Friday, 6 April 2007

Size zero

I can understand people wanting to be thinner, but why this sudden obsession with being ultra-thin, as though a single ounce of unnecessary flesh is some kind of social stigma?

The people of Northern Ireland are mostly too hard-headed and down to earth to fall for such masochistic fads, and there is a reassuring absence of artificially whittled-down females (or males for that matter). They would rather tuck into a few jam-laden scones or a generous helping of champ than starve themselves into a miniscule dress.

But there are still enough women trapped in compulsive dieting to bring calls for a specialist eating disorders unit, which at the moment doesn't exist here. Right now you can only get help from your GP, and it's pot luck whether they're sympathetic or baffled.

I'm fairly thin myself, but I've never felt the urge to be even thinner, or imagined that my perfectly acceptable size is disgustingly flabby. But then I'm not deluged with images of stick-thin males everywhere I look, whereas skinny, streamlined females flood the media.

Or at least that's the case elsewhere but here they're refreshingly scarce. Female celebrities* come in all shapes and sizes and the idea of their slimming down to some tape measure ideal is given short shrift. Politics apart, we're much more willing to accept people as they are, warts and all. Striving too hard to change your appearance is seen as pretentious and false. Which is why there's also a limited market for plastic surgery here. If a well-known TV presenter (say, the delightful Donna Traynor) was suddenly to shed a couple of stone people wouldn't be green with envy, they'd just think she was putting on airs.

Or perhaps women in Northern Ireland just believe the old maxim that most men find larger, more curvaceous women sexier, and have noted that the unnaturally petite showbiz divas don't have very satisfying love lives.

*Actually we tend not to use the word celebrity - we don't believe in putting people on pedestals.


  1. You're just trying to make me feel better!


  2. Keep in mind, at its root, eating disorders aren't about weight at all. Sure, images in the media of super-thin waifs may trigger one to begin dieting and on the path to developing an eating disorder, but eating disorders are about control and addiction. Just like those who are addicted to drugs or even cigarettes, eating disorders allow one to control some aspect of one's life. If you look closer, eating disorders are really manifestations of some trauma or unfulfilled need in an eating disordered patient.

  3. Thanks, Rachel, that adds important aspects I didn't mention. I know something about the work of Susie Orbach (Fat is a Feminist Issue) and others in the field, and I agree it's very much a control issue prompted by an underlying trauma or insecurity, as you say.