Getting fat off obesity

Carrying around a few extra pounds after the holidays? You are not alone. As Chris referenced yesterday in his post on the results of the US health check for the past decade, over a quarter of Americans are obese. And by all accounts it’s not getting any better.

So, I was none too surprised when I saw that V Magazine’s next issue will “celebrate women of all sizes,” featuring Crystal Renn, a writer and plus-size model. She, and other larger models, will appear side-by-side with traditional models.

Even Tyra Banks is getting in on the plus-size rage. (Is there a money-making opportunity this woman ever passes up?) According to, she is not the only one. Ralph Lauren, Dolce &Gabbana;, Versace and Burberry are joining in on cashing in.

The LA Times reported this past spring that Forever 21, the knock-off clothing chain aimed at girls and young women, would be launching Faith 21, targeted at plus-sized young ladies.

Here’s the thing: we know all too well that health care “reform” just passed, offering a less than convincing array of solutions to all sorts of public health problems. According to the American Public Health Association, obesity-related illness is projected to account for 20% of all healthcare spending within 10 years. Maybe prominent designers and talk show hosts could do more than make a buck off people on their way to serious problems. It may seem Pollyanna-ish, but Ralph Lauren and others seems happy enough to engage in other issues. They show obvious concern for the environment with Lauren’s handsome Eco-Friendly tote and Burberry’s announcement on its site that it is the founding member of the Luxury Brands Sustainability Group.

Fat is clearly not as sexy as green.

Naomi has built her career on transforming start-up advocacy organizations into powerhouses of opinion and social change. She has played a pivotal role in ending the careers of some of the most corrupt members of Congress, exposing front groups and the corporate interests behind them and systematically rooting out misinformation in the media. Naomi launched and directed the communications operations of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Media Matters for America. Naomi has taken on the most aggressive conservatives of our time. She was a scourge of the gun lobby, exposing deceptive industry tactics through her undercover work at NRA conventions and gun shows; confronted Bill O’Reilly face-to-face; and was instrumental in persuading MSNBC to drop Frank Luntz as a campaign commentator for the 2004 elections. Naomi has been a commentator on national media, including, CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Roll Call, The Wall Street Journal, and the AP. Naomi is a partner with the Truman National Security Network and has worked extensively on Capitol Hill. She is President of Seligman Consulting in Santa Monica, CA.

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  • anonanomie

    Could someone tell this bigoted pro-anorexia bitch to blog somewhere else, somewhere I don’t read?

    If she were suggesting that nobody should make clothes that appeal to gay people, because HIV is a growing health problem with gay behavior that was barely addressed in the last health bill, and our cultural torchbearers are somehow ‘above’ targetting their clothing lines at homosexuals & their deviant behavior… what would you think of her then? What if she was scowling at some merchants who were starting to change a long-standing policy not to sell anything appealing to gays, in order to keep them away from their straight clientelle and avoid ‘gaying up’ their brand?

    On a completely unrelated note: Man-man sex is clearly not as sustainable as procreation.

    It’s just embarrassing that anyone could think this way.

  • In the meantime, they have to wear clothes, stupid.

  • ndtovent

    I’m very late reading this, but I have to chime in. I think it’s great that high end designers are finally getting on board and will acknowledge that not every woman is 5’5″ and 98 lbs., and that more full figured women should have choices just as everyone else…. But speaking from a guy’s standpoint, I’m avg height/weight, 5’9″, 155, and wear avg sizes. I can find jeans my size pretty easily, but trying to find slacks and dress shirts in my size (except for white) is what seems an impossible task nowadays. All the stores have one tiny portion of a rack with dress/casual dress clothes in avg sizes, but most are either ugly, gaudy, and tasteless, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in em, or no style at all (pure white, or khaki tan for instance. nothing wrong w/those, but what if I want to dress more stylish??). All the stylish clothes which actually have some taste are all XL, XXL, XXL, XXXL, etc. I feel like blasting all the clothing manufacturers with an open letter stating that “HEY, there ARE those of us who of avg height/weight who still wear avg sized clothes, get a f**g clue!” So…. It’s not just women.

  • me and not you

    Except that the definition of fat is relative–beauty standards change. I’m way too fat to be a model, but I’m not fat by most people’s standards. And there are plenty of women who aren’t skinny per se, but are in shape.

    Not to mention that not all forms of ‘fat’ are caused by poor eating or lack of exercise. There are many people are larger due to health issues (such as my friend with a bad knee who can’t climb stairs very well–if she did the exercise she needs to loose the extra pounds, she would basically cripple herself; or my mother, who has thyroid issues–and despite having been trying since I was born, has still not been able to loose the baby weight from having my sister or myself).

