Size Zero and the Big Fat Lie

December 13, 2011
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Countless fashion magazines and blogs, runway shows, and television programs solicit modern fashion to young women. These resources allow runway fashion to sift into street style and permit aspiring fashionistas to step into the fashion world. While style companies primarily aim to sell their clothes, the associated models also advertise a high fashion view of beauty. Traditionally, models possess a lean, tall, almost abstract physic. As in many forms of art, designers amplify key components such as legs and skin tone in order to achieve the desired silhouette, portraying clothing in the most attractive way possible. In recent years, society has become increasingly nervous about the standards of beauty that the fashion industry inflicts on young women. This dilemma has heightened to the point where many experts condemn the fashion industry and “size zero” models for causing anorexia and other eating disorders among young women. However, statistics expose the true colors of this myth. In recent years, the percentage of unhealthily thin young women has decreased while the numbers in obesity have dramatically increased. Contrary to the popular social belief, size-zero models of today’s fashion industry have not caused widespread unhealthy weight loss in teenage girls, but the opposite.
Although research provides no evidence that the influence of size-zero models causes anorexia in young women, a good portion of society supports this mindset. Influential members of society who blame stick-thin models and celebrities for eating disorders in young girls create this false belief in society. As stated by John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, "The fashion industry should think long and hard about the image that it is projecting of what female beauty should be and about the impact that it is having on vulnerable young women.” But just how much does this impact show in young women? According to the World Health Organization, the percentage of obese children and teens in the United States has doubled in the past thirty years. Increasing from 15% to 32% with the numbers split almost evenly between girls and boys, these statistics show no signs of a prevalent increase in underweight girls. Additionally, the percent of underweight teenagers has dropped from 5.1% in 1974 to 3.3% in 2006. Although extremely thin models do send out a superficial image of beauty to young girls, the facts reveal that this influence does not have the traumatic effect on teenagers that many experts claim.
In shocking contrast to the popular social myth, incredibly thin models may take part in the cause behind the prevalent weight gain, not loss, in young women. According to an article in USA Today by Nanci Hellmich, the percent of underweight teenagers has dropped by 2.8 percent in the span of 32 years, while the numbers of obese teens have skyrocketed. Cynthia Bulik, a clinical psychologist who heads the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill points out that “If [kids] see themselves gaining weight and then they see these ultra-thin models, the discrepancy between how they see themselves in the mirror and how they feel they have to look is bigger. And that can prompt more extreme behaviors.” These “extreme behaviors” caused by feelings of insufficiency that young girls experience when comparing themselves to size-zero models may prove to be the root of weight gain. As Jessica Bennet states in her article Weighty Matters, “The real danger may be that the contrast between the girls on the catwalks and the girls at the mall is creating an atmosphere ripe for binge dieting and the kind of unhealthy eating habits that ultimately result in weight gain, not loss.”
Bennet hits on a crucial point. Girls searching for inspiration to lose weight may look at pictures of size-zero models and give up on their conquest of a fit body image because of the impossible standards. Both Bulik’s psychological fact and Bennet’s point indicate that the standard which incredibly thin models send to young adults could cause dramatic weight gain in contrast to the previous assumption.

When thoroughly researched, statistics show that the social myth in which size-zero models cause widespread anorexia and poor self image in young women does not exist as previously believed. In fact, the complete opposite proves true. Prevalent weight gain in adolescents may have a connection to the impossible standards which the fashion industry presses upon young women. Unattainable weight goals can cause young women to give up on their image and begin the downward psychological spiral into obesity. The numbers and facts of modern research into the connection between size-zero models and the weight of teenage girls should revolutionize society’s view on the impact of high fashion’s standards on young women.





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JuliaGraceS said...
Aug. 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm
Very true. Many people have a much faster metabolism than others. 
 
NobodyYouKnow said...
Feb. 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm
I agree with the point you are making, but I wish to point out that some people are naturally slimmer than other people. We shouldn't be so general and say "size zero is too skinny" but instead say "most models are skinnier than they personally should be"
 
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