Archive for plus-size models

Is it wrong to feature plus-size models?
The debate ranges on

PLUS Model Magazine has caused quite a controversy with their recent “Plus Size Bodies: What Is Wrong with Them Anyway?” article, which questions the size and health of most models and pushes for more plus-size ones. As one of their pictorials points out, “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.”

PLUS Model also claims “50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller” and argues we need more a greater variety of sizes in retail stores as well.

PLUS Model’s editor-in-chief explains that her magazine is “a response to a fashion and beauty industry which continues to endorse a skinny ideal that is not always healthy and alienates a huge percentage of the market.”

Of course, the response to this story has been mixed.

Some people are thrilled about Plus Model Magazine, insisting it’s about time we show women in magazines who look more like the average American woman (a size twelve or fourteen depending on who you ask).

Salon admits “there can be no denying that the standards for beauty have drastically changed over the past several years. As Americans have been getting bigger, our lingerie models have been going on wackadoo ‘no solids’ diets to attain runway perfection. Thanks to the magic of photo editing technology, already slender models can be whittled down to near nonexistence.”

Still, others argue that showing size-fourteen women is endorsing obesity.

I’ve had the same kinds of comments on I Will Not Diet ever since I created this blog.

But it’s a false dilemma to say or imply that we have to choose between anorexic or obese models.

Most women who wear a size fourteen are not obese. I started wearing a size fourteen when I was in college. That was when I weighed 150 pounds; since I’m five-foot-six, that made my BMI 24, which is well within the normal range.

But I’ve always had big bones (my wrist is 6 ¾ inches), so I wear bigger clothes than most people who are the same weight as me. Some people think that saying you’re “big-boned” is just a euphemism for being overweight or “fat,” but it’s really not.

There are numerous thin people who have big bones (examples include Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Nathan Fillion), and there are plenty of overweight people who have small bones (but I won’t name them here since doing so would only be cruel).

(If you want to find out if you’re big boned or not, here’s a simple way to do it—wrap your right thumb and longest finger around your left wrist. If your thumb and forefinger overlap, you have small bones; if they just touch, you have medium bones; and if they don’t touch at all, you have big bones. You can also use this chart or this calculator to determine if you have big bones. To read more about the big-boned-equals-fat misconception, go here and here and here.)

And big-boned women aren’t the only non-obese women who require a size fourteen. Tall women are another great example. I have several friends in the five-foot-ten to six-foot range and nearly all of them wear a size fourteen even though they are lithe and nowhere near obese.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The point is that featuring women who are a size fourteen is not about endorsing obesity, its about endorsing variety, which is all but absent from the women we see everyday in our magazines, television shows, and films. As Plus Model Magazine points out, “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.”

That’s why, as the magazine asserts, we need to pressure retailers to stop only catering to women who are smaller than the average American women. No one is saying this needs to happen at the cost of smaller women, but rather that we need models, clothes, advertising, and entertainment that reflects what a wonderfully diverse world we really are.

Would you like a side of padding with your curves? That’s what on the menu in Model-landia, a.k.a. the land of models

A little while back I wrote a post about Vogue Italia being the first fashion magazine to put a “plus-size” model on the cover. In fact, the entire issue was devoted to curvy women, and at the time I was thrilled and wondered if this breakthrough signified an impending shift in the way the fashion industry depicts women.

Though there is no doubt that curvy women are becoming more acceptable every day, there are still some significant problems with the way plus-size models are utilized in the land of models or what I like to call “Model-landia.”

There have always been issues in the world of plus-size modeling, but the more time goes on, the more I think most women don’t know about these problems. So if you’ll allow me, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the trouble spots . . .

1) The first and most obvious problem is the term “plus-size model.” It’s a problem because, out here in the real world, plus-size means size 16 or above. But in the skewed world of Model-landia, plus-size usually ranges from a size 6 to a size 12, which is extremely frustrating given that the average woman in America wears a size 14.

What that means is that women who are a regular size in our world are considered plus size in Model-landia.

It also means that “plus-size” models do not look like plus-size women.

(I often put that term in quotes to emphasize the fact it’s not an accurate one.)

This raises the question, if plus-size models aren’t really plus-size, then how can they wear—and model—plus-size clothes?

