If there is one topic guaranteed to cause controversy, it is most definitely that of body weight, and even more so when the discussion is linked to the fashion industry. When Natalia Vodianova proposed to a panel of fellow models at the Vogue Fashion Festival, “Come on, guys, it’s better to be skinny than to be fat!”, it was perhaps inevitable that fierce debate would ensue.

In the aftermath of the comment, Natalia took to her Facebook page to defend her choice of words, explaining that the point she was trying to make was that ‘being skinny’ – by which she meant looking after her body – was far healthier than being obese, a growing issue in Britain, she pointed out. She quite rightly noted that this would have come across a lot better if she had planned a speech, choosing her words more carefully.

Misinterpreted or not, her statement generated an enourmous and empassioned reaction, with comments flooding in from seemingly every corner of the internet, with a multitude of different opinions:

“The ideal is “healthy”; not fat nor skinny. Obsession with body image is unhealthy”

“No one should be promoting “skinny over fat,” promotion should be on HEALTHY weight.”

- Comments on Stuff.co.nz

“It is true that in the western world obesity is a massive crisis – I don’t get why people have to be one way of the other? How about you’re on the lean side or curvier, as long as you maintain a healthy BMI”

- Comment on Vodianova’s Facebook Page

“She makes it seem like the food industry is a bigger problem without acknowledging the fact that the fashion industry plays a huge role in how women feel about their bodies. ”

- Comment on NYmag.com

Perhaps, because fashion so often presents only one type of beauty, all discussions about bodies and health become polarised to the extremes. So, when Vodianova says it’s better to be ‘skinny’ than to be ‘fat’, because she (an the majority of models) are so thin, people think that what she considers ‘fat’ is probably a normal size. It certainly is better to be healthy than to be obese, which is unhealthy by definition, but it must be acknowledged that being thin doesn’t automatically make you healthy. The use of the provocative, loosely-defined terms ‘skinny’ and ‘fat’ certainly does not lead to an enlightened understanding of what is a very complex issue.

Here at All Walks, we want to see a range of healthy bodies in the images created by the fashion industry. So that health becomes an important part of beauty, displacing the current narrow size ideals.

Words by Hanna Fillingham
Editor Charlotte Gush, on Twitter @CavaCharlotte

Hanna Fillingham is a second year Journalism student at Cardiff University.

During the summer of 2011, Hanna worked as an intern for Caryn Franklin.

Hanna has a blog here, and is on Twitter @hannafillingham