Sports Illustrated Ashley Graham’s “Fuller Figured” Pictorial: What Are The Ramifications?

At one time I would have talked about the pressure men and women face in this world to achieve nearly perfect dimensions. With a growing percentage of the population becoming overweight and obese, this “pressure” no longer seems to be as prevalent an issue. In fact, the expose′ about weight has reversed direction claiming that all body types should be accepted and appreciated for their “natural beauty.”

As a physician, I do not pass judgement about beauty. I do, however, have enough clinical training to know the current message being portrayed about people maintaining body weight in excess of “healthy limits” is potentially misleading and dangerous. The Sports Illustrated article along with an article from Good House Keeping entitled, “At 200 Pounds, I’m Perfectly Happy With My Body” (picture above next to Ashley Graham) are views expressed today that potentially create a wedge between self image and good health. Those supporting these articles do so by claiming these two women are examples of “women in good health.” They offer lab values validating these claims of “good health” which show no evidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney disease, gall bladder disease and any vascular compromise increasing the risks for strokes.

The problem with this claim is simple. Health, in a state of compromise, can produce perfectly healthy lab values. Have you ever heard someone say, “Did you hear about “Joe Smith?” (a fictional name.) He just went to the doctor last week and was told (based on his exam and lab work) he was the “image of good health.” “Suddenly, he dropped dead of a heart attack TODAY!”

Do you believe Joe was in good health, or do you believe Joe’s body could no longer compensate for the POOR HEALTH he was experiencing even though lab values didn’t reveal this status? Good health is much more than a physical examination and a blood test. In my opinion “GOOD HEALTH” needs to be defined as a

BALANCE BETWEEN PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL, SPIRITUAL AND SOCIAL COMPONENTS IN LIFE.

I believe the purpose of these articles is to emphasize the need to accept people and appreciate their beauty regardless of size. In doing so, this leads to the improvement of SELF IMAGE along with greater SELF ACCEPTANCE. I agree that society places a taboo on body weight creating emotional hardships, but this doesn’t justify ignoring risk factors involved in the degradation of the structural body (including risk factors for osteoarthritis) as well as the risk factors associated with chronic diseases (such as diabetes and heart disease.)

Excessive Body weight IS A RISK FACTOR associated with UNHEALTHY OUTCOMES. It is certainly not the only one. To minimize this risk factor in an environment with a growing population becoming overweight and obese is a mistake. Those making the argument in favor of supporting “curvier fuller figured women” are placing an emphasis on AESTHETICS (even though the lab value argument is mentioned.) Whether a person considers maintaining weight above a healthy range (where healthy range is defined as a range reducing one’s risks for structural and chronic disease) a desirable personal standard, it must be recognized and understood as an UNHEALTHY DECISION similar to choosing an UNHEALTHY DIET. It must be emphasized again that HEALTH RISK FACTORS may require varying periods of time until symptoms manifest. THIS DOES NOT MEAN A PERSON IS HEALTHY UNTIL THE DAY THE SYMPTOM REVEALS ITSELF! This day simply marks the beginning of the body’s inability to compensate for the stresses placed on it. It becomes a final protective mechanism to force the individual to understand a problem (beyond the body’s ability to manage) exists and requires some external change in behavior to reverse a negative outcome.

Excessive weight beyond “healthy ranges” must be recognized as one of these potentially damaging components. Those claiming that society must learn to accept “curvier fuller figured women” for “who they are” (from a sociological aspect) are justified in their claims. Those choosing to promote this lifestyle  however, must be just as committed and responsible to explaining to those wanting to follow this lifestyle the dangers that excessive weight potentially produces.  Attempting to undo social injustices knowing that overweight and obesity are risk factors for developing disease mandates public exposure to these relevant facts so the public can make informed decisions for their choice of lifestyles. It is time to stop telling the public to view OVERWEIGHT and OBESITY as “healthy” alternative choices that need to be embraced more openly and honestly. Factually, this is INCORRECT! We should, however, accept ALL PEOPLE for who they are and show them the courtesy and respect they deserve.

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25 comments

  1. I wish one could eat all they want and never move beyond the couch, and still be healthy. Regrettably, I don’t believe one can!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. At least, not on this planet! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I first read about the larger Sports Illustrated model and saw the photo of her, something disturbed me but I had a hard time putting my finger on it. I came to the conclusion that it was bothersome because the model’s body was in no way related to any type of sport or physical activity. I think it’s great to be kind and accepting of larger figures but anyone can achieve that physique. It’s not unusual, unique (or particularly desirable from a health standpoint). Not one ounce of work or intentionality was put in to achieve that figure so although it might be “pretty” to some, it’s not special in any way.

    I don’t mean the women isn’t special. I’m focusing specifically on her body.