And that brings us to our second problem . . .

2) Plus-size models often wear padding to make themselves look bigger.

Yes, it’s true.

I’ve known this for years, so I was glad when plus-size model Marquita Pring (shown above) came out of the wardrobe closet in New York Magazine last week to admit that plus-size models sometimes use padding to make themselves look bigger.

Pring explains that, like other plus-size models, she uses “pieces of foam” that she lays flat “on each hip underneath [hosiery]. They’re like a solid inch and a half thick.”

But why do they do this?

They do it because the fashion industry wants their models—whether they are plus-size or just good old fashioned emaciated—to look skinny. They want them to have skinny faces and skinny legs and skinny arms. Even though they’re supposed to be curvy.

And there aren’t very many plus-size women in the real world who have skinny faces, legs, and arms. So their solution is to go out and find women who are regular size and then have them put padding in their clothes in all the right places—on their hips, their butts, their thighs, and their boobs—so that they look “curvy” but still fit societal standards for beauty.

(Really, we shouldn’t be surprised by this since it’s the same idea as the one behind the padded bra.) (And, in many ways, retouching photos.)

This may not sound like a huge deal—after all, at least we’re finally getting models with butts, hips, and thighs, right?—but it is a big deal because it creates another standard of beauty that none of us can live up to . . . the curvy woman who doesn’t have an extra chin and who has no cellulite or flab.

It’s just not real.

And in that way, faux plus-size models are no different than using models who weigh so little that they are technically underweight.

I’m not going to lie—this is a complicated issue for me. There is a BIG part of me that wants to have curvy women in our magazines no matter how we get them.

Despite this, I know in my gut that padding models is simply not the solution. And I really hope that someday . . . in a galaxy far far away from Model-landia . . . someone will find one.

Photoshop of Horrors










In case you haven’t heard, I want to tell you about the latest controversy surrounding “plus”-size supermodel Crystal Renn (pictured here).

As you may remember from my “Real is the new sexy” post, Renn wrote a memoir called Hungry about her early years in modeling—how she struggled to stay below 100 pounds when she first started modeling and how she now rejects that time in her life as unhealthy.

Because of this, the fashion world was a bit taken aback when this photo of Renn appeared a few weeks ago . . .












I have to admit that when I first saw the photo, I was angry with Renn who battled anorexia during her early days as a model. I felt like she had given up on her promise to live in a healthy manner and accept herself the way she is—curves and all. But I was wrong to blame Renn, and it didn’t take long for the truth to come out.

In reality, Renn is actually not as thin as this photo makes her look. The photo has actually been altered to make her look much thinner.

Here is one of the the original photos from that shoot (in color) and the altered photo (in black and white). . .












(If you’d like to read a detailed analysis of how this dramatic change occured, go to Jezebel.)

What’s most appalling is that the photographer, Nicholas Routzen, defended his decision to shrink Renn’s thighs and waistline. He said, “I’m paid to make women look beautiful.”

Um, what???

Crystal Renn IS beautiful. You don’t need to do anything to “make” her look beautiful.

And, besides, hasn’t this guy heard that beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes? Or that thin does not necessarily equal beautiful?

Simply put, what an ass.

Renn clearly agrees. She told Glamour magazine, “When I saw the pictures, I think I was silent for a good five minutes, staring with my mouth open . . . I don’t know what was done to those photos or who did it, but they look retouched to me. And listen, everybody retouches, but don’t make me into something I’m not.”

She’s obviously right—we have simply got to stop making models and celebrities into something they’re not. And this side-by-side comparison proves that magazine photos are altered WAY more than any of us realize. I think it’s safe to say that most of the images blasted at us in the media are about as real as Jessica Rabbit. Something to keep in mind next time you’re flipping through a celebrity-laden magazine at the checkout counter.

Monkey see, monkey do


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I just started reading Hungry by model Crystal Renn, and to be honest, so far I find the whole thing pretty terrifying. I’m about one hundred pages in, and I cannot believe the things Renn did herself to be a model. I’ll write a full review of the book when I finish it, but for now, I want to talk about the effect that reading the book is having on me.

