Big is Beautiful: Healthy image or health hazard?

| January 28, 2013


After generations of women & girls starving themselves to look like the impossible Twiggy or obtain the 20-inch waist of Audrey Hepburn, the mainstream media finally began to understand and appreciate the fact that not everyone’s bodies are made the same. In attempts to normalize and value all the different body types that exist in the world, the “Big is Beautiful” campaign started gaining a foothold.

Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Model celebrated the plus-sized models as Banks herself revealed she no longer had to starve herself. Christina Aguilera’s once waif-y figure has evolved into a voluptuous, curvy one to much mockery and celebration. Aguilera has made it clear: she is who she is, and her figure is not open to discussion. Websites for plus-sized dating partners popped up. Beauty pageants celebrating women who are confident about their 450 pounds became normalized.


After so many generations of women starving themselves trying to fit into an impossible stereotype only obtained by Photoshop and eating cotton balls (no joke, apparently, eating cotton balls to feel full is a diet fad- I don’t usually like to make judgment calls on other people’s behaviors, but look, eating cotton balls is just pretty straight-up stupid), is the Big is Beautiful good for building a healthy self-image or creating a health hazard?

According to a December 2010 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, almost 25% of overweight women perceive themselves smaller than they are. This isn’t helped by the fact what used to be a size 10 is now often labelled as a size 6. Overweight women (and men) who view themselves as normal weight may be overlooking some serious health concerns. Obesity is still the #2 cause of preventable death in the U.S., not to mention the cause of so many other health-related issues. 

Kids in overweight families pick up diet and exercise behaviors. Or they may be left to care for sick parents or without them due to early death. While the rate of childhood obesity has (thankfully) stalled or on the decline in some states, this is no time to rejoice and think the work is done. Kids with one overweight or obese parent have a 50% greater chance of being overweight or obese themselves.


Source: Huffington Post

So how can we keep this downtrend of overweight & obese children (and adults) without harming body image and causing folks to swing the pendulum the other way and eat cotton balls and have eating disorders? Bioethicist Dan Callahan calls for public shaming. Georgia has its controversial campaign that shows overweight children. Is this bullying or is it not sugar-coating?

Even Tyra Banks, who at one point celebrated her bigger body, has now proudly toned up – not to point of her unsustainable model days, but to a point where she is eating healthily and physically strong. She isn’t starving herself, but she isn’t excusing a larger frame for an unhealthy one.

How do we help our children & ourselves to have a healthy body image and have a healthy body? Can they not be one and the same?

Getting up and moving, learning a sport, or practicing a physical activity, be that yoga or soccer, helps to build a healthy sense of confidence in one’s body. That no matter whether one has a 24-inch waist or a 30-inch waist, studies have shown that children develop a healthier self-esteem knowing that one’s power can come from one’s own body.

Check out this amazing 11-year old rock climber, Brooke Raboutou. Raboutou seems far more concerned about seeking out challenges than whether she’s too fat or thin.

We can’t all be world champion rock climbers, but we can engage in some form of physical activities that allows us to focus on what we can do, rather than what we look like or should like like, according to some magazine. Plus, physical activity keeps our heart and bodies healthy.

Stop judging
By watching our own language around other too-big/too-small people, we can help our kids avoid the dangers of judging others, and therefore, ourselves. We don’t know what struggles are going on internally for people, so the only thing we do is worry about how we are behaving and feeling.

Appreciate that people come in all sizes – big, tall, skinny, wide. Appreciate that we come in all sizes.

Make no excuses for eating well
Eating well enables us to maintain healthier lifestyles and feel better physically – which then leads to greater emotional well-being – even if we don’t fit into some Hollywood standard of a size 0 or a Big is Beautiful standard of a size 20. Having a naturally thin frame or a naturally thicker frame is no excuse for one to eat overly processed, sodium-laden frozen meals. Eating well helps us to feel stronger and confident in our own sizes – but not excusing ourselves for unhealthy habits.

What are your thoughts on the Big is Beautiful vs no sugar-coating obesity question?

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Category: Blog, Featured

About the Author (Author Profile)

With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: or more about her portfolio

Comments (7)

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  1. Kat says:

    Great post B! The key is always balance at the end of the day. You need the education and support network around you. While I am very thankful to have a fast metabolism that naturally keeps me slim without having to diet, I am also very thankful to my parents for raising me on good food from day one. There were no sugary drinks, chocolate or heavily processed foods in our house growing up in Italy. Sure, I’d get them as a treat from time to time, but they were not readily available for easy access. Oh and meal portions were never anywhere near the size you would get in the US.

  2. Miz Helen says:

    Great Post, I wish everyone could eat well without the guilt, we would be much healthier.

  3. Thank you for the great post! I believe good education from parents to child (with help of community and school) from young age will help reduce this kind of issue. But a lot of people are aware but seem to have difficulty in executing the idea. We have to keep trying! 🙂

  4. MaryMoh says:

    This is such a great post to read. I think size doesn’t matter that much as long as the person is healthy. It;s important to make healthy eating and healthy living a lifestyle.

  5. Interesting post. It’s hard to get the balance right I suppose, you don’t want to promote either extreme. Never heard of eating cotton wool, that’s ridiculous.

  6. Amy Tong says:

    Good read and great information. It’s just so sad the media had such an impact on women and self-esteem based on our sizes. No matter what our figure is, eat well and exercise definitely is the way to go. 🙂

  7. Purabi Naha says:

    Very well written….eating cotton balls to feel full is so ridiculous! I wonder, to what extent some people can go just to look slim. Big is also beautiful, as long as one is choosing the right clothes and carrying oneself with confidence!