological and emotional wellbeing.
“Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect,” Otto said.
Good psychological stability is directly related to how often we exude our bodies through physical activity and how well we train physically.
Personal trainer and Physical Education teacher from Lake Arrowhead, CA, Ami Horton, has spent the majority of her career trying to find a middle ground between physical health and body acceptance. For Horton, the human body is a vessel that should be used to serve the individual’s purpose.
“We cannot go to an extreme in our attempt to challenge and embrace things that are self destructive,” Horton said. To tell someone that is obese “that it is okay never equips her with the right mindset … it predisposes her to disease or mental illness.”
Horton has also made it her goal to teach elementary and high school-aged students that they don’t need a perfect body and appearance. A great deal of students that she encounters believe that they are not “athletic people,” and therefore cannot engage in fitness.
However, these “non-athletic” students described by Horton could be at serious risk for health problems later in life.
In a 14-year study conducted by the American Heart Association, overweight middle-aged woman had a 50 percent increase in risk of coronary heart disease, while overweight middle-aged men in the same study had a 72 percent.
Horton believes that the mindset of acceptance can alter a person’s understanding of his or her identity and potential.
“I encourage my students to choose a physical goal with their appearance that falls within the guides of what their body type is… It is kind of popular to tell people who are obese that they are beautiful. They are, but they are at a risk and are then not truly doing things that are of benefit,” Horton said.
In 2015, a research study on fat acceptance in advertising was conducted by psychologist Lily Lin and coauthor Brent McFerran. The study consisted of 168 women who were split into three groups and each given a bowl of chocolate.
The women were shown a clothing store advertisement which featured a plus size model. Each advertisement had a slogan that said,“For Women,” “For Plus Size Women” or “For Normal Women.” Throughout the course of the study, women who saw the “For Normal Women” commercial ate significantly more chocolate.
“People were more likely to consume an unhealthy food item when the larger model was accepted as opposed to plus size, even though her body type was identical in both cases,” Lin and McFerran said.
The study concluded that the fat acceptance movement may actually promote a psychological desire to eat more unhealthy foods. Lin and McFerran’s solution to this issue is to promote a wide range of different body types throughout advertising, leaving the extremes, malnutrition and obesity, out of the picture.
“We can’t cloak a lie, call it a truth, and tell ourselves that we are doing a service… Understanding the value of the body each individual is given, that’s the healthiest way of approaching fitness,” Horton said.