28 Apr 2008
Chloe Marshall's weight is causing a furore in the UK
For those who don't know, the reason is that Ms Marshall is the first plus-size girl to ever get a place in the Miss United Kingdom beauty pageant. That fact has brought out doctors, dieticians, bloggers and journalists in droves to comment on her fat/curves/health/BMI and the rest, and whether she should be a role model for young girls or considered a fat disgrace. Can't be easy when she's only 17.
Marshall is 5ft 10 tall, so a standard catwalk height, and weighs 176 pounds (12 stone 8), which gives her a BMI of 25.3 by my calculations. Her measurements are 38, 32, 42 and she's a UK size 16 (for women of my age, that used to be an 18).
I dunno. I have to admit that, for myself, she does look fat. Maybe it's the photograph that makes her look so heavy but I would have guessed she weighed far more than this.
But I also have to admit that my judgement on 'fat' is an aesthetic one, not a health one. There, I haven't got a leg to stand on. A BMI of 25.3 is into the overweight category, admittedly, at obesity grade 1, but it's by no means unhealthy and not even approaching medically obese (the 'normal' range for BMI is 18.5-25). Marshall says she exercises regularly and eats healthily, and a weight of three pounds over the BMI 'normal' range has no impact on your overall health statistics that I'm aware of. You could lose this much with a trip to the sauna.
I wondered if my reaction was because we're used to seeing bikinis photographed on women who are terribly underweight. But on reflection, I don't think it is. Take Giselle Bundchen as an example, since she's a leading Victoria's Secret model. At 5ft 10.5 tall, so nearly the same as Ms Marshall, she weighs 130 pounds (9 stone 3) and measures 34, 24, 34. That gives her a classically desireable hourglass figure and a BMI of 18.4 - a smidgen below the normal weight range.
They're very different-looking women but they both fall into the category of 'don't worry about your weight, love' - one slightly under, one slightly over. (Incidentally, in my time I've been as low as 17.6 and as high as 26.5 without feeling bad about it either way.)
So why do I feel that Marshall looks fat?
Part of it may be social conditioning, but there's also the fact that there's more to weight than your BMI - there's also your muscle to fat ratio. When I was growing up, the saying was: "If you can pinch more than an inch, you need to go on a diet". To me, Marshall looks like she could pinch considerably more.
So instead of a model, let's compare her with a professional athlete - Serena Williams. Williams is also a big lass - big arse, big legs, big boobs. She's the same height - 5ft 10 - but weighs 146 pounds (10 stone 6), which gives her a BMI of 20.8, bang in the middle of the 'normal' range and as close as you'll get to ideal. Her waist measurement is 28 inches, and you can bet your bottom dollar that she has a high proportion of muscle to body fat - she's a powerfully built girl.
For my own part, I feel this fit and muscular body is the closest to what a truly healthy woman should look like, and if I had a teenage daughter, I would prefer Williams on the catwalk rather than Marshall as an image to be emulated.