Well hasn’t twitter got its knickers in a twist over @MrKennethTong? The phenomenon is quite bizarre as I don’t see what is quite so horrendous but then perhaps my friendships are misplaced - I do after all have a male friend who once voiced an idea for a new product aimed at bulimics; a tube that would facilitate vomiting whilst protecting their teeth from the oh so damaging stomach acid. The curiosity for me is why this guy’s views are so threatening. Now I don’t refer to the likes of @SIRJoshuaToThee with his moving letter about his daughter’s anorexia nor to the various celebrities who Mr Tong has associated with his messages and have rightly been angry but instead to ordinary people so extraordinarily threatened by a single person’s rather pathetic viewpoints.

My general viewpoint is that men who objectify women and rate them solely upon their physical appearance have serious intimacy issues and for the most part are to be pitied. His exchange comes down to his wealth for a woman’s physical beauty. If it sounds like prostitution then how else ought I describe his view of women as commodities and him valuing himself on his financial status? Clearly he lacks warmth, humour and kindness which would allow true engagement with women (whatever their size) but enough about him. He is a sad, strange little man (as Johann Hari reveals in his interview with Tong) who is only useful in highlighting yet again the size zero debate.

The problem with the debate is that we often aren’t clear about what a size zero is; it is based upon American sizes and the UK equivalent is a size four (sources vary but Wikipedia says a difference of four between the two countries sizes). The way the British media reports, you’d think they were referring to what in America would be a size minus four. American and UK numbers get used interchangeably so you hear size zero being discussed against the average British woman being a size 16 which is really very unhelpful.

Furthermore, we are rarely even clear about how big dress sizes are as different shops vary widely and vanity sizing is surely now undeniable. At New Year I was a size 10-12, the same as when I was 18 and yet there is not a cat in hells chance that I could wear the clothes I had then. Incidentally I still have an evening dress I wore to a ball in 2000 and it did not look pretty on my twentysomething frame.

So what is a size 4? Wikipedia states that it can be anything from a 22 to a 25 inch waist. General consensus and the number in my jeans is that a size 4 has a 22 inch waist, a size 6 a 24 inch waist, a size 8 a 26 inch waist and a size 10 a 28 inch waist. I have a pair of jeans with a stated waist of 29 inches that was sold as a size 10-12 but actually measures several inches wider. This is fairly consistent across my wardrobe. Far from being a generous size 10, I was a small size 14. (And oh how it pains me to say that!)

And apparently it isn’t just women’s clothes so handy with the tape measure I checked the fiancé’s trouser waists and they came in at an inch larger than their stated measurement. My issue with this is that if you ask a bloke what his waist measurement is, he’ll tell you the size trousers he buys. The NHS says that men should have a waist smaller than 37 inches to avoid a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes or heart problems. Now if all measurements are only an inch or so inaccurate that isn’t a problem but what if vanity sizing worsens to the extent that people are thinking they’re an ok weight when they’re actually at risk. Also, my jeans say their wearer fits a 29 inch waist but her actual waist is a few inches bigger based on the tape measure. That is still in the healthy range according to the NHS (women should have a waist smaller than 32 inches to avoid a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes or heart problems) but what about the woman buying 32 inch jeans who hasn’t measured herself?

My personal politics regarding responsibility mean that while I’d like to see clothes to be the size they are advertised as being, ultimately I see the situation as being down to the individual. It doesn’t make for enjoyable discovery but at least you’re honest with yourself. Still, the good news is that the flapping over size four is that rather than being so oh shock horror tiny, it is more likely to be a petite but not scary size 6-8.

Could Tong have a point then? No, absolutely not. But there is a point in there. We are getting bigger and we are getting defensive about it. We prefer to talk about the ugliness of skeletal women whilst denying that for the most part, slimmer people are more attractive. There are extremes (Angelina Jolie springs to mind as I saw her in The Tourist recently and her shoulders are taut skin over bone) but the vast majority of actresses and models look good to my eyes.

The observant amongst you may have noticed I used the past tense in this column. That is because since the New Year I have lost half a stone and two inches from my waist. I lost weight because I felt I needed to. As (it turns out) a small size 14, I wasn’t excessively overweight but my BMI placed me in the overweight category and I was just tipping the scale of NHS guidelines on maximum waist measurement. That was bad. Research has been done for a reason and unless you disagree with the findings (and have research showing different results) if you care about your health, such figures should matter to you.

Of course that’s not the whole story and vanity plays a part but for the time being I am seeking thinspiration. The main thing I’ve done this week is find a dress for my best friends’ wedding. It’s gorgeously flamboyant and a great motivation. I just hope online shopping doesn’t replace the glass of wine and some peanuts habit as things could get expensive!


hardboiledPhil
1/20/2011 04:39:53 am

This reminds me of a couple of programmes on TV a few years ago that discussed the size zero topic. Both of them I found pretty interesting although more through the disgust at the pathetic food intake that Dawn Porter put herself through. At least Mrs Redknapp was doing a good amount of exercise although at the end of it she did look pretty bad.

http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/reality-tv/louise-redknapp-in-the-truth-about-size-zero/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-432939/My-quest-size-zero.html

We do have an issue in the modern society with anorexic/bullemic women and girls but surely the scale of the issue in minute in comparison to the issue of being overweight. From this article http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/britain-a-nation-of-the-underweight-and-obese-582010.html we can say that 1.3 million people are underweight, 11.5 million overweight and 5.9 million obese. So 2% of the population are underweight and 26% of the population is overweight. Therefore I think the size zero issue is generally perpetuated by the media against the fashion industry. The people with weight issues caused by the onslaught of 'skinny' models I'd argue would have weight problems anyway. Those who are depressed about these models and wanting to be like them aren't generally the ones who make themselves ill through too much dieting or even too big through overeating, they are people with issues that find it all too easy to overeat in this modern society they live in.

I thought this programme aired last year http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcthree/2010/06/big-meets-bigger-made-anne-get-smaller.shtml was an eye opener. The americans they visited seem to ignore the fact that most of their relatives were dying young from diabetes related illnesses and just kept on eating. One woman even used the car to get to the house opposite. The most telling part for me though was the woman on haemo-dialysis in the hospital who they were talking to. She told them it was caused by overeating. "And what would happen if you couldn't get dialysis?" "I'd be dead within a fortnight". That really shook them up!

Anyway maybe I'm not the best person to ask as I find skinny women attractive - haha. Phil

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Kathryn
1/20/2011 06:31:21 am

Given what you say about Louise Redknapp it sounds as though you don't fancy skinny women, you fancy healthy weight women and there's no shame in that. Men are biologically programmed to be attracted to women with the greatest chance of successful pregnancy.

It's a whole other subject but I hate the cultural unacceptability for men to be honest about what they find attractive. If the fiance's love for me was dependent on my size then it would not be real love. BUT it is the case that his lust for me is dependent on my size. He still wants to be with me but finds me a fraction less attractive. Plenty of women would hate him for admitting that but I respect his honesty.

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hardboiledPhil
1/20/2011 07:06:49 am

Mrs Rednapp... it was more about her face. She looked gaunt and like she hadn't slept for 4 weeks when in fact she had hardly eaten for 4 weeks.

"Plenty of women would hate him for admitting that but I respect his honesty." But he knows that he can be honest because you have the intelligence in association with a high level of postive self image to be able to take it on board and accept it rather than take it personally as some kind of 'I won't love you if you're fat' thing. Makes his life easier if he doesn't have to hide it from you and subconsciously he's hoping it might keep you off the pies ;o)

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