GP who said “obese” M&S real women are setting a bad example is utterly wrong, says MP Caroline Nokes

GP who said Marks & Spencer's 'overweight' real women are promoting obesity is utterly wrong, says MP Caroline Nokes



15:34 GMT, 31 October 2012

I'm a great fan of M&S, and their recent campaign featuring real women is very welcome.

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image it is refreshing and encouraging to see an advertiser embrace greater body diversity in the images they use.

Our recent Parliamentary Inquiry found that women are 200 per cent more likely to buy a product if the models advertising them look more like them.

Marks & Spencer use models of all shapes and sizes for first time ever in a lingerie shoot for print campaign

Diverse: Marks & Spencer used models of all shapes and sizes for first time ever in a lingerie shoot for a print campaign

However, to my mild amusement and
dismay I read that GP Dr Ellie Cannon actually thinks that including
such a diverse assortment of models of different sizes is complicit in
promoting obesity –

How wrong she is.

I am sure both the GP and I share some common ground – namely that we want people to lead happy, healthy lives.

But the doctor seems to be confusing two very different issues here – an advertiser with the courage to kick the habit of using the same old stick thin or unattainable shape models or celebrities; and the high levels of the population who are classed as overweight or obese.

Caroline Nokes says Dr Ellie Cannon condemns bullying - but sends out the wrong signals herself

Caroline Nokes says Dr Ellie Cannon condemns bullying – but sends out the wrong signals herself

She is equating health with appearance,
which is utterly wrong.

It is entirely possible for people who appear
slim to have a higher than healthy percentage of body fat, and for the
larger framed among us to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

Indeed research conducted by youth charity Central YMCA found that about half the public would be more likely to exercise if they see people like them doing just that, surely evidence that more advertisers need to follow Marks & Spencer’s lead and use a diverse range of size and shape.

In her critique, Dr Cannon equates being
overweight with being unhealthy, but in evidence we took through the
APPG on Body Image, it shone out loud and clear that the measure we are
using to categorise or equate health with a person's weight is grossly

Body Mass Index was invented in the 19th century and not for the reason it is used today.

Overweight doesn't necessarily mean unhealthy and 'normal' weight does not necessarily prove good health.

The most important indicator surely is
health – not weight, and there are many people who may carry a few extra
pounds but who are metabolically, mentally and physically healthy.

'As a doctor I have to tell you that two of these models are too FAT to represent “real women”'

– Dr Ellie Cannon, in her article earlier this week

Equally, there are many individuals who are 'normal' weight or 'underweight' – the normal fodder for fashion ads, who are 'unhealthy'. Has Dr Cannon complained about adverts featuring size zero models

The doctor strongly condemns bullying, but by drawing attention to larger ladies featuring in adverts what kind of a message is she sending out

Stigmatising huge swathes of the population as she has done sends a negative message to all those out there who do not need harassment but encouragement.

Caroline Nokes MP is Chair of APPG on Body Image.