03/12/2012 07:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Skinny Fat: Does This Equinox Ad Go Too Far?


If a fat cell grows and no one can see it, is it still there? A new Equinox ad wants to answer that question for you by causing even more anxiety about your body.

The gym's new ad features a rail-thin, nude model whose torso is hidden behind a red circle asking "Are You Skinny Fat?" "Skinny fat," referred to as "normal weight obesity" by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, describes someone who make look fit on the outside but has an unusually high ratio of body fat in comparison to their weight. In colloquial terms, or at least on Urban Dictionary, "skinny fat" is "when someone is thin and looks great in clothes, but is all flabby underneath."

Though the risks of skinny fat are very real -- ABC reports that the high ratio of fat to lean muscle can interfere with the liver's metabolism and put individuals at higher risk for diabetes and hypertension -- the issue is one of context. In associating fear about an unseen peril with a thin body without further explanation, Equinox is setting up women already concerned that they aren't thin enough to feel even worse. In a country where 31 percent of female college students have eating disorders, this added level of worry and comparison -- you may be skinny on the outside, but you may be hiding an inadequacy on the inside -- isn't necessary. As Jezebel's Doug Barry wrote, "While the ad does hint -- feather whisper, really -- at preserving actual good health, concerns about serious health risks stemming from something like an abundance of visceral fat are things for people to discuss with their doctors, not with some former Nordic bodybuilder named Fjord."

This isn't the first time Equinox ads have drawn ire for the way their ads depict women's bodies. Its January 2012 campaign shot by Terry Richardson featured sexualized, very thin female models with muscular men and prompted the public to take to Equinox's Facebook page in protest about the ideals of "fitness" the gym was promoting.

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