    Size doesn’t matter. What MATTERS is the fitness of the person. So before we fat-hate, let’s acknowledge that the fashion industry’s concept of ‘plus size’ doesn’t really encompass most larger women and really just barely inches into the realm of normal.

  • shano

    The only way to improve the general health of Americans is to change our food system. Like most everything else, the corp[orate food model is ripping us off, killing us and only profits the few at the expense of the many.

    We need to ban factory meat (CAFOs). We need to ban HFCS. We need to stop subsidising commodity foods and subsidise real foods like fruits and vegetables, grass fed meats, and ‘live’ foods grown locally in sustainable agriculture.

    This alone would cut our health care costs by 30%. We used to spend 8% on health care and 16% of our incomes on food. Now it is the reverse…we spend 16% on health care and 8% on food. These numbers are related. Watch the documentary ‘Food Inc.’

    It is NOT about weight…it is about health, and how we have let our giant corporations poison a nation. Read the article in the NYT about how they are adding ammonia injected ‘fat’ and ‘meat scrap’ to all the conventional ground beef. Have they done humanb testing on this ammonia ‘food product’? Hell NO. We are human guinea pigs in America.

    We should enforce the EU food standards here, and then we would have less diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.

  • naomi

    The point is not that designers should avoid making clothes for larger women. Equally, though, they shouldn’t pretend they are looking out for anyone but themselves. Designers are not about making women feel good at any size, just as they don’t really care about the environment, or any of the other faux causes they wrap themselves in to push more product.

    Showing “traditional” models next to size 6 models and calling them plus-size is a joke. Size 6 is hardly an above average size in the US, not even close.

    For the record, I am progressive and certainly not a size zero -not by a long shot. I am sick of these fashionistas parading around, pretending that they care about how women see themselves.

    None of that takes away from the fact that we are facing an epidemic in this country. Being healthy is exactly the point, not stick thin. So, instead of railing against the fashion industry’s promotion of anorexic models, we should figure what is being done to keep women healthy – and make sure that preventative healthcare is being addressed in and out of Congress. It is certainly not the only reason that Americans are overweight, but at least it would be a good place to start.


  • joshemerson

    You should know that some of those 25% of Americans who are obese are in fact progressives who read sites like this. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what you are saying should be done. You think the clothing companies should NOT be making larger sizes for those customers? Really? That’s ridiculous. Obesity isn’t a problem that can be solved by clothing designers or talk show hosts. It’s not as simple as being obnoxious and discriminating towards people until they change. Believe it or not, being fat does not mean that someone is stupid. There are many factors that affect a person’s weight, and ostracizing people because of it just makes the problem worse.

  • sjgrunewald

    I realize that you were just looking for an excuse to use your super clever term ‘land-hippo’ but I never once suggested that it is clothing designers duty to do anything.

    It is, however, really smart business to produce a product for as many people as you can.

    And we’re not even talking about grossly obese people here, most high end clothing designers don’t make sizes for the average American.

    I think size bias is the last true bias that is considered not only acceptable, but is actively encouraged by the media and the health care industry. Your reaction to my post is pretty damning evidence of that.

  • Gridlock

    Why is it a clothing companies duty to tell people to not be fat?

    Why is it their duty to make clothes in circus sizes for people who can’t get on a treadmill for 20 mins?

    I’m not talking ‘average’ people either. I’m talking the land-hippos.

  • Gridlock

    No, fat people should look in a mirror, eat less and move more, and the various fashion houses/media conglomerates pushing razor thin models and vanity sizing industries should shape the fuck up.

  • Gridlock

    Agree totally. The fashion industry promotes ridiculously impossible and unhealthy ideals, and then the clothing manufacturers go to the other end of the spectrum and start producing “vanity sized” clothing, which means a larger size in reality is somehow labelled 3 sizes smaller on the tag to make fat people feel good about themselves so they’ll shop more.

    It’s asinine.

    There should be size standardization (for real, not the half-assed job they do now), absolutely NO vanity sizing, and the fashion industry should be regulated to use people that are of a healthy weight, with some serious financial penalties if said regulations are broken.

    On top of that, in north america the portion sizes in restaurants are obscene. It’s easily 2 to 3 times as much food as you need, and stuffed with incredible amounts of salt/fat. How about we start making BETTER food for less money?

    Oh right, that would get in the way of profit..

