New Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover and ‘Curvy’ Barbie Signs of a Positive Shift Toward Healthier Body Images

New York City – March 15, 2016 – Much has been said and written about the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and one of its cover stars, model Ashley Graham, who is the first ‘plus-size’ model to be featured on the cover of the magazine’s iconic and annually best-selling issue, currently on news-racks nationwide. Now, Melissa Gerson, therapist, eating disorder treatment specialist, and founder of Columbus Park, Manhattan’s leading outpatient treatment center for people with eating disorders, is calling Graham’s high profile photos “culturally significant.”

Describing Sports Illustrated’s move as “much more than a gimmick or publicity stunt,” Gerson has described the magazine’s decision to prominently feature Graham and other models with atypical body types as a landmark show of support in the ongoing battle against unhealthy body images.

“We were pleasantly surprised by Sports Illustrated’s decision to feature a variety of different body types in its latest swimsuit issue,” said Gerson.  “In recent years, the annual issue of the magazine – which is seen as something of an iconic benchmark for current beauty ideals, has tended to focus on particularly thin body types that reflect only a tiny percentage of the female population. To expand from that view to include fuller figured, athletic, older, and ethnically diverse models is a welcome change as it presents young women and girls with a greater scope of body types to identify with and an overall healthier view of what is perceived as beautiful in 2016.”

Gerson added that she is also pleased with other, similarly responsible and high-profile attempts to reflect and celebrate a more diverse view of physical role models, such as the new ‘curvy’ Barbie doll from Mattel.

“The SI Swimsuit Issue and the new Barbie are examples of what we in the eating disorder treatment community are seeing as a huge proactive step toward the promotion of healthy lifestyles among young girls,” said Gerson.   “You could argue that Barbie has come a tremendously long way since the first doll to carry the name was launched in 1959, but it is just this year that has seen a transformation that could be a significant difference maker in the self-esteem of young girls all over the world.”

“We see girls every day who have carried an unhealthy sense of what a woman should like since they were small children,” added Gerson. “It is deeply reassuring that Mattel has taken proactive steps to creating a more realistic and womanly looking doll that the girls can imagine growing up to look like. In an age when girls as young as five years old are worried about the way they look and their size, what Mattel, Sports Illustrated, the Pirelli Calendar (whose 2016 edition features women of diverse physiques), and other forward-looking, healthy-minded organizations are doing this year is a giant step in the right direction and will likely have a positive effect on our culture at large. We are hoping the trend continues.”

At Columbus Park, Gerson leads a multi-disciplinary team of experienced specialists who share a mission to provide help for adults, teens and children struggling with eating issues.


Learn more about Columbus Park via its website at or call 646/798-5914.

Media: To arrange interviews with Melissa Gerson, receive media backgrounder material or to learn more about Columbus Park, contact Paul Williams, at 310/569-0023 or via