How to Make A Plus Size Model Skinny

Photo Retouching: Take another little piece of my…

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Retouching by J. Pimentel

As we continue to discuss, photo retouching is the norm in a society that values flawlessness.  Even though they’re muttering “be yourself” out of one side of their mouths, they are ready with digital diet pills in the other.  Who wants “normal” when you can have perfect?

I asked one of my good friends, who is a graphic designer as well as a beautiful vivacious plus size woman, to take us through the process of what professionals are asked to do when pairing down models to the “perfect size.”

(1) What specific areas of the picture did you concentrate on– can you talk us through it a bit?

Let me first point out that the original picture was taken and produced by a professional photographer. In all likeliness it already had been significantly modified before I even touched it. Notice that there are no blemishes, cellulite or folds in here skin whatsoever. As a result, there was virtually nothing done to her bust and face at all. I contoured her jaw line a little but this was a relatively minor adjustment.

Most of the edits were done on her body, in particular the waist, arms and hips. These parts were edited to look much slimmer than they actually are. It would be the real-life equivalent of taking 8″ off her waist and 2-3″ off each arm. The hips were contoured as well, smoothing out the line between where her skin ends and the bathing suit begins. Shadows and highlights were added to imitate how light would cast off and on her body if it were to have appeared that way naturally.

(2) Would the retouched version still be considered “plus size?”

Plus sized models, also referred to as Woman models, run generally from sizes 12-18. Depending on the agency a size 10 may also marketed as plus size. Crazy right? Ironically, the modified version of this picture would likely edit her right out of both categories; too small to be a woman model, too big to be a misses model.

(3) Would the un-retouched picture ever make it to print without being downsized to the revised version?

In this case yes but only because this person is being marketed as a plus size/ woman model and the picture had already been modified. A regular misses layout would use a models size 0-4. In fashion and retail, very infrequently is there ever a picture that is taken and put into print without modification of some sort. This is most evident on the cover shots of magazines and other publications. The changes I made to this picture are dramatic. She essentially went from a size 16 to a size 6/8. If a designer had to make this many changes to a photograph they would just hire another model.

(4) What are some insider bits you can tell us about what you do?

As a designer we are trained to look for even the slightest flaw and correct it. The digitalization of the industry (move from photographs to digital images) has afforded us the ability to modify EVERY ASPECT of a picture. The most insidious edits are the subtle ones, the ones that imply flawlessness. They are the most believable and therefore the most unrealistic and damaging in my opinion. The better people like me get at our jobs, the more desensitized the observer becomes to how unrealistic the images really are.

So much for positive body image…

Any comments or questions for me or our expert graphic designer?  We love your participation! Please put all comments and questions below.


Muffin Tops! Fat Brides! Dieting! Oh My!

Is Big Brother Trying to Tell You Something?

Is Big Brother Trying to Tell You Something?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

The advertisers have been more and more relentless these days.  Everywhere you look, we’re told we’re not good enough.  Girls. Boys. Men. Women.  Really, nobody is safe.

While it’s typical for advertisers to target their audience by advertising on the “right” web pages, the “optimal” radio stations, and the “correct” TV channels, things have been getting more and more like “Big Brother” as we march on towards the end of this decade.  I’ll be emailing along on Gmail and there’s a bunch of advertisements based on what I’m writing in my emails.  My space and Facebook are shoved tight with targeted ads based on profiles…weight, height, status, location, interests.  It gives me the heebie jeebies.  And nobody likes the heebie jeebies.

So when I read the article in the Washington Post report recently about one writer who was the target of relentless weight loss ads, it really turned my stomach.  On Facebook, likely because her status was “engaged” and because advertisers know that women get a little self conscious and weight conscious when it comes to fitting into the right way-to-expensive-for-one-day wedding dress, an onslaught of weight-losing ads came her way. So much for positive body image.

Every time I logged in to my home page, Facebook’s ads screamed at me with all the subtlety of a drill sergeant: “MUFFIN TOP.” This particular ad had a picture of someone with said affliction….After…Facebook got even more vicious, like a schoolyard bully provoked by my initial reaction. With the knowledge that I was engaged to be married, the site splashed an ad across the left side of the screen playing into a presumed vulnerability. Do you want to be a fat bride? You’d better go to such-and-such Web site to learn how to lose weight before the big day.

Is this happening to you?

And the young girls and boys who are on FaceBook and treat it like a religion– how do you think these advertisements are impacting them?  It seems to me that we’ve allowed freedom of press to take over freedom of privacy…what do you think?

How Fat is Too Fat for Hollywood?

Not exactly fat?

Not exactly fat?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We all know that the window into the hyper-critical, ultra-sensationalized world of the famous and the “becoming famous” is getting smaller still.  But it’s always surprising to see just how tight the mold is that you must “fit” in order to “fit in.”

This young actress had a meeting with a casting director from LA with the hopes of landing a role.

“Without a glance at my head-shot or resume, and not even a decent introduction, this stranger looks at me, all 5 feet and 2 inches, 125 pounds of me and says, “You need to lose twenty or gain thirty because where you are right now, I can’t do anything with you.”

The young actress was a little shaken by the information as well as a bit confused. Not wanting to be rude, she asked; “Can you elaborate on that?”

To which she replied,

“Your face says ingenue but it wouldn’t quite work, and I can’t put you as fat best friend because you’re not *exactly* fat.” (— Katy, Broadway)

Have we gone mad? Not exactly fat?

