Several of France’s biggest fashion houses including Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Gucci, pledged to stop using size zero models in runway shows and advertising campaigns. The ban is heralded as a sign that the fashion industry is finally being held to account for producing sizes that require women to starve themselves for fashion. In addition to addressing the health concerns surrounding women with 23-inch waists, could it be that maybe, the move also reflects that consumers don’t actually find paper thin models that attractive?
I first read about this ban just as my colleagues and I at Prime Fitness concluded an online poll on body types and attraction, which surveyed more than 500 men and women. Intriguingly, the poll we conducted also provided evidence that both men and women overestimate how thin they believe they should be compared with what the opposite sex considers to be attractive.
For female body types, the ‘favorite’ level of body fat selected was the 15-17-percent level and the scores given by men and women for this image were remarkably similar. At the ultra-thin 10-12-percent body fat level, there is a significant drop in the score from men (70-percent), and only a small drop in the score from women (75-percent). The most interesting result was at the 25-percent body fat level, where men still gave a very high 72-percent score compared with just 59-percent from women. And, at 35-percent body fat, men and women both gave very low scores (12-percent and 6-percent, respectively).
The story for male body types is perhaps even more surprising. Despite decades of Hollywood movies and fitness magazines glorifying six-pack abs and ripped muscles, the favorite level of body fat selected was the relatively normal 10-12-percent level with higher scores from men than women. When you get much lower than that, women were decidedly put off whereas men thought this was still pretty cool. At 8-10-percent body fat, men gave a relatively high 67-percent score compared with only 61-percent from women. Drop down to the 1-4-percent level, and men gave a score of 39-percent versus 24-percent from women. The borderline obese 20-24-percent level received low scores from both men and women.
For both men and women, being super thin is not actually considered attractive by ordinary people, regardless of the body types glorified by the media. By no means should this be construed as an argument that it is good to be overweight – obesity is a genuine health problem and should be taken seriously. But the goalposts we should be setting for ourselves do not need to be the grossly exaggerated images from catwalk shows and advertising campaigns. Super low body fat levels not only encourage eating disorders – turns out they are less attractive too.
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