Ana Paula

No, Plus Size Models Are Not Driving Obesity Trends

Plus Size Models Cause ObesityClickbait from a marketing study — should we be surprised? A study of the initial consumer responses to advertising that features plus size models has morphed this week into an assertion that plus size models “may be partly to blame for rising obesity rates.” A press release that suggested a non-existent link to obesity rates helped health reporters make the leap to some sensational headlines.

People magazine uncritically bought this story line. We have to give Shape magazine partial credit for saying, “forgive us if we’re not buying this latest research.” Unfortunately their headline suggested that “blame for the obesity trend” might lie with plus size models.

It’s worth noting a few big problems with this leap of faith:

  1. Obesity rates rose before plus size models were common. If you stop to think about it, it’s a lot more likely that the rising popularity of plus size models results from the rising prevalence of obesity.
  2. Obesity was not studied. The only measures in these studies were attitudes and very short-term behaviors. This study proves nothing about obesity outcomes.
  3. Short-term effects are very different from long-term effects. Prior research has shown that social pressure and shaming can prompt short-term attempts to lose weight but reduce the odds of maintaining a healthy weight for the longer term.

If we set aside the false conclusions being promoted, what’s left are a few interesting, but unproven, ideas.

Click here to read the study, here to read the coverage in Shape, and here to read the coverage in People.

Ana Paula @ Plus Size Model, nov2011. Photograph © Leandro Godoi – Fotografia / flickr

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December 16, 2015

2 Responses to “No, Plus Size Models Are Not Driving Obesity Trends”

  1. December 16, 2015 at 9:04 am, EJHarman said:

    OH how sad……

    The best part, however was the Shape article — at one time Shape was not so accepting — glad to see it has grown up! People on the other hand is as vacuous as ever…..

    The researchers rather stun me…… and while one of the conclusions is “”We think marketers should consider featuring different body sizes, and not to put such an emphasis or value judgment on any body type,” Lin says.” It really does not make up for the poor design and hypothesis of the research…… just my nickles worth…..

    • December 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, for putting down your thoughts. I agree.