Throughout most of history, within most cultures, obesity or plumpness was considered desirable. The excess of fat was considered to be a sign of prosperity and in times when food was scarce plumpness implied that the person with extra fat had enough resources, power and influence to acquire food. I wondered why European painters in the 17th and 18th Centuries liked to paint their women “plump”.
There are cultures that still view obesity as a sign of wealth. The status symbol of plumpness also applied to men for the same reasons. I expect that 200-300 years ago, today’s supermodels would be seen as unhealthy and even sickly. This raises the question of whether body fat content is just a fashion statement. Any body type could be seen to be the pinnacle of beauty, it all depends on the era. It appears that from early history, up to about 150 years ago, obesity was seen as a good thing, as obese people could last longer without food and had more resistance to disease when food was scarce. Today’s society views obesity as undesirable and unattractive, this could be largely due to the fact that food is more plentiful and in the developed world, it is abundant. People are also heavily influenced by the fashion trends. If every positive character seen on TV and in the movies is slim or muscular and the current trends in clothing are all designed for a slim body type then it becomes accepted that this is the ideal. This ideal has even changed in the last 60 years ago for women. The body type that was once termed ideal in 1950 is not the ideal of today, according to the people who have decided that they alone have the right to set these standards.
Medical science has now discovered that obesity is far from healthy and it contributes to disease in a significant way. Many studies have linked being overweight to being a contributing factor to specific diseases. A big reason for this seems to be the fact that fat causes resistance to insulin. This resistance continues on, to create more complications than just diabetes.
It is of course, possible to be too thin. A person who is too thin is not receiving the required nutrients for the body to work correctly. This is a good reason to aim to steadily lose weight over time rather than crash diet. The severe crash diets don’t appear to be sustainable over the long term and this ends with a person gaining back the weight that has been lost. Conditions such as Bulimia and Anorexia are dangerous disorders and could cause depression, and physical complications. The increasing frequency of these disorders is probably influenced by the current fashion trends and the imagery that is seen everywhere of the supposed (slim/thin) “perfect” body.
I understand that in some areas of the world, obesity/plumpness is still desirable for both men and women and I can understand it to some extent, but there are now proven medical reasons for not becoming overweight. In the societies that value plumpness, people try to gain weight and the naturally slim person is at a disadvantage. That thought could be of comfort to many people from Western societies that find it so hard to lose weight.
The current trend is that a slim body is the ideal but body types vary by individual, some people will never be stick thin while others will never be plump, regardless of what they eat.A person should aim to get to an individual optimum weight which will probably look good on them as well. I don’t find the supermodel body type attractive at all, many people don’t. I think that the ideal approach is to be as fat free as possible without going to extremes. Lack of body fat as a good thing now has medical science to back it up and it is no longer a fashion statement or a visible declaration of wealth.