Shall we see how *fat* this actress really is?  And how small the window into Hollywood acting really is?

BMI Categories:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

This young actress has a BMI of 22.9. Of course under-scoring that even if the medical community is telling a girl that her weight is “normal,” Hollywood says it’s not good enough.  And, Hollywood is conveying that in order to be one of the “chosen” ones, you must fit their mold.  I mean, who ever heard of an ingenue having a BMI over 19.2? That would be…a travesty of outrageous proportions…pun intended. If the average size of an American woman is a 14, why do all ingenues need to be a size 0? Of course, we can simply have out Hollywood starlets continue to waste away.

Note: The casting director wants her to have a BMI of around 19.2 in order to be “acceptable” as the ingenue and around 28.3 to be considered for the fat best friend.

What do you think? Outraged? Annoyed? Frustrated? Fair? Don’t care?

“Am I too fat, Mommy?” Kindergarteners with low body image

Tots Stress about Body Image

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Yet another study reveals that we’re messing up our children when it comes to body image even when children are as young as age 4.  Go us.

An Australian study performed with 53 children across 4 kindergarten classes revealed that parents and teachers are inadvertently sending messages about the “perfect body” to these youngsters.

“They do this by their attitude to their own bodies, and by suggesting to their daughter that they need to exercise more (to lose weight) and to their sons that they need to eat more (to increase their muscles),” said Marita McCabe, the lead researcher on the project.

Are we ever going to get this right?

One reader states:

Having had my then 7 year old come home from school last year saying repeatedly that she wanted to be ‘skinny’ (when she already is), I can relate to this. We turned it around by talking to her about how dangerous being too skinny can be – she had no idea that it could be bad for you but somehow knew that being fat was ‘really bad’ and that ‘exercise makes you skinny’. Advocates of the campaign against child obesity need to be very careful in targeting the PARENTS of obese children rather than issue blanket policies and directives across all children including those in the healthy weight range. Eating disorder admissions in the past six years – since the onset of this campaign have doubled and the average age of onset for eating disorders has come down from 16 to about 12. Anyone else seeing the writing on the wall?

–ab of melbourne

What are your thoughts on the topic?

Who Needs Pores Anyway?

What’s Beautiful?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Which one looks better to you?  Gisele Bundchen without make-up or Gisele Bundchen, retouched?

And what does all this “photo retouching” say to our young people? Hmmmmmm.  Erase any signs of actually looking human!  You–with no pores and artificially applied make-up is so much better? Gosh…natural is so “yesteryear.”  No wonder girls are going to school with bags full of make-up crammed in their bookbags…

Have any great tag lines for this?

Retouched by J. Pimentel

Why Fat Girls Don’t Go To College?

As you know, I’ve been studying girls, women and body esteem for quite a while. It’s so hard for girls to feel like they “fit in” when our culture sensationalizes thinness and rejects people who deviate from the media’s thin ideal. This cultural issue has a high cost. It isn’t only a problem because it creates a breeding ground for disordered eating behavior and low self confidence, but also because it can cultivate social problems such as bullying, ostracization, and academic failure to thrive.

A new study indicates that a supportive, respectful peer culture, which makes children feel as though they “fit in” is just as crucial to a student’s success as high academic expectations. Among the results was a finding that those students who were categorized as clinically “obese” were less likely to go to college than those students who were considered of medically “normal” weight. Perhaps not surprisingly, the issue was much more severe for girls than for boys.

Who did it? Robert Crosnoe and Chandra Muller

Where was it published? July issue of Sociology of Education

Where did the data come from? The ongoing National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health provided data from over 11,000 teens in 7th-12th grade from 128 schools in the US

What did he find? Teens who were categorized as “obese” tended to have to cope with more social isolation. They were less likely to go to college and take advanced classes even though their same-age peers were doing so. In addition, In school cultures in which students were less likely to be considered “clinically obese” and “overweight,” 61% of “obese” girls didn’t continue school. However, in a school in which at least 1/3 of students were indeed considered medically obese, only 17% of “obese” girls did not go on.

Gender Issues: Because body appearance is so central to girls, girls are more likely to compare themselves to their female classmates and peers around them than are boys.

“Your school and your culture affects how you view academics and your future. Social ups and downs are a big distraction…many of the kids said it’s hard to sit and do your homework when you’re worried about what will happen in school the next day.” (Crosnoe)

Overcoming the Odds: Kiss These Assets

  • How did some socially isolated students thrive despite their social issues? Here are their very important assets: Very supportive parents, at least one good friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and finding a niche in an extracurricular activity. Enrolling your child in a positive extracurricular activity where character, confidence, connection, individual competence, caring and compassion are stressed, such as in an academy that is using Powerful Words, is more important than ever. 

How did you fit into your school culture? How has your child found his or her place within the school culture? How do you see a powerful extracurricular helping this situation? Please share your “secrets” so we can spread the ideas to all those who can use them!

Please comment below.

Have a Great Day!

Infuriating Advertisement; don’t you think?

Does happiness depend on losing a dress size?  Weigh in.

Does happiness depend on losing a dress size? Weigh in.

Just got back from visiting my Mom in NJ–I found this ad while reading the paper when I was there and had to scan it for all of you.  I had a visceral reaction– ugh.  Lose a dress size– be happy? Don’t just survive your diet– enjoy it? What do you think?  Does happiness really depend on losing a dress size?  Do these advertisers and doctors really have “our numbers” and our “hot buttons?” Please weigh in.