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Melanie Morris: Sorry docs, you're wrong -- seeing curvy models won't make me eat more

Oh good Lord, I think my head is about to explode. After years of tut-tutting over size-zero models and fashion's penchant for 'heroin chic', it seems there is now a backlash against having 'normal-sized' girls on the runway.

A survey done by the University of Bologna in Italy (yes, home of pasta, ice cream and pizza) says that putting curvy models -- as opposed to the walking stick insects we're so used to seeing -- is bad for our health.

Apparently, models proportioned like 'real' women have been dubbed 'chubby fashion' by the authors of this report, who claim increasing the size of catwalk models will alter a woman's perception of what our 'ideal weight' should be.

Feeding

Cough, splutter. Let me just get this right. Drs Davide Dragone and Luca Savorelli, the sages behind this great research, think that if women see models that aren't rail thin, we'll all change our perception of the ideal, go on a feeding spree, and add to the world's obesity problems?

Apparently so. Because, to quote the authors, "to promote chubby fashion models when obesity is one of the major problems of industrialised countries seems to be a paradox".

I don't even know where to start with my rage over such a glib assumption. Has the era of female emancipation totally bypassed Drs Dragone and Savorelli? It must do if they think we're all a bunch of Stepford Wives who don't have a mind of our own.

These two men seem to have little regard -- or knowledge -- of a woman's brain, if they think a catwalk model with 'real' proportions equals a licence for Rabelaisian excess on behalf of the mass female population.

To be totally honest, I like seeing slim models. They are human coat hangers, and show clothes beautifully. But I know it's unrealistic to assume a short, thirtysomething woman who eats three square meals, most with carbohydrate, will look the same in a garment worn by a gangly (but often beautiful, and equally hungry) teenager.

Not only do I know we don't look the same, I also know we never will. That's the whole point. Just as I liked to watch Jack Bauer save the world in all eight series of 24, it didn't mean I wanted to work for the Counter Terrorist Unit.

Purest

I like the escapism of what fashion in its purest form portrays. I love seeing slender girls glide down international runways, dressed in designer clobber I would love, but most likely will never own. It's beautiful, it's entertainment, it's Sex In The blasted City, for goodness sake!

I don't want to see versions of me, with unsightly bulges and cankles on a catwalk, or model clothes in a magazine; but if I saw one, it wouldn't encourage me to relax into elasticated waistbands and hit the taco fries. Nor would seeing a skinny model have me head-first in a tub of Haagen Dazs.

Drs Dragone and Savorelli's study comes out at the same time as research for the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that women are inclined to binge if exposed to friends who are overweight.

Apparently, "seeing someone overweight leads to a temporary decrease in a person's own commitment to his or her health goal", say authors Margaret Campbell and Gina Mohr.

Oh, for goodness sake. So, seeing someone relax and enjoy life without counting the number of crutons on the Caesar salad could lead to over indulgence ... but what's the point in living if you can't, actually, enjoy life without restriction from time to time?

These experts need to be told that women are our own harshest critics. We're the ones who put ourselves under pressure to be blonder, younger, thinner, leaner. Seeing pictures of other women who don't fit our ideal, or hanging out with the not-so-beautiful-people, doesn't make us give up on our aspirations.

In my mind, those researchers have leaped from A to Z in their assumptions, without even stopping to ask the way. What about 'feeders' -- those who don't eat, but get pleasure in seeing others absorb calories and grow in girth? Or what about Queen Bees -- the girls who like to be the most beautiful of their pack and thus hang around with plain Janes?

What about the slimming club member who puts an old photograph on the fridge to remind them what they don't want to look like?

These boffins have spent too long navel gazing in their lab coats to realise they are generalising us to a ridiculous degree. Humph.


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