General Health Wednesday April 29, 2015

Should Plus Size Clothes Be Banned From The High Street?

For the majority of us, the answer is simple – no. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and our lifestyles should reflect that. However, singer Jamelia has argued that a wider range of sizes readily available on the high street promotes an unhealthy lifestyle, and therefore shouldn't be allowed.

In her comments made on Loose Women last Tuesday, referring to the UK's obesity crisis, Jamelia stated that individuals "should be made to feel uncomfortable when they go [shopping] and can't find a size" concluding that "they should have specialist shops".

The singer has since taken to her Twitter account to clarify she meant a size 20 or over however, on the show, she did refer to just "plus size", which is something of a blurred line. For example, many high street stores classed a size 14 as "plus size", so such comments will alienate a significant majority of the population. A size 14 is nowhere near a size that should be classed as obese and such a view certainly hit a bum note on social media.

In fact, the average size for UK women is now 16, with many high street stores openly embracing this diversity. In particular, Debenhams created size 16 mannequins just two years ago to cater for the public, making shopping a more pleasant and relatable experience for many.

To us, these comments are a form of "fat shaming" - everyone should be able to feel comfortable going into shops. But there are wider issues regarding obesity that can't be tackled simply through a Mean Girls mentality of "YOU CAN'T SHOP HERE".

There's more to obesity than plus size fashion

Just like smoking, drugs and alcohol, binge eating is an addiction and can be classed as an illness. Whilst these three have many resources to aid sufferers, there is still a stigma surrounding obesity and its causes. Surveys have shown that those with a lower income are more likely to be obese, while other research has shown that you can have a healthy diet regardless of money. But the fact of the matter is that obesity is one of the biggest problems in the UK, with approximately 62% of the population classed as overweight or obese and the NHS spending over £5 billion on related resources and treatment each year.

This isn't the first time obesity issues have caused individuals and companies to take somewhat drastic measures. For example, some airlines have considered introducing a "fat tax" on top of all the other fees they try to justify in the checkout. Whilst this could make sense for the clinically obese who have no option than to take up two seats, where does this end?

Being fat can often be subjective. Would those classed as "plus size" in the eyes of the fashion be expected to pay fat tax? How do the airlines clarify who is and isn't fat? Surely a conclusion reached through the marketing and advertising we've been subjected to for years isn't the right step to take. More likely, are the airlines looking to charge a lot extra for not much?

Whilst the politics of fat tax isn't likely to be resolved soon, does our current system means overweight and obese people are encouraged to stay bigger? By promoting and catering for sizes so big, are we in fact allowing obesity to become too big for its boots? Pun intended.

Whilst we can't exactly allow overweight and obese people to wander about starkers, or in customised potato-bag dresses with foliage detailing, would making extreme sizes less accessible help encourage people to lose the weight? Furthermore, where does this leave other types of people who find it difficult to buy clothes, such as very tall, very short or very slim people? Jamelia later clarified her comments above, saying "I didn't make it clear on the show that I was talking about extremes... above a size 20 and below a size 6." Does this make what she said even worse, offending those who are naturally underweight as well, or is she right to say we should discourage any potentially unhealthy body shapes?

Rather than placing all the focus on retail, perhaps we should consider motivating each other into maintaining a healthy body. Of course, we all know the only way to lose weight is through modifying your diet and taking up regular exercise. If your BMI is above 30 then you will be classed as obese, in which case it's a good idea to speak to a doctor about the best way to reduce your weight, particularly if you are experiencing related health problems.


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