Ashley Graham, a popular plus- size model in the U.S recently made history by landing one of the biggest marketing covers, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Graham became the first plus- size model to ever land this coveted edition. Some people say this sends the right message.
“The media has changed the way we think,” says Jeff Packer, a licensed therapist and counsellor in Oshawa. According to Packer, body image wasn’t an issue until it was commercialized by the media. “Negative thinking is what causes body obsessions says Packer, it’s a cognitive issue.”
According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, 1.5 per cent of Canadian women aged 15–24 years have had an eating disorder. Campaigns like the Dove Self Esteem project, and the NYC Girls Project, exist to help young girls overcome body issues. Though they are not directly related to Graham, these campaigns say they are starting the basic foundation for young girls to be able to feel better about themselves and to combat mental health issues.
Recently the U.K. made headlines when the Advertising Standards Authority pulled an Yves Saint Laurent advertisement off the air, claiming the model looked unhealthy and underweight even for the industry. The U.K. agency said it was sending a negative message to young people.
France has also passed a law against unhealthy models being used. Fashion houses failing to adhere to the law will be fined up to 75,000 euros. France is not the only country to place these measures. In 2012, Israel also passed a law banning underweight models
In 2006, Fashion Week Madrid informed models that looked unhealthy and thin that they would not be able to walk the the runway for the annual event. This decision was quickly followed by Italy, which announced that models with a body mass index of 18.5 would not be able to walk the runway show in Milan.
Eating disorders have become such a huge problem that these countries say these measures are made in an effort to stop a growing trend.
The Danish Fashion Institute in Denmark has also collaborated to produce the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter. This charter contains four rules including models must be served “nutritious and healthy food” at every job lasting longer than two hours.
“I feel like models today tend to portray an unrealistic body image, one that’s impossible for the average human being to achieve,” says Estelle Theodore, a student of the Durham College.
She also says lately plus size models have hit the industry proving to women everywhere that plus size can be beautiful too.
It’s just a start and a lot more can be done to improve such vain beauty standards, she said. Yet not everyone thinks that this is an issue.
“Everyone is born thin,” says Jessica Clattenburg, a model from Milton. She says that people’s size is related to how they live their lifestyle. But not everyone agrees, according to Packer everyone is born differently, beautiful in their own way. It’s negative thinking that causes people to think that way, he said.
When asked what message he thinks plus size models sends to young people, Packer said plus-size and average models are healthier. He also said silence on the issues of body image is what’s most destructive to young people.
Meanwhile, Clattenburg says everyone has their own goal and body type. She says they should love the body that they are in.