As I confessed here last year, I went through an incredibly brief period of starving myself when I was fourteen. My attempt to become anorexic only lasted two and a half days, but I ate next to nothing that entire time. So much so that I almost passed out on the third day, and then, thankfully, gave up my “dream” of becoming anorexic.

Why did I do it?

Many, many reasons, but most of all because of a desire to be more thin and more attractive. But another big reason I did it was because I was reading about it all the time—in countless magazine articles and in dozens of young adult novels.

In fact, there was one specific book that outlined in full detail how the narrator learned to starve herself without detection, and, for a brief time, this book was my bible. I didn’t really think about not eating until I read it, and while I did, I got caught up in the protagonist’s obsession with losing weight. I was supposed to be disgusted by her choices, but instead I found myself rooting for her. And, eventually, hoping I could become her. I guess in some way it all seemed very glamorous to my foolish and naive adolescent self.

Scary, I know, but what’s even more frightening is that as I’m reading Hungry, I find myself thinking the same things. I find myself wondering if I could lose weight if I tried some of Crystal’s tricks—like working eight hours a day or eating lettuce every meal—and then I think to myself, What the hell is wrong with you??? You have a blog called “I Will Not Diet,” and you’re sitting here fantasizing about dieting in incredibly unhealthy ways!!! You are really messed up!!!

I also, just as disturbingly, find myself rooting for the sixteen-year-old Crystal to lose enough weight to have a “gap” between her legs, and then I say to myself yet again, What the hell???? Why do you want her to be that thin???

I think the reason I find myself rooting for the young Crystal to become thinner is because I want her to become the model she dreams of being, and that is almost just as messed up. Shouldn’t I want her to be something more healthy like a lawyer . . . or a college professor????

As it turns out, there is a still a part of me—at the age of forty, no less—that can relate to the adolescent desire to be thin and beautiful and . . . wait for it . . . famous. I’m disgusted with that part of me and also incredibly ashamed to admit it to you.

But I am admitting it because I think we can learn from it.

If someone who thinks dieting is so unhealthy that she blogs about it twice a week can start rooting for an adolescent model to be anorexic and even consider trying some of her f***ed up weight-loss techniques, what chance do young girls have of not parroting her choices?

The answer is almost none.

That is, without our help.

While I was walking today, I was thinking about this frightening epiphany I’ve had while reading Hungry, and I realized that the only thing we can do is talk to the young girls in our life about these issues. We can’t stop them from reading these books and articles—first of all, they’re ubiquitous and, second of all, the last thing we want to do is tell people what to read. But we can talk to them about what they read.

And once I’d figured this out, I also had to admit to myself something else that’s pretty scary, and it’s this: I would have NEVER felt comfortable discussing those YA books about anorexia with my own mother.

I’m not sure why—maybe it was because my mother always struggled with her weight, making me nervous about broaching the topic with her and hurting her feelings. More likely, though, it was because we never talked about body issues. I was always fit. (I hesitate to say “thin” only because I’ve been trained all my life not to think of myself as thin, though in truth, I was thin until I was twenty-six years old.) Because of this, there was no obvious reason to talk about my body. But my brief foray into anorexia proves that there really was a reason to talk about it. I should have been talking to my mom about my body issues all the time, but I wasn’t.

Instead I was reading a novel about a young woman who almost killed herself trying to be thin, and I was trying, rather desperately, to be like her.

THE CATWALK by guest blogger Courtney Butler

I’ve been a plus-size model for local Chicago clothing designers for over a year now. I’ve gone on midnight photo shoots with nothing but a cocktail dress against the freezing cold, as well as teetering around on ice-pick heels in the Botanical Gardens.

Never in a million years did I think I would actually be a model.

Even saying it now, here, makes me uncomfortable. When I explain to strangers that I am an English tutor who does part-time modeling, I feel obligated to explain that it’s plus-size modeling, that I know I’m not skinny, that it’s not real modeling… like I have to make excuses and give explanations.

Here I am, almost 25 years old, and still struggling with issues from my childhood. So when the opportunity came to model, I seized it. I thought I’d feel different. I hoped being a model would somehow transform how I saw myself. Instead, it makes you acutely aware of your own body, how it looks on and off camera, how much make-up makes a difference, etc.

