Ah, exactly what we needed to hear right after lunch! Comparing our bodies to those of thin models (the majority of which are adolescent girls, many of whom grapple with terrible eating disorders to maintain their unadvisably low BMIs) is actually good for us because it encourages us not to get fat, according to Dr. Davide Dragone and Dr. Luca Savorelli from the University of Bologna, Italy. Moreover, they believe that diversifying runways to include women of different (i.e., larger) sizes might actually make obese folks believe that their weight is okay — or even (gasp!) beautiful — and encourage them to toss their celery sticks out the window and dive into the nearest bag of M&Ms.
Dr. Savorelli and Dr. Dragone presented their research at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference in London this week, where they stated:
If being overweight is the average condition and the ideal body weight is thin, increasing the ideal body weight may increase welfare by reducing social pressure.
In other words, they believe that encouraging the fashion industry to use larger models might lead to people thinking that their own largeness is socially acceptable. Because simply feeling good and avoiding disease isn't enough of an incentive for people to maintain a healthy weight, apparently, so people must be shamed into thinness by the fashion industry and society's ideals of beauty:
To promote chubby fashion models when obesity is one of the major problems of industrialised countries seems to be a paradox...Given that in the US and in Europe people are on average overweight, we conclude that these policies, even when are welfare improving, may foster the obesity epidemic.
The researchers backed up their claims with evidence that people eat more when they look at pictures of fat people and eat less when they look at pictures of skinny people. And sure, what people see definitely impacts what they eat. But today's models are, for the most part, as skinny as they've ever been, and today's industrialized countries are fatter than they've ever been. Isn't this evidence enough that there's something unhealthy going on at both extreme ends of the scale?