  • naschkatze

    It’s only a matter of time before overweight and obese people will be penalized by health insurance companies with their mandate and the airlines. That’s too bad because there are so many factors involved: genetics, inability to afford nutritious food, certain illnesses and treatments, depression and fatigue are a few which come to mind. About 10 years ago I went on the Atkins diet, and my physician looked absolutely clueless when I told her that most people could not afford to eat like that, all the lean meats and fish, fresh vegetables and fruits. I just paid $2.29 for a nice head of romaine the other day, but that would be a luxury for many.

  • anastasjoy

    Well, the issue here is the wildly divergent definitions of “plus sized” models and “obesity.” The plus-sized models they feature are in fact average for real life, because the “regular” models have become so staggeringly, unnaturally thin (It’s not normal for a six-foot woman to weigh 115 pounds; I have a rail-thin six-foot friend and she weights a LOT more than that). In fact, most magazines need to get back to using the more normal sized women they used in the 50s and 60s. I often suspect that unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness in fact feed obesity; why bother to watch your weight if you can never possibly attain what’s considered attractive today for models, actresses, singers etc.

    I think there’s a vast difference too between using different body types in modeling and magazines that tout “pride” in being extremly overweight, and act like it’s normal.

  • threadmonitor

    Clare, nice of you to drop in for the first time and leave such a pleasant comment.

    It says so much about you!

  • lois55

    I’ve always been a fan of fuller-figured models. There’s a great site with many images of Crystal and other plus-size models here:

    They’re all gorgeous.

    The site’s forum also has thought-provoking discussions about body image and the media.

  • Zorba

    Absolutely, mtiffany. Obesity is a huge (not meaning any pun) problem in this country, but the “plus-size” models are not an indication. Most “regular” models are size 0, 2, or at the most, 4 (and that’s stretching it). The “plus size” models are usually 10, 12, or 14. This is a normal, healthy size for most women. Size 0 models (and actresses) often do not menstruate- what does this tell you? That it’s NOT NORMAL! Anorexia and bulimia have become more of a problem in recent years because of this obsession in the media with the super-skinny models and actresses. I’m definitely not saying that obesity is not a problem in this country, because it is, but sniping about featuring Plus size (read: “normal”) models along side Traditional (read: “anorexic”) models is not the way to feature the growing obesity problem in this country. Naomi, get a clue, here.

  • Clare

    This is the stupidest post I’ve ever read. Obesity is bad, so fat people shouldn’t wear clothes?

  • rjb7574

    You and Cassie are exactly right. While I understand morbidly obese is not healthy, in this country, if you are not bone skinny, some people think you are obese and that is not the case. Thirty years ago, it was hard to find stylish clothing in a size 14 or 16, much less a larger size, except for Lane Bryant stores. I was lucky enough to afford for my clothing to be made. Sure, I was overweight, but for being about 5’6″, it wasn’t much. No time for the gym, travel on business, check into the hotel at 11:10 p.m. and room service closed at 11:00, so the snack machine. All kinds of things contributed. It is not always easy or possible to lose weight. But that doesn’t mean that you should not have the choice of stylish clothing. Obese women probably already feel somewhat bad about their weight. Should they also feel bad about their clothing. I think it is worse that my 9 year old neice, all skin and bones, is concerned about her weight. That is worrisome.

    Yes, Marilyn Monroe was about that size, as was Jayne Mansfield. Also, they had boobs and hips, like real women. Just look in any clothing store, the 12-14 are picked over. There are plenty of things in size 4 – 8 because most average women are 12-14, not the size designers want people to think. Since I retired 10 years ago, I’ve lost weight (and now buy my clothes at thrift shops LOL) but when I look in the mirror, I see the same person, not thinner, just me.

  • Jessica

    As a woman who is a plus-size (a term I hate by the way, but there really is no “good” term for overweight), I find this post a bit condescending and obnoxious. Yes, I know I’m fat. Yes, I know it’s a problem and I’m working on making changes in my life. I know I ate the food that made me fat. No one forced me to do it. I’m not going to make excuses about my weight.

    That said, I resent that you think that designers shouldn’t make nice clothes for me. It’s not like Ralph Lauren (didn’t he just get a lot of flak for photoshopping super-skinny models to make them look anorexic?) or anyone else is going to stop making “normal” size clothes and just make clothes for fat people. Do you know how hard it is to find clothes that fit properly? And do you know that plus-size clothes are more expensive than regular clothes? Why shouldn’t I look good too? I guess you’d prefer I simply stay inside wearing my mu-mu and never show my fat face in public.