It wasn’t until my first (and only!) runway show that I started to understand these things about modeling. Not only did I discover that I wholeheartedly hate doing runway, but that I needed to reconsider modeling all together. To be a high fashion model you have to be willing to dedicate your entire life—your body, your energy, your attitude, everything, to being a model. When you’re surrounded by people backstage who are clothing you, putting bronzer on your legs, telling you what to do with your face—your body does not feel like your own. You get no say in what you wear, how you walk, what your expression is, how your hair looks.


You have to walk down the catwalk as someone else. You give up your physical form to the artistic whims of others. They can arbitrarily select you or reject you. I’ve been lucky enough to work with compassionate, wonderful designers, who genuinely enjoy the curvy female form. But it won’t always be that way.

Don’t get me wrong, doing photo shoots are fun. I’ve always nurtured a flair for the dramatic, and putting on a wardrobe and make-up, creating a moment that is captured on film, is wonderful to me. I’ve amassed a good amount of lovely pictures, and having those to look at on a low self-esteem day is very helpful. But it doesn’t shake that deep down, super ingrained insecurity that has plagued me since childhood.

When I was growing up, the constant comparison to my older sister always left me feeling inadequate. She was the petite Snow White who fought off the attentions of the opposite sex, and I grew awkwardly into a gangly tomboy, mostly looking all teeth, eyebrows and hips. It wasn’t until college that my body saw fit to level itself into an even—and surprisingly pleasing—playing field. But my childhood insecurities came back to me when I stepped on that runway.

It was a few weeks after the runway show when I experienced a moment that allowed me to see that modeling wasn’t worth my while.

I was walking down the sidewalk on my way home from work. The sun was high, and spring was in full riot. I was rested, feeling comfortable in my clothes and listening to a great set list on my iPod. I was in a happy place and enjoying the sunshine. Then my hips started swaying to the music, and I unconsciously began to catwalk down the sidewalk. I literally stopped traffic that day. Drivers slowed down as I walked by—several of them honking their horns and hollering out of windows. A few simply stopped their cars to watch me. I wasn’t wearing make-up or designer clothes, but people were still reacting like I was Venus incarnate. It wasn’t that I looked like a model. It was that I was simply enjoying myself.

More importantly, other people’s reactions didn’t really matter as much to me as the fact that I felt beautiful.

Since that wonderful afternoon on the sidewalk I have basically decided to stop pursuing modeling with any real vigor. I still adore the designers I’ve worked for and will continue to do photo shoots, but I don’t want to give my body away anymore. I can’t arbitrarily select or reject the only body I’ve got. I cannot base my self-worth on the opinions of others. Instead of dedicating my energy to becoming someone else’s ideal, I will continue to nurture my own talents and take better care of the body I was given.

This is, of course, an on-going struggle.

There are days I feel like I’m waging a nuclear war with my head. Overcoming body dysmorphia and eating disorders is not pretty or easy, and I’ve suffered from both. But plus-size models like Crystal Renn and actresses like Christina Hendricks are my role models. These women make me feel beautiful and continually inspire me. They carry the burden of the public eye with grace, and hopefully they will continue to usher in an era of healthy bodies.

Life is a catwalk for these gorgeous women, and it can be for all of us. Every day we walk, we can talk and wear what we think and believe. We can treat ourselves the way we think we deserve to be treated. So, why not behave like a supermodel every day? Why not swing our hips to music only we can hear and insist on the better brand of bottled water? (Okay, getting snarky about water isn’t such a great idea, but you get the idea.)

Poster, movies, advertisements… these are momentary images designed to manipulate us. The relationship we have with ourselves lasts a lifetime.

I can throw away a magazine, but I cannot throw away the woman I see every day in the mirror.

Raised in the Wild West, COURTNEY BUTLER went to college in North Carolina and graduate school in Wales and now lives in the Windy City. She is currently working as an English tutor, but hopes to go to cosmetology school and write sneaky short stories and poems about her clientele. Her poetry and thoughts can be found at The Courtrose and is hoping to make enough money writing and doing highlights that she can afford her own cat and cello.

