Letter to the Editor: Bigger bodies can be healthy, too

NEW ORLEANS (September 25, 2020) – For most of history, women with larger bodies were accepted. But starting in the ’60s, models like Twiggy were the rave. The skinny body type was seen as ideal.

In more recent years, bigger bodies are making a comeback: Think actor Gabourney Sidibe and singer Lizzo, now on the October cover of Vogue magazine. Body positivity and acceptance are the new mindsets, even as vanity sizing gets smaller while American women get bigger.

Bigger bodies can be healthy bodies, so end the stigma.

The weight of the average American woman has increased from 140 pounds in 1960 to 168.8 pounds in 2014, according to time.com. Even so, clothing makers introduced new sizes (0, 00) to make up the difference, starting with a 6 as the smallest available size in 1970 to the 00 in 2012. So Twiggy’s size 8 in 1967 would be a 00 today.

Weight does not equal health. Weight is measured by body mass index, or BMI. However, BMI is an unclear measure of health because of its limitations. According to Caitlin Reid, health professional and editor for Health and the City, BMI does not consider gender, age, body fat distribution nor distinguish fat mass from lean tissue like muscle and bone. More reliable measures of health include fitness level, blood pressure, blood glucose levels and waist circumference. 

Harmful misconceptions about obesity will not motivate people to lose weight. These include Obesity is caused by a lack of physical activity or unhealthy eating habits; obese people are less active; and everyone can lose weight with enough willpower. These statements are demeaning and not necessarily true. 

Genes and other factors can contribute to weight gain. Researchers at Harvard Health Publishing reported genes contribute to obesity. Genes can affect appetite, metabolism and body-fat distribution. The strength of genetic influence on weight varies from person to person. Stress, irregular eating and lack of sleep can lead to weight irregularity. 

Fat shaming and weight discrimination negatively affect physical and mental health. Kris Gunnars, a nutrition researcher at Healthline, detailed these effects. Making people feel ashamed for their weight or eating habits will not motivate change, but hinder progress. Weight discrimination can lead to an increased risk of obesity. Mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders and reduced self-esteem can develop.

We still feel the pressure because of “ideal” body images, such as candidates in the Miss America pageant. These women have gotten smaller since the late 1990s even as American women are getting bigger, according to PsychGuides.com.

Everyone has a healthy body with the right lifestyle. Taking care of your body is more important than a number on a scale. Move your body, eat well, and get enough sleep. Take back what it means to be healthy to you.


Brinisha Hamilton



New Iberia