By Lauren Sweeney & Millie Cotton.
If you haven’t laid eyes on the controversial Protein World advert, where have you been hiding? And no, being balls deep in the #Euro2016 is no excuse either.
For those of you who haven't been hibernating under a rock for the past few weeks, we metaphorically high five you. For everyone else, here’s a recap: Protein World has had a controversial advert across almost every TFL tube platform, meaning 8 million people and commuters have had to face a young model’s flawless hourglass figure, in a skimpy bikini with the slogan "Are you beach body ready" for the best part of a year.
The advert has caused uproar, gaining more than 70,000 signatures on a petition for it to be removed, with the argument that the ad inspired body shaming. Last week those voices were heard and celebrations of victory ensued when top lad, Sadiq Khan announced the banning of the ads.
We’re progressing into a far healthier society; women of all shapes and sizes are applauded rather than shamed for being “too fat” or “too thin”. This movement promotes self-confidence, self-love and self-respect. Seeing real women being celebrated for their beauty is as refreshing and satisfying as a G&T at 5pm on a Friday. Or really anytime - it’s always 5pm somewhere, right? "Plus sized” models such as Ashley Graham and Georgina Burke have broken stereotypes and taken the fashion industry by storm - an achievement that cannot be ignored in an industry renowned for its often warped perception of #bodygoals.
However, it is incredibly important that we don't let the fact that these women are curvy overshadow the fact that they are healthy. These are women who eat their greens, who consciously turndown a two for Tuesday's and pull on their gym kit. These women may fall into the ‘plus-size’ category but they are fit, physically active and balanced.
No one should be made to feel uncomfortable or shameful about their bodies but our celebration for Sadiq Khan’s body confidence victory felt surprisingly bittersweet.
Why? Well, the U.K. as a nation is currently in the middle of an obesity crisis. The majority of 16+ people in the UK are overweight or obese and this majority is on a steep incline. New figures show that 26% of England's population is obese (BMI of 30+) however, figures like these aren't hitting home. And why would it? The notion that our nation isn’t one of all super model skinny women and that we aren't raising an army of Angelina Jolie look-a-likes hardly cries Armageddon. For good reason, we shouldn't be crying into our pillows at night because we aren't clones of Kate Moss, but we should be taking seriously the fact that we are an overweight nation.
The obesity crisis is not a scare and it is not a drill - it is a very real and sobering fact. There’s so much more to it than just being overweight. Obesity leads to heart disease, strokes, osteoarthritis, some cancers and type 2 diabetes as well as many other complications. Sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets don’t just reduce your chance of walking for Chanel, they reduce your life expectancy - and significantly so.
Our quality and quantity of life are not the only things this excess weight of our nation is straining - the cost implications on the NHS are difficult to calculate unanimously. However, numerous studies suggest a pretty hefty charge of £15.2 billion in indirect costs. The Chief Executive on NHS England pleaded back in 2014 that as a nation we "get serious about obesity or bankrupt the NHS" - a plea which has gone ignored.
As the dust settles and we swagger around London’s tube lines, with a new found confidence of all our lumps, bumps and not so perfect humps - we raise our eyes to the sobering reality – a McDonald’s advert staring back at us with the same victorious grin. It is difficult to feel elated when the real super villians are still out there. Maybe it did leave a sour taste in most mouths and stirred discomfort but Protein World were encouraging people to be physically active. They were not luring us into an early grave. Why in the midst of an obesity crisis are we more concerned about hurting feelings than saving lives?