From Our Readers Misunderstanding The ‘Say No To Size Zero Campaign' From Our Readers

Last week I read several articles calling upon us, as women, to say no to the ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign.’ The argument being, that we should not be judging any women just because of their pants size. In fact, most of the articles I read (including one on HelloGiggles and one on XO Jane) say this campaign is about weight discrimination.

But is it really?

First let me state that, yes I know some women are naturally thin. There are even healthy women who have a very low BMI, which would be considered unhealthy on paper. And yet, these women are healthy in real life. Their metabolisms are just different, as all of our metabolisms are.

The ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign’ is not about those women. It isn’t even necessarily directed to us “regular” women at all. It’s directed to the fashion industry and the media that continue to push for unhealthy women as their models.

These women just aren’t unhealthy on paper; they are unhealthy in real life too as they aren’t simply maintaining strict diets (which is unhealthy in its own right). They either teeter close to eating disorders or are already suffering from them.

Eating disorders have serious health consequences for those suffering from them and when we glorify that image in the media, it has psychological consequences for the rest of us. In the U.S. alone 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life. A more accurate number is hard to come by as many of these disorders go unreported.

The primary contributor to such large numbers of sufferers comes from body dissatisfaction. Just think: girls begin to worry about their weight or shape at the age of six! Also, 40 – 60% of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight or becoming too fat, a concern that follows them through life.

And this is not just about girls that are already thin and who are striving to maintain what they believe to be a perfect body. Girls who are not even overweight are reporting that they are dieting! Also, this is no longer a disease prevalent to females, or even Caucasian females. More and more men and people of different ethnicity are suffering from eating disorders.

While there are many psychological, personal factors and maybe even biological factors that contribute to one’s eating disorder, we cannot overlook the fact that there are social ones too. And it’s not just our glorification of the ultra-thin or certain definitions of beauty. It’s the cultural norms the modeling industry, media and even us “regular” women continue to push, such as valuing physical appearance rather than personalities.

What we glean from the media is extremely important, especially today when we are so saturated with advertisements featuring unhealthy models. And, this body type is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females. So the arguments on HelloGiggles and XO Jane don’t really have any teeth.

I’m not saying we should shun the 5% of American women who do naturally have this body type. However, we also shouldn’t reject the ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign’ because of them. The reality is the rest of us, in fact 95% of us, look nothing like the models we see in the media today and for us to try to look that way is incredibly unhealthy and dangerous.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder: 4% of those suffering with anorexia will die, 3.9% of those suffering with bulimia will die and another 5.2% of those suffering with an eating disorder will die, including from other complications such as heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or even suicide. You can find even more sobering information in this article, which details the lives of five models that died from eating disorders back-to-back in 2006.

The scariest part of it is all that 47% of girls in 5th–12th grade report wanting to lose weight because of magazine ads and 69% of girls in 5th–12th grade say that magazines influence their idea of a perfect body shape. This is a serious problem and this is what Katie Green’s campaign is all about.

It’s not about body snarking women who are naturally thin or healthy or pushing for heavier, curvier women as the new “perfect” body image. This campaign is about “how uncomfortable even healthy women and girls can be made to feel” and the “fashion designers and clothing brands [that] target young impressionable teenage girls and make them feel uncomfortable about their weight” which “can often lead to eating disorders,” as Katie Green’s website clearly states.

This is a campaign we all can and should get behind, whether you’re a natural size zero or natural size 12.

You can read more from Ashley Strain on her blog.

Featured image via.

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  1. Thank you so much for recentring this whole thing!
    People just love drama and getting outraged so much they’ll misread anything more readily than pause to think twice!

  2. Loved reading this article. I’m a naturally very thin person, 90 lbs and 5’2. I have won every single eating contest someone has challenged me to. I just have a high metabolism. People think the grass is greener on this side, but thin people have body issues as well. My whole life, teachers, and other adults have asked me if I’m being fed properly. They ask me if I have an eating disorder. I used to go home, and look in the mirror and wish I was bigger. I thought I looked like a disgustingly skinny girl you’d see in a commercial for anorexia. I was jealous of other girls bodies, and no matter how much food I ate, or how much I tried to build muscle, I never got any bigger. I’m 21 now, and though I still have body issues, I feel better in my own skin. I don’t know what other people have gone through, but for me it was hard to deal with.

