Last week Nike introduced plus-size mannequins to it’s London NikeTown branch and people had different opinions. Strong opinions. Predictably, there was backlash. People on social media claimed that the brand was ‘promoting obesity’ or making an ‘unhealthy’ message. An article by Tanya Gold in the Telegraph stated that the ‘obese’ mannequins were ‘selling women a dangerous lie’.
The critics might be loud, but they are actually in the minority side. A new study has found that a great majority of people think Nike’s mannequins are a really good trend. According to a survey conducted by Golfsupport.com, 83 percent of people believe more sportswear brands should jump on that trend that Nike started, and include plus-size mannequins in their advertising. 41 percent of the 1,424 Brits that were surveyed stated that plus-size mannequins make them feel proactive and the same amount said the mannequins make them feel inspired in some kind.
A huge 90 percent of the people feels that much more needs to be done in the sports industry to promote inclusivity and shapes of all sizes.
Michelle Elman is a body confidence coach and fitness enthusiast. She thinks Nike’s mannequins are a huge step in the very right direction and its a very good decision.
‘No one wants to go out of their house in clothes that make them feel uncomfortable – obese or heavy weighted people are the same,’ Michelle tells Metro.co.uk.
‘More than that, in order to be able to workout right and properly, plus-size people deserve not just a supportive workout kit, but a variety of beautiful choices.
‘It is very important that we get rid of the notion that embarrassing or shaming people leads to better health decisions and that you can predict someone’s health by the way they look.’
Becky Morris is a plus-size gym addict. She loves spinning, body pump classes and playing badminton – she hits the gym at least three or four times every week, and thinks visibility of plus-sized fitness clothing is really important.
‘The mannequins are a great idea because, first of all, they help to normalize different body shapes then what you see way more frequently in real life,’ says Becky.
‘The mannequins that we normally see are unrealistically toned and tiny and thin, which can be feel really shaming or embarrassing if your body doesn’t look like that.
‘They are also great because they give you a realistic view of what this product would actually look like on a body like mine – rather than having to just guess and hope.
‘They are a win-win in my opinion. If young girls can go into a shop and see that having a body like that is normal and OK, that could make a huge difference.’
We asked for different opinions on Tweeter about the plus-size mannequins and the response was generally and mostly very positive – it seems this is the diverse representation that fitness lovers have been crying out for a long time now.
‘Most of the females are not as tall as the mannequins that we normally see in stores, let alone as slim,’ says Carrie.
‘More visibility of different and diversity of body types is very much needed. Accepting and representing women as they are, and not in the way the industry wants them to be, is critical for woman mental health.’
Mel is a personal trainer, she’s also a size 14/16 in fitness clothes.
‘I am fitter and more toned now than I was when I was a size 10 professional dancer,’ she explains.
‘This isn’t normalizing or encouraging obesity at all, this is encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to buy from Nike – and it should have been done sooner.
‘I know plenty of larger sized ladies that are fit and healthy, I also know thinner ladies that are very unhealthy!
‘Encouraging people to exercise is the first step in getting them to have a healthier mindset.’
‘I am 54, have been on both ends of the weight chart and had decades of diet and fitness culture telling me I don’t belong in a pair of leggings or wet suit,’ says fitness blogger Jo Mosely.
‘Moving joyfully and freely helps you become friends with your body and accept it as it is now. All women deserve and should be encouraged to feel good.’
‘I think they are awesome,’ says sport and exercise psychologist Dr Josie Perry.
‘I see many everyday athletes struggling because they don’t have an athletic self-identity. Having realistic role models and images out there helps them feel like they deserve to be doing sport happily and freely too.’
‘Whether you’re a size 10 or a 20, exercise is important and necessary for mental and physical health,’ says freelance writer Laura Johnson.
‘Exercise should be 100% inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of your body type. Nike is not encouraging obesity, they are encouraging and normalizing exercise for all body types, whatever your body type is.’
‘I am pleased to see the mannequins,’ says Helen, a councilor from Cornwall.
‘I am a size 16 runner and not only do I want to buy clothing that fits me, I occasionally want to see it modeled on a body type same as mine.
‘The outcry against the mannequins is basically people saying that sport isn’t for everyone.’
Nicki Louise James is an entrepreneur and brand stylist – she also describes herself as plus-size.
‘When you walk into a shop as a woman, so often we are presented with clothing on stick-thin mannequins for that so-called perfect look.
‘But what Nike has done is promote a healthier outlook for larger women, and that should be celebrated.
‘As a size 18 curvier woman, I also have an under-active thyroid, which means that I struggle to control my weight. Do I still exercise? Yes, I do – I run a lot.
‘What we should remember is that every woman is beautiful whatever their size is and there should be a choice for everyone.
‘Who says because you’re a size 4-6 that you are healthy? And are we now saying that large-sized women aren’t allowed to exercise? Surely that is missing the point, right?’
Hannah Wilkes is a presenter and reporter at Sky Sports, she wants people to stop equating a certain size with being healthy.
‘Showing a range of body type doesn’t necessarily mean they are promoting an “unhealthy” image,’ explains Hannah.
‘Think of the variety of body shapes you saw whilst running the marathon. Look at the different builds on a netball court. Being above a size 12 doesn’t automatically mean you’re unfit.’
Of course, not everyone is going to agree. TV Executive Ed Scott had some worries that the mannequins will normalize ‘unhealthy’ body types.
‘Regardless of being body positive, it can be unhealthy to be overweight. We want to promote a healthy image, surely?’ asked Ed.
‘I am just saying that being overweight is not healthy,’ he continued.
‘Surely we want people to aspire to being the optimum weight/BMI? If we say you’ll be fine if you have that figure they could have serious health issues later on.
‘It’s great to have training tops for everyone to get fit though.’
But – according to those survey figures, Ed’s worries are not shared by many. The study found that 80% of Brits do not believe plus-size mannequins glorify obesity.
Aishah is a pediatric doctor, a qualified personal trainer and she runs her own weight loss coaching business. She is really passionate about women’s health and thinks it’s very important for people to understand that health isn’t only about weight.
‘A weight loss journey is often more than just about losing weight,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘There can be a whole heap of underlying issues, situations and worries that play a role in the habits people have that affect their health.
‘I find a lot of women saying they feel uncomfortable to go to the gym because of their size, so to have a big, influential company demonstrating that sportswear is for everyone, goes a long way in showing that we should all be inclusive.
‘People in the UK – of all sizes – don’t exercise enough. We should all be doing everything we can to spread the message that it is OK for people to move – no matter what their size is.
‘Our society has programmed us to think slim is better and anything outside of that doesn’t deserve the same respect or status.
‘That needs to change because fat shaming further damages the self confidence, self esteem, and many other aspects of many people that already have issues with.’
As a doctor, Aishah would never downplay or underestimate the possible health implications of obesity or extra weighted people, but she says that it shouldn’t be a concern when it comes to these mannequins.
‘A point to mention is that yes, obesity and a high BMI are linked to a whole range of medical problems.
‘But I believe the focus should be on improving health habits, first and foremost, in a healthy way and as a side effect of that people will notice weight loss, if that is something they are going for.
‘The weight loss and fitness industry is driven by the notion that we need to be thin, not by the fact we need to live a healthy lifestyle to be in the best shape possible to enjoy all the things we love.’