According to a shocking recent article in the UK medical journal, The Lancet, of the world’s population of 800 million, the number of obese now outnumber the hungry. With almost 70% of the US population considered to be obese or overweight, many overweight people, especially women, are trying to change the misconceptions most of us have about the obese, one website at a time.
Websites are popping up all over the internet that celebrate the feminine form, no matter the size, by flaunting their curves instead of hiding them. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, thousands of women have started a Twitter campaign aimed at creating a social media movement that inspires overweight women to have “body confidence”. Many of these sites specialize in plus size women’s (and men’s) clothing that ranges from the conservative, to the naughty, and everything in between and also have articles and tips ranging from lifestyle to weight loss and exercise.
Plus size women have decided to come “out of the closet”, stop wearing unsightly mumus to hide their figures and redefine what we normally think as beautiful by embracing their bodies instead of hiding them.
Obesity In History
We have all seen portraits of renaissance women, in all their rubenesque glory, pleasantly plump and celebrated in the minds of most during that time as plumpness conveyed the image of fertility and robust health and was a highly desirable trait. The earliest known artwork depicting an overweight individual was unearthed in 1908, a stone sculpture of an obese woman given the name Venus of Willendorf.
During the late Middle Ages, views of size began to shift and by 1360, obesity was being seen, for the first time, as a health issue that diminished the quality of life. As medical knowledge expanded, so did the view of obesity and in 1701, obesity was defined as the “state of a person too much fat or flesh”.
By the 1800s, corsets were all the rage and was perhaps the first time that women began to purposefully attain the thin look. As scientific knowledge, waistlines, and the fashion of the day, expanded, obesity became less and less desirable but increasingly problematic, as we saw in the year 2000 when it was announced that an obesity epidemic, especially among the young, was at hand and the stigma surrounding obesity hit an all time high.
An Obesity Renaissance?
Today, we can find websites supporting those with weight issues, such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), the Obesity Action Coalition, the Obesity Society, and many others. Many of the overweight do not see their condition as a disease or an illness and have struck out to create a more positive view of their body type for themselves, and others. Today, we are seeing an “obesity renaissance”.
Examples include numerous websites and TV programs:
Chubster is a sophisticated, GQ-esque website for overweight men (plus men of all sizes) to find their “personal style”
TV programs, such as TLC’s “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” celebrate the ups, and down, of being overweight and trying to lose weight
Curves and Chaos.com’s creator, Monique Frausto, hopes to inspire all women with her blog and “cruelty-free” fashion website
And Daily Venus Diva.com, a source for “plus size news, entertainment, and style for women with curves”
Plus sized models are becoming increasingly popular, a more realistic portrayal of today’s woman than the model-thin versions we're used to seeing. An April op-ed piece on the Business of Fashion website quotes Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models, “Fashion is making significant strides toward more diverse industry ideals of beauty”, a fascinating statement as modeling has traditionally been a hold out for accepting overweight models into their rank and file.
The world is changing but many feel these changes are not in a positive direction.
Not everyone is happy with obesity acceptance and an obesity backlash (dubbed te "obesity war") is taking place in many countries. Websites are describing the backlash in terms of warfare. Medical websites describe the enormous cost and strain to healthcare systems worldwide while others are just generally angry.
Alfonso Moretti, “The Angry Trainer” says, in a 2012 article, “I’m all for diversity but honestly I don’t think we should be celebrating obesity or portraying these kind of body weights as healthy and happy…” and The Atlantic attempts to make a case for “shaming” the obese, “tastefully…through socially motivated self-hatred”, in a 2013 article.
However, the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD) asks a question, in a 2013 newsletter: should we be at “war” with obesity? They posit a very valid notion that using extreme terminology only incites fear, extreme attitudes and behaviors that can lead to the “(loss) of scientific focus and stray into fear based and unsafe tactics," tactics such as extreme diets, cleanses, and (as we saw in the above example) “stigmatizing and shame-based campaigns”.
The ANAD suggests, instead of using extremes, that we return to our knowledge of obesity at the most fundamental level and treat obesity for what it really is—a medical disease (according to a recent designation by the AMA) that has genetic roots and for which a cure might be found.
And the majority of the obese population would agree that it would be better for their health and happiness that a more “normalized” weight is preferable to being obese.