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Plus size models confront society's unfair 'weight bias', says obesity expert

An obesity expert has defended the first ever plus-size supermodel as an opportunity to confront society's "weight-bias", and the tendency to make judgments about the content of someone's character based off their size.

University of Auckland's Professor Boyd Swinburn says prominent plus-sized models such as Tess Holliday, featured last night on the TVNZ1's Sunday programme, should not be viewed as promoting obesity.

"I've heard that a lot, that people say they get this "yuck" factor and they think that she's promoting unhealthy habits, but honestly I think it's a message to look at ourselves and the weight bias that we carry around, that when she comes on the stage what do people see?," Professor Swinburn says.

They see obesity, they make judgments on the content of her character, that she's lazy, that she has no will power, that she's stupid, and all those things. Therefore they then take this message that you shouldn't be promoting that.

At size 22, Tess Holiday has been criticised by some doctors for promoting unhealthy habits.

But, Professor Swinburn says Holiday provides a perfect example for not making superficial judgments about someone dealing with obesity.

"Actually when you look at the person, not the condition, you find out there's a very brave woman there," Professor Swinburn says.

"She's a vegetarian, so she's probably eating a healthier diet than most of us, she goes to the gym regularly, which again is probably more than most of us, and she's trying to be as healthy as she can at her weight - which is the primary health goal for someone, no matter what weight they are."

Professor Boyd Swinburn says unfounded judgements about obese people’s character is “rife” in society, health system. Source: Breakfast