What Happens When a Plus-Size Model Stands Next to a Fashion Model?

Plus Model Magazine published a photo spread this month showing a nude plus-size model posing with a nude fashion model. Wow.

We all know fashion models are skinny—oftentimes too skinny—and that looking at them on TV and in magazines day after day can make us women, well, hate our own bodies.

The online magazine Plus Model Magazine published some pretty powerful images in its January 2012 issue, putting a plus-size model (it doesn’t divulge what her exact size is) next to a super skinny fashion model. The women are in the nude, so you can really see the differences in their bodies. (Check out the images here if you want, but note my NSFW warning.)

Along with the pictures are factoids about the modeling industry. Like: “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.” And: “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.”

This one’s the real zinger, to me:

Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.

If that’s true (the ‘zine doesn’t say where it’s getting these numbers), that makes me sad and kind of angry. A size 6, especially, is more than healthy for most body types. Although every manufacturer is different, a size 6 converts to roughly a 26- to 27-inch waist—that’s the cutoff for a size small. The average American woman wears a size 12 to 14, with a waist size of 34 to 35 inches.

Sure, a lot of us need to lose weight. If the media’s been good for anything, it’s that it’s been drilling into our heads that America’s staring down an obesity epidemic, with two-thirds of us currently overweight or obese. So yes, we need to do something about that—and fast.

But does that mean we should strive for super-model-thin bodies? No, of course not. It also means we shouldn’t beat ourselves up every time we see a picture of Kate Moss.