    I’m not expressing myself well…I’m not against holding up overweight women as pretty but trying to foist it onto the public in a magazine with a focus on sports is weird…and manipulative…and in my opinion, wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my opinion, Sports Illustrated (intelligently from a marketing perspective) knew this would create controversy increasing awareness and sales of the magazine. Using Ashley may have had other positive intentions including the concept of “ACCEPTING SELF,” however, this does not outweigh the harm excessive body weight potentially causes over time.
      I can certainly understand your concerns with Sports Illustrated and their motives.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was great. For years Hollywood and the fashion world set unrealistic expectations for women and soceity. Inflicting mental harm to many. Now, shifting to the other side, we are sending the message this is acceptable. Perhaps, exacerbating a serious health problem in our world today – excess weight. We need to find the balance. And we need to teach that to the up and coming generations. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with your assessment. I think Sports Illustrated knew what they were doing by creating controversy which always leads to increased sales. I’m not convinced the welfare of our overweight population was a true motive for this photo shoot. I just wanted to provide an honest explanation about the importance of weight management and clarify it had nothing to do with personal aesthetics. Our population must learn the importance of healthy life choices to improve the quality of our lives and reduce the financial hardship that poor choices creates.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. So true. I am sure people will not think of Sports Illustrated looking to stir controversy to sell more magazines.
        Great post.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. its such a good article!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reviewing this article. I appreciate you taking the time to add your comment as well. Please feel free to add your opinion anytime you feel compelled to do so. All of us benefit from sharing a dialogue.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A friend of mine’s brother-in-law died of a sudden heart attack early this year. He was only 42 and had 3 children. He was not fit or in a healthy weight range and he did not take the medication his cardiologist had prescribed, only a few weeks earlier. It is a very sad story but you are right, people are shocked that a young man can die. Social acceptance of size is not nearly as important as understanding what is going on in our body. And by that I mean emotionally and physically. This is what we should be more concerned about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry for your friend’s loss. These are the stories that remain “under the radar” blinding people to the reality facing many people choosing to live an unhealthy lifestyle. As these stories “surface” and become shared more frequently they incentivize greater introspection creating motivation to modify one’s choices in life. We must move beyond the superficial aesthetic value of “beauty” and and recognize the importance of good health and its impact on BOTH emotional and physical health. In doing so, we will find a much greater sense of “beauty” each of us possess.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. […] have to thank Jonathan for this idea. His blog is ALL ABOUT HEALTHY CHOICES and he likes 80´s music. I started to add […]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope your move to Braga has gone well and you’re enjoying your new environment.

      Like

  7. Healthy living is of paramount importance. If you live healthy, eat healthy and exercise regularly, you may just have a body that has the propensity to carry a few extra pounds and this is not and should not be an issue. If you are lucky enough to be skinny and still eat rubbish, drink and smoke, no one ever passes a judgement because you are thin.
    Simple as that. Fat people get the rough end of the deal because they LOOK like they are unhealthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These “thin” people you mention don’t need judgement passed on them; they are judging their own bodies by providing them non nutritious detrimental products that cause numerous infirmities. It is the individual living the healthy life (with or without a FEW extra pounds) that has the “last laugh.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Healthy living for me always wins through.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Spotlight Gesundheit · · Reply

    I was 100% there! Obese for decades. And I too was at 200lbs thinking I was healthy because I did not have any debilitating illnesses. I could not have been more misguided, misinformed and ignorant. I was slowly killing myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your personal story. It is difficult convincing people that quality of health is compromised long before symptoms show themselves. Comments like yours are crucial because they come directly from the consumer/patient and are accepted with a sense of greater reality and truth. Thank you so much for being part of this conversation. Congratulations again on transforming your life and empowering yourself with the confidence needed to achieve all you’ve accomplished.

      Like

  9. This article is well written and very on point. Acceptance of self at all stages throughout life, is imperative to good physical and mental/emotional health…whilst focusing on healthy lifestyle to maintain or regain our own optimum healthy physique. And sending out a healthy message to the world from both standpoints as well; especially to the children out there who are more so molded by media’s desirable portrayal of societal “perfection”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a fine line sometimes between physical appearance and (clinically speaking,) good health. Appearance, however, can be misleading. A size 0 vs. a size 10 does not determine the quality of health; it simply produces an aesthetic appearance pleasing to some and distasteful to others. Understanding that individual weight and height are only two factors contributing to the overall health of an individual. For the media to flash these images and use them to confront discrimination does an injustice to the the individual and society as a whole.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Great article, I was one of these in the past who was perfectly content being 200 pounds and my labs were perfect BUT I felt as I got older, my health started showing issues and I had to face reality, my weight was slowly or maybe not so slowly killing me. When I speak especially to younger women, I tell them you might think you are “safe” now but it WILL catch up with you; do something to be healthy NOW while your skin is young enough to recontour to a healthy body! I look forward to reading more on you blog. I lost over 130 pounds at over age 50, so it can be done, but you have to want it bad enough; I am living proof!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes we need to get people to think and realize how their thought process deceives them. For example, just because symptoms are absent doesn’t mean we should follow destructive patterns in life UNTIL symptoms appear. It is a more joyful experience to live a life of quality than a life of indulgence. It creates a POSITIVE attitude and SUPPORTIVE approach to HEALTH and LIFE.
      It sounds like your speaking engagements present a similar approach. I look forward to reading some of your writings.

      Like

  11. I agree wholeheartedly. My uncle weighed 300 pounds and his lab results said he was healthy. So he kept doing what he always did – eating junks, drinking excessively etc. if someone tried to tell him how unhealthy his habits was, he would show that person his lab results. And one morning, his heart just stopped. Everyone should accept who they are and love themselves. but they should love themselves enough to make healthy choices and take care of their body.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this important comment. Good health is the RESULT of quality ACTIVE participation along with achieving BALANCE in daily living. Loving oneself should not be based on personal aesthetics, but rather personal commitment that demonstrates SELF VALUE and SELF WORTH.

      Liked by 1 person

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