Slimming, Dieting, Vanity Sizing and You

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It’s the beginning of a shiny new year and every where you look are new exercise DVDs, slimming clubs and people jogging in brand new gym kit that won’t see the light of day until next January.

It seems to me that somehow we’ve created a culture over the last hundred years that has striven to give us everything we could possibly want, faster and faster. We live in a consumer culture where meals on the go are the norm, and are always pumped full of fat and sugar. Yet we also hold up a slim athletic figure and clear skin as the ideal, which is impossible to achieve if you live your life the way society makes easiest.

Yesterday I was perusing the Marie Claire website, which is a great alternative to work, I highly recommend it. On it they had a “Best Body Makeovers of 2008″ which included stories and pictures of Eva Longoria who had apparently gained a whole SEVEN POUNDS for her role in Desperate Housewives and then lost it again by doing stomach crunches and eating fish.

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I, personally, don’t see the losing, or gaining, of half a stone as a “Body Makeover” it’s pretty much “Christmas Dinner” to me. However, it did highlight the discrepancy between the Celebrities that are held up as our ideals of beauty and the average Woman on the street.

I speak, myself, as someone who likes her food. I have lost 3 stone over the last couple of years, and I still have a bit to go, but I have also previously been a tiny size 8, and I felt fat then too. I genuinely believe that airbrushing and the impossible work out regimes of celebrities have left Women not even knowing what is physically achievable any more. The images they aspire to could have had whole chunks of skeleton airbrushed out for a better look in a photo.

Pretty much all women know that the size you buy changes depending on what shop you go into. We also all know the little bits of information, true or not, such as that the average UK woman is a size 16, and that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16.

Whatever size Marilyn Monroe was, most buyers of vintage clothes will be well aware that a size 16 in the 1950s was a very different size that a modern 16. I have, for example, a Debenhams skirt in my shop dating from the 1970s with a label that shows it is a UK 14, yet the measurements given equate to what, according to the Debenhams sizing chart, is a modern size 10, which is a hell of a difference! I have seen discussion that European standardisation could end this dress size lottery, by imposing a measurements system, which seems a lot fairer to me. This article in the Telegraph from last year also includes a chart showing that the bust, waist and hip measurements in various High Street stores can vary up to an 1.5 inches!

Is it possible that the Fashion industry benefit from this variation in sizes? It means that the true size of the models they use can be disguised and that vanity sizing can be used to encourage shoppers through the doors (I know I’d rather buy a size 10 than a 14!)

A friend of mine was recently browsing the Next Directory website, and came across the emaciated figure of Jourdan Dunn advertising their “Exotic Daywear” collection. She received the following response to her complaint:

Dear Ms XXX,

Thank you for your recent email, and I apologise for the delay in my response.

Firstly, may I say how sorry I am to learn that we have caused you so much upset by using Joudan Dunn, to model our Exotic Chic range in the Next Directory.

Having liaised with both our Press Office and Marketing Manager, I can confirm that we do not usually use models who are less than a size 10. Joudan Dunn was booked at London Fashion Week, as we wanted to support the “new face” of British modelling; however, when she arrived for the fashion shoot, she was considerably smaller than she had been when the booking was made. Unfortunately, due to time constraints of the shoot, another model could not be sourced, and for this reason Joudan’s pictures were restricted to an eight page layout.

I would like to stress that it is never our intention to cause offence to any of our customers, however, I can clearly understand why you felt so outraged, and I regret the upset clearly caused.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us, as all feedback whether negative or positive is very important, and I would like to assure you that your comments will be forwarded to our Marketing Team for their awareness.

I, personally, remain unconvinced by this argument as at London Fashion week Jourdan Dunn looked like this..

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It does, however, perfectly highlight our obsession with thiness and the size of models, and how vanity sizing can be used to cover up not only the true extent of someones weight gain, but also their weight loss. You can call someone a size 10 if you want, but that doesn’t make them healthy or unhealthy, average or abnormal.

Being too thin is as bad as being too fat, but the range of ideal weight is much broader than we are lead to believe.

Claire Sweeney recently starred in a TV show for ITV in which she gained 2 stone in 6 weeks. I am unsure what the point of this was supposed to be, but at the end of the show she weighed 11 stone 10 pounds. We are expected to be horrified by this and how “fat” she is, however according to the NHS BMI calculator she still only has a BMI of 24.8, within the normal healthy weight range. Any ill effects she suffered are likely to have been due to sudden and extreme weight gain and a sudden and extreme change in diet rather than her size in itself. A crash diet would have been no more healthy, as Kate Spicer found in Super Skinny Me

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Retro Chick thinks that as long as you’re healthy and happy it shouldn’t matter what size clothes you wear. We can’t exercise 8 hours a day to get our “perfect” body, so maybe it’s time that the shops, magazine and fashion industry started being more realistic about their customers.

If you feel you’ve got a few pounds to lose (check out the BMI calculator!) then you could do worse to check out Weight Watchers or Slimming World.

If you HAVEN’T got any weight to lose that doesn’t mean you won’t be horribly unhealthy and die of malnutrition if all you ever eat is pies, so check out the healthy eating advice on the NHS website.

At the end of the day confidence comes from within, so rip the labels out of your clothes and if they make you feel good, just wear them. (Though new shoes can always help, I find)

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