  3. Hi!
    I agree with this article. I’m 21 years old and I’m 112,2 lb and 65,13 in. People always ask me what diet I do, but I don’t do anything. I’m just thin. I think people have to like themselves the way they are. Healthy is more important than weight. If you are thin and healthy is good. If you are fat and healthy is good.

  4. The focus needs to stop being on size. We will never all be the same size, but we can all be healthy. Lets face it, people die from eating disorders, but they also die from issues associated with obesity and excess weight. It is not okay to be too far to either extreme. Medically speaking everyone has an ideal weight range that they should be in.

  5. I agree with this article, eating disorders are unhealthy and life threatening, but there are certain aspects of the campaign which I can’t agree with.
    Mostly, it grinds on me that models are refereed to as non ‘real women’, the only model that I can think of that isn’t a real woman is Andrej Pejić (and I think that he probably has an arguable case).
    Also, I don’t disagree with the use of Photoshop in magazines – but I think it should be regulated. Magazines are full of beautiful photography which could be considered art, Photoshop enhances that. But when it’s used to alter a woman’s (or man’s) body then it distorts peoples views of what is healthy.

  6. I love that everybody is agreeing with you but they’re just like “yeah but that name is just so offensive, I totally can’t get behind it at all.” Get over the name, geez, it’s about the message. Calm the eff down.

  7. I completely agree with Lisi’s comment below. This whole dichotomy of ‘real woman’ vs. a woman with a stereotypically modelesque frame only places further apparent importance on our body shapes and gives that more attention than it needs, and it’s still targeting groups of women based on their size in order to allow another group of women to feel empowered or superior. It’s hypocritical.

    It’s up to each person (and that person’s parents, friends, who they associate with) to foster their self esteem. As a model, I have had complete strangers comment on my photos saying things like ‘somebody give this girl a cracker’ (lady, I’m gluten free. You have no idea how badly I miss crackers!) I don’t have an eating disorder. I’m not sick, or on drugs, or being told by my agency to drop a few, or anything like that. My parents’ genetic cocktail produced a 5′ 9″ awkward creature with a metabolism-on-crack and yet I’m made to feel like I need to apologize or feel ashamed of the way that I am, following a dream I’m finally getting to pursue.

    We are all individual people with individual bodies, minds, talents, everything. I’m so sick of all of the lobbying back and forth about weight and size and this ‘real women have curves’ thing. I have smaller curves than many women, but I don’t consider myself imaginary or invalid. A real woman has a mind, body and soul. That’s it. How her body supports her mind and soul, how her mind feels about her body, and what truth and purpose she holds in her soul and how she’ll use her body and mind to carry that out in her life is what’s important. She may be curvy, she may be slender, she may even be anatomically male. No aspect of her appearance can make her any less of a ‘real woman’.

    • Perfectly stated Lesley! I have shed many tears because apparently I am not a “real women”! It’s articles like this that make people think its okay for them to come up to me and ask me if I ever eat. It’s articles like this that make us size 0′s have even lower self esteem than before. And it’s articles like this that should have no place on hellogiggles!

      • I would also like to add that from reading all of the comments, I believe it’s a great deal more than just “5%” that this campaign would be hurting.

    • Thank you! I am sick of being told to eat a sandwich! If it is rude to comment about a woman who has a fuller figure why do people think it is okay to make remarks about someone who is on the thin side?

  8. I definitely agree with the message behind this campaign, but I do feel like it kind of boxes out us size zero ladies, because believe it or not we look at the same models and become unsatisfied with our bodies too. I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but even as a size zero, I look at these models and think “Why isn’t my stomach as flat as hers? Why aren’t my arms as skinny? Why don’t I have a size C cup AND a little waist?” I feel like I don’t live up to expectation. And it’s not only body image every girl struggles with, I grew up obsessed with the fact that I didn’t have a cute little nose and an amazing angular bone structure like the models I saw. Not only are eating disorders out of control, but so is the amount of plastic surgery young women are getting. I know that’s a touchy subject, a lot of people think that if you want to change something about your self, you should go ahead and do it. That sentiment breaks my heart though, because I would rather everyone be comfortable with their physical appearance-something that is impossible in a materialistic and appearance driven culture. I want to see a the promotion of health AND self love.

