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Fitness expert calls plus-size model Tess Holliday unhealthy

Ashy Bines, an Australian personal trainer and founder of the Bikini Body Challenge program, got herself in hot water when she called popular plus-size model Tess Holliday unhealthy

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Bines posted a picture of 280-pound model Tess Holliday on her Facebook page juxtaposed with an image of an alarmingly thin model who appears to be Ana Carolina Reston, a young woman who died of anorexia-related health issues in 2006. Bines did so in hopes of proving a point, writing that while thin women “are slammed ALOT (sic) these days,” models such as Tess Holliday are viewed as “an ‘inspiration’ to the younger generation.”

Bines explained that she felt Holliday was “not a good role model for young girls.” She wrote, “I think it’s FANTASTIC she feels comfortable but at the same time I don’t think it’s a healthy body image that should be applauded.”

Professional plus-size model Holliday has dealt with claims that she promotes an unhealthy physique from critics before. Holliday recently responded to critics claiming she was “glorifying” an unhealthy lifestyle: “I’m not (unhealthy),” Holliday told Yahoo Style. “(That) is like saying because someone is a darker skin tone or because someone is being gay that they’re, like, glorifying that lifestyle. That’s who you are.”

It’s easy to see why Bines may be confused about Holliday’s health, though I still don’t think that justifies critiquing another woman’s outward appearance. After all, if you were to look at BMI tables, the size 22 model has a BMI of over 30, which technically makes her obese. But BMI is a flawed indicator of health, and experts are now saying that there’s such a thing as “metabolically healthy obesity.”

“Obesity isn’t a homogeneous condition,” says Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hu says our understanding of obesity is wrong: “It appears that it doesn’t affect everyone in the same ways.”

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New research published in the International Journal of Obesity proves just this. Researchers Jeffrey Hunger from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and and Dr. Janet Tomiyama, from the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted a study and found that BMI has misclassified 47 percent of people as unhealthy. This study suggests that 34 million Americans labeled as overweight and over 19 million people who are considered obese are actually healthy.

Hu and his colleagues wrote an article in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, suggesting we look to other indicators of health. These can include characteristics such as normal blood pressure, cholesterol, sensitivity to insulin and blood sugar, good physical fitness and a waist size of under 35 inches for a woman.

At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not one is considered healthy by medical standards, there’s no reason to ever feel body shame.

“I know that I am fat,” says Holliday, “but people completely miss the point of me trying to educate women and show them that it’s OK to be who you are and love yourself and still live your life and not be miserable.”

There is no moral high ground that comes with looking like Ashy Bines in a bikini, and women who don’t have Bines’ physique can obviously still be role models to young girls.

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