Real is the new sexy


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A few months ago,
The Globe and Mail ran a story I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while called “We’re having a fat moment: Go ahead and have another slice of pumpkin pie. Thin’s not so in any more.”

The article asserts that there is currently “a backlash against a culture that has long perpetuated futile strict diets and impossible exercise regimes. People are finally tired of the yo-yo meal plans that help them melt off pounds but also pack them back on. And the media are making more efforts to reflect a public with ever-expanding waistlines.”

Though I’m not sure I agree that there really is a backlash as big as this article implies, I do think things are beginning to change.

In fact, just yesterday, my copy of Glamour magazine arrived with this cover:

The one on the left is a “plus-size” model: Crystal Renn, author of Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves. Though it’s somewhat hard to tell in this image, Renn is actually a size twelve, and her body does look real. Meaning it does look like she eats from time to time.
Sure, Renn appeared next to two more traditional sized models here, but this is progress, people. A woman who wears a size twelve is on the cover of Glamour! This is huge.

An article called “Real is the New Sexy” appears in the same issue, and in that article another “plus-size” model—Jennie Runk, who is 5’10” and around 175 pounds—says, “I used to compare myself to others, until I realized it’s better if I don’t look like everyone else . . . my curves make me feel sexy . . . Every woman, of every body type, should be able to stand up and say she’s beautiful.”

Words to live by.

Even some fashion designers are using larger models on the runway. No, they’re not overweight, but they’re not underweight either. And I’ve never advocated that we idolize overweight women—just woman who have real bodies, which is exactly what’s beginning to happen in some magazines, with some fashion designers, and on some television shows.
Case in point: on tonight’s episode of Glee, Mercedes was pursued by one of the “popular” boys, Puck, and no mention was made of her body size except that Puck said he liked “curvy” girls. Unlike other actresses her size, Mercedes isn’t being relegated to playing the BFF of the girl who got the guy.

There’s no denying that things are changing. Changing for the better. The only question is how far will it go? And will it be far enough?

Elle Enchanted

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More good news for curvy women everywhere!

The French version of Elle magazine currently features a curvy model on the cover of its April issue. Model Tara Lynn graces not only the publication’s facade, but also a twenty-page fashion editorial inside the mag. Lynn is the centerpiece of an issue devoted to curvy women—or “ronde” as the French say.
I’m not going to lie—some of the photos of Lynn really surprised me. It was just shocking to see someone with such a real body in a fashion magazine. I think that I am so unused to seeing women who are not thin in the media that I had to look at these images several times before I realized that Lynn is probably the same size I am. But still it took me a minute, proving how rare it is to see women like her in print.
It’s no surprise to me that it was the French who first put a curvy women on the cover of a women’s fashion magazine. After all, the French have been leading the fight to ban models who have an unhealthy BMI (meaning they’re too thin), so why shouldn’t they be the first to show how beautiful regular-sized women can be?
I can’t read the French version of Elle, but there is one thing I can say: Je t’adore, Elle!

Glamazons rule!

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I said it a few weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: Lizzi Miller could start a revolution! You might remember that I was singing the praises of Glamour for featuring model Miller in their magazine a while back. The reason I was so happy about their decision to feature her is because even though Miller is drop-dead gorgeous, she also has a real-sized body with wonderful womanly legs, a little stomach pouch, and a size twelve wardrobe.

Since then, Glamour has received so much positive feedback about Miller and so many requests for more models like her that they have decided to give the people what they want. And that’s why next month’s November issue will feature an entire spread of regular-sized models. (See the picture above.)

Honestly, when I saw this picture, my first thought was “Yowza!” These women look incredibly hot, hotter than many of the models I see staring back at me from the pages of most women’s magazines and certainly much more voluptuous and sexy. And then I had to wonder: is that why we don’t let these women appear on the covers of our magazines? Are they simply too hot for our own good? Would we all return to the walking hormone state we lived in when we were adolescents if we had to look at women like this on the newsstand every night?

Technically, these women are called “plus-size” models in the fashion industry because they wear bigger than a size six, a fact Glamour calls perverse and a problem I believe is just one more reason that none of us can live up to the images of women we see in the media. From here on out, I refuse to call models like these “plus-size” and will now refer to such women—models or not—as “regular-size.” Who knows? Maybe doing so will reinforce the notion that there is nothing shameful about wearing a size eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, or even bigger.