    The war on obesity isn’t one for clothing designers. Obesity is a horrible problem in the USA, but it’s a health problem. Maybe instead of cutting phys ed classes and eliminating recess schools should be encouraging kids to exercise and give them life skills in exercise (in my school district in upper-middle class suburban Chicago, PE has been eliminated and recess is less than 20 min/day). The endless dodge ball games that filled my PE classes as a kid made me hate exercise and never want to participate.

    Furthermore, until as a nation we are being proactive about healthcare, instead of simply reactive – insurance will pay for diabetes treatment but not gym memberships or weight loss programs – obesity isn’t going to change. We also need to make healthy food incredibly cheap so that people on limited food budgets and food stamps can afford to stock up on it rather than stretch their limited dollars on junk food to get through the month.

  • For many years, only Ralph Lauren made clothes for large size women. All of the other American designers, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan refused to make clothes for large size women; even though the average size woman was a 16.

    Remember, Marilyn Monroe was the equivalent of today’s 14 and she was never considered fat.

    Yes, people are bigger than they should be, but there are so many body issues with today’s population that it is hard to know where one should be.

    And obesity is still related to our food supply and for poor people bad fattening food is all they can afford – check out the grocery stores in poor neighborhoods versus the ones in richer ones.

  • lilliannerose

    “So, what size was she? Well, like most women, she wasn’t one size everywhere. When British journalist Sara Buys had a chance to try on some of Marilyn’s clothes earlier this year, she reported:

    After all these years, mystery and conspiracy theories still surround her death, but when it comes to her physical attributes, I can put a few facts straight. Contrary to received wisdom, she was not a voluptuous size 16 – quite the opposite. While she was undeniably voluptuous – in possession of an ample bosom and a bottom that would look at home gyrating in a J-Lo video – for most of the early part of her career, she was a size 8 and even in her plumper stages, was no more than a 10. I can tell you this from experience because a few weeks ago, I tried to try on her clothes.”

  • mtiffany

    To be fair, any woman whose ribcage is not visible and who still menstruates regularly is considered fat by the fashion industry. “Plus-size” women aren’t necessarily obese just because they have curves.

  • falloch

    take a look at Lauren’s and Burberry’s catwalk models – they are seriously emaciated. All the designer lovely eco/charity work is a charity-investing/tax-evading crock. If a normal-looking woman approached their ateliers, we’d see designers jumping out of windows in fake horror.

  • Indigo

    I don’t care what the trend is, I am not carrying an eco-tote into the grocery store with a green logo of Prince Charles playing polo. If the overweight Iraqi lady behind the counter in the bakery doesn’t burst out laughing, the annorexic Latina at the cash register will. Nope. Not gonna do it! Absolutely not!

  • cassie

    Good reply. There are many women out there that are not particularly fat but just plain larger all over than the emaciated waifs that are used by high end designers. Healthy is what is important. I am 5’6″ and while growing up was told that I should use 120 lbs as my goal weight! It was pretty much impossible to do and still eat ANYTHING. When i became an adult with a weight problem I sought help from a bariatric Dr. I told him my goal was 120 lbs-he was horrified! After measuring my bones he said that I would probably be healthy are 170 and when I got there we would talk about 150. In his opinion I would not be healthy at 150 much less 120. He was right. I made it to the 170 mark and then tried for 150. I looked and felt awful. In this country (and others) any woman who wears a size 12 or above is Plus Sized and there fore fat. Hey wasn’t Marilyn Monroe a 12 or a 14?

  • That’s depressing. Ok. I’m off to Wendy’s for a bacon deluxe.

  • lilliannerose

    Size 6 and 8 are considered to be plus size. Hopefully, what the designers are doing is putting a halt to this unhealthy size zero mentality. The eating disorders, some of which seem to be triggered by the size zero mentality is just as unhealthy!

  • KarenMrsLloydRichards

    “I’m sorry sir/ma’am, but you will have to step behind the partition. The full-image body scanner was unable to detect your genitalia. If you would just lift up your abdominal tissue, sir/ma’am, we will be able to complete your new Homeland Security-TSA-mandated body search, and you will be cleared through security procedures and be on your way . . .”

  • sjgrunewald

    So what you’re saying is that rather than make clothing for people of all sizes, high end clothing companies should make clothing only for smaller people and continue to make larger people feel badly about themselves with what, ad campaigns telling bigger people that they aren’t healthy enough to wear their designer clothing? Why is it a clothing companies duty to tell people to not be fat?

    Do you even understand how sized biased this post was?

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