Big food companies have their priorities, which include selling cheap, unhealthy foods at high profits.— Rep. Jared Polis, (D) Colorado
I came in from one of the children’s more amusing school activities last night to find that Cheryl Tiegs was trending. At first, I was amused. The former supermodel is 78 years old. I remember her first Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, as well as her second and third. That was a very, very long time ago. Then, I was angry. Ms. Tiegs was trending because she criticised Sports Illustrated for putting plus-size model Ashley Graham on one if its three swimsuit edition covers. Finally, I was disappointed because Ms. Tiegs was using as her basis for criticism on, of all things, Dr. Oz.
Body size and health are huge issues in the United States. We are, after all, the most obese country in the world, despite our so-called fitness craze, the preponderance of gyms in almost every town, and decades of medical advice urging us to take on a more healthy lifestyle. We have all the advantages the world has to offer, and yet we choose to be unhealthy. So, if a major sports-oriented magazine does something to promote an unhealthy lifestyle, then yes, they deserve to be called out for it.
However, putting Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated is not unhealthy. Is Ms. Graham at an unhealthy weight? That’s a matter between her and her physician. It is possible to have curves and be healthy. There is no one measure of health that proves accurate or adequate for everyone; not BMI, not other height/weight ratios, and certainly not waist size. If Ms. Graham is active, which she is, does not do anything overtly unhealthy, which she doesn’t, then there’s no good reason for her to not be on the cover of Sports Illustrated or any other magazine.
If anything, it’s attitudes like Ms. Tiegs’ that are unhealthy. Let’s start with this whole Dr. Oz thing and the claim that having a waist size over 36 inches is unhealthy. We do realise that Dr. Oz’s weight loss advice has been thoroughly debunked, right? This is not new news. The doctor has even had to defend his weight-loss advice before Congress and found that, at the very least, there was no scientific evidence to support the majority of his claims, and several were completely WRONG. So, quoting Dr. Oz as an authority immediately puts one in the “misinformed” category.
Furthermore, using the measurements that work for one person may not work on someone else. Even Body Mass Index (BMI), which is the measure most frequently trotted out in these conversations, has been proven to not always be accurate. Good health is sometimes a complicated matter, depending upon what medical challenges one may have. To patently claim that one is not healthy simply because they do not fit within a given measure is inaccurate.
Most importantly, though, Ms. Tieg’s comment amounts to classic body shaming, which is just wrong any way you look at it. Notice Tieg’s backhand compliment that, “Her face is beautiful” (referring to Ms. Graham), which is a classic mean girl move in an attempt to deflect criticism. What Cheryl said is nothing short of insulting and does further harm to the on-going body image battle faced by millions of women, including those whose waist measurements fit within Dr. Oz’s misguided standard. Negative body image issues too often result in eating disorders or other destructive behavior as women of every size struggle to fit what they feel is society’s impossible standards for beauty.
Body shaming as serious consequences and can even result in attempts at suicide. While I will stop short of calling Ms. Tieg’s comments criminal, they are certainly irresponsible. We all want and need to be healthy, but being healthy starts with a good self-image and an attitude that one is valuable as a person regardless of what size they are. There is no room for insults, especially not from a 78-year-old supermodel.