Glamour is claiming that, as of November, they’re committed to “featuring a greater range of body types in our pages, including in fashion and beauty stories,” and I believe it’s crucial that we send the message that if they stay true to their word and do that, we’ll be there with our dollars, ready to support them. Because if we don’t, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we can’t find anyone who looks like us in the pages we flip through and on the screens we watch.

This is a revolution, people! Get excited and do your part!

I know it seems silly to think of buying a fashion magazine as a revolutionary act, but we all know that this is a change that needs to happen, a change that must happen if we are to give each other, our daughters, and our nieces healthier role models. The Glamour November issue hits newsstands soon, and I say we all buy a copy . . . or two . . . or three . . .

It’s a revolution! Why Lizzi Miller could change everything

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Holy stomach roll, Batman!!!

I just found out (thanks to my cousin Jill) that a “plus-size” model is featured in Glamour this month (the September issue). Not only is it impressive that a magazine like Glamour featured a regular-sized women in its pages, it’s revolutionary!

Lizzi Miller appears naked in a Glamour article about self-esteem looking both confident and real (see the pic on the right), and the web is buzzing about it. Apparently, readers are falling all over themselves to say how much they love Miller’s very real stomach and legs, a sign that we are all ready to see women who actually look like us rather than woman who look almost as unreal as Barbie dolls.

And this isn’t even the first time Miller has graced the pages of Glamour. She also appeared in their April issue wearing nothing but a flesh-colored bikini bottom. (See the pic on the left.)

So who is this beautiful but normal-sized woman?

Lizzi Miller is an absolutely gorgeous 5’11”, 180-pound, 20-year-old “plus-size” model, and I think she is going to have to be my new hero and the patron saint of I will not diet. Miller says she wears clothing that ranges from size twelve to fourteen, and she’s been modeling for seven years. How she managed to not give into the pressure for models to be rail thin, I’ll never understand, but I admire the hell out of her for it, especially since she’s only twenty! Let me repeat—she’s only twenty! And yet she is stronger than women I know who are twice her age. It would be a huge victory if a middle-aged woman with a real body was featured in a women’s magazine, but a twenty-year-old with a real body? That’s like winning the lottery.

(By the way, I’m putting the words “plus-size” in quotation marks because I don’t understand how she can be a plus size model if she wears between a size twelve and fourteen, which, as well all know, are not plus sizes.)

Just think how models like Miller could change the way young women feel about their bodies! My ten- and fourteen-year-old nieces already claim to be watching their weight even though they are mere skin and bones, and I love thinking about them accepting themselves for the beautiful young women they are if models like Miller were to become the norm.

The best part about Miller is that she is exactly what I’ve been saying we need: a happy medium, a woman who is not a size zero and not a size twenty. Not only is she an average size—because the average woman in America wears a size twelve to fourteen—but she’s also gorgeous, happy, and comfortable in her own skin. This is exactly the kind and size of women we need to see more of in the media: she’s not only someone we can admire, she’s also someone we can aspire to look like.

This is a huge victory for those of us who are lobbying for more healthy role models, and I think we should take it as a clear sign that things are changing. This change also means that we must keep insisting that the women staring back at us from our pages and our screens look more like we do. How do we do this? We do it by voting with our dollars—by buying the September issue of Glamour in record numbers (and asking for it if it’s sold out) and by paying to see movies that feature real-sized women (see the list on the right side of this blog). We can also Google Lizzi Miller so many times that women’s magazines will have no choice but to get the message. Because the truth is, how can we possibly feel good about ourselves if we don’t embrace women like Miller?

This is a good day for average-sized women everywhere, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about the attention all of this is getting. I don’t know about you, but I needed this. I say we all celebrate this coup by putting on something sexy this week and feeling good about our gorgeous—and real—bodies in honor of this brave twenty-year-old.

One more thing . . . way to go, Lizzi!!!!!

Addendum: I just found this amazing health and fitness blog by Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive—Vitamin G—which contains more info about Miller (she’s a belly dancer!) and other related issues.

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