Size Zero

I’m anti size Zero. Not because it’s unhealthy (which it is). Or because it feeds into the whole messed up body image culture debate (which it does). Or even because it encourages anorexia (keep reading)…

But because it’s an easy answer and it stops people looking at the real problem.

Because it’s a dangerous mirage that makes anorexia all about vanity and fashion and superficial surface level things – when really it goes far deeper than that.

I’ll concede that size zero plays a part in the whole eating disorder epidemic – but I don’t think it’s at the root – or even the heart – of it.

Size zero hadn’t even made it over the Atlantic when I got ill. And reality never really corresponds to the pages of a glossy magazine: I’m yet to see someone striding down the high street in something that’s been strided down the catwalk.

So, if the majority of the population do not resemble a herd of gormless catwalk following sheep, how does size zero fit into it all?

Ammunition. It’s a double whammy – it arms both the anorexia and the anorexic.

Anorexia preys on insecurity – size zero gives you an idea when you’re not sure where you’re heading. It thrives on perfectionism - size zero is a great example of a physical standard that you’ve failed to attain. In the early stages, size zero’s an aspiration, a tangible reminder that you’re still failing. In the later stages, you’ll probably rocket off the record – but it will be too late by then.

It’s equally handy for people who’ve already been nabbed by anorexia – and particularly those in the all too familiar denial phase. Size Zero normalises the abnormal. It helps you dismiss the concern – I don’t have a problem and I’m clearly not ill because the model splashed across the front of that magazine underweighs me by a good 20 lbs – and then it switches the focus.

It exaggerates a link that, in the grand scale of things, is relatively insignificant.

It means that people are looking at the wrong cause – and therefore providing the wrong treatment.

This is bad news. It’s not just like fixing a dripping tap by turning off the water – it can also make the situation even worse.

Part of anorexia is about trying to say something and not having the right words to say it with. It’s like speaking your feelings in a horribly unhealthy way. Being misinterpreted – she’s being a teenager – just feeds into the frustration of not being able to get your message across; feeling belittled – it’s all about vanity – just makes you want to shout even louder.

We’re getting there now. It’s not just size zero that muddies the waters; it’s also the whole debate around it.

And there’s one final contribution. I won’t pretend that gaining weight is ever easy when you’re recovering from anorexia. Size zero just makes it that little bit harder. It’s back to the ammunition again. A little taunt at every step of the way.

My advice?

Don’t look until you’re strong enough to see what it really looks like.

Consider the size zero effect as a symptom rather than a cause.

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