    • I completely agree with you! I get bashed for my skinner figure all the time. I am naturally this size! When I go out to eat and turn down a soda or dessert, I get looks. A few times, women have come to my table and said that I’m too young to diet or ask me why I’m trying to be skinny. I’m not; I just don’t want to put bad things in my body to cause me to be unhealthy. When I work out or run, I get the same kind of snarky comments. They can be hurtful.

  9. While I agree that the intent behind this campaign is very good, and that the media is awful in its portrayals of women, I think that if the creators of this campaign want that message to come across in a unifying way, they need to change the name. Saying no to size zero IS negative to those who are naturally smaller, whether it was intended to be offensive or not.

    I am naturally a size 2, and I get so much crap for it now. It makes me feel awful for being myself. I like to eat in reasonably healthy way and exercise so that I can be my best self and live a long and strong life, but I by no means starve myself or overexercise. I love food! I just have a really fast metabolism, that’s how I was born. And yet people look down on me when I order a salad for lunch instead of a burger, or when they see me in the gym. It’s really awful. I went through a period where I overate in high school because of comments my peers made about my skinniness and my small boobs. I wanted a curvier figure so badly, yet I didn’t even gain much weight, I only made myself sluggish and unhealthy. Now I have come to terms with my body, but I still get crap from others for it. People don’t realize that discrimination is directed at all sorts of body types, not just those larger than a size 3, and it is just as hurtful.

  10. While I agree that media portrayals are not what they should be, I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that we should accept the say no to size zero campaign. This is simply due to that fact that there are ways to accomplish the same thing without using language that excludes. If what we want is representations of all kinds of bodies- we cannot say no to any size. What about the Yes to all sizes campaign?
    As someone who is naturally a size zero, I can attest to the fact that rhetoric of exclusion has negative affects of thin women. I feel hurt every time I see “real women have curves.” I have been asked if I am anorexic, and been told to go eat something when I have trouble finding pants that fit. Life isn’t fun on either extreme. Ask any man I have dated, I don’t feel sexy, beautiful, or womanly- and I know for fact it has everything to do with being told that size zero isn’t valid or acceptable. I am not real- even the number zero feels belittling when I see it on my jeans.
    Now that I think about it- how about a campaign to label clothes by actual measurements instead of arbitrary numbers?

  11. They probably should’ve named it something else then.

    • I totally agree with this! Something that has a positive call to action that includes all people rather than the current negative call to action which excludes some shapes and sizes.

  12. There should just be a “Love Your Body” campaign instead of calling something “real” or uplifting “curvy” girls or “skinny” girls…. There’s no need to call a socially acceptable thin girl in her underwear a slut while calling a, now *almost* socially acceptable heavy girl in her underwear an inspiration. I am not a size 0. I never will be. My bone structure alone doesn’t support it, much less my natural metabolism. We spend so much time as women taking down other women to make us feel better. “Oh, well that girl is so skinny… I bet she doesn’t enjoy pizza like I do!” “Oh, well that girl is so fat… I bet she doesn’t enjoy exercise like I do!” That shit needs to stop. Because we also need to realize that other people’s eating and exercising habits are none of our damn business. It doesn’t affect us in any way, so why shun someone because of it?
    There should be a “Don’t Be A Sh***y Human Being” campaign more than a “Say No To Zero” campaign. Even the Dove one doesn’t really accept all shapes and sizes, just the socially acceptable range of skinny to curvy. Support each other no matter what you look like. Eight year olds don’t need to go on diets…. Neither do many 30 year olds. If you feel a need to change, then look into healthy ways. If you’re happy with your weight, light or heavy, then stay there. It’s okay to love who you are.

    • Agree! I’m naturally thin and people keep telling me to gain weight so I could have boobs. I think the problem is people can also be too harsh on skinny people. I’m a real woman and I am naturally thin. Being thin doesn’t make me any less real.

    • I’m not even sure there should be a “Be Healthy!” campaign because it begins to look into other societal matters outside of weight… like finances. Sure, a bag of salad is between $2-4. But that’s just the bag of lettuce. You want to put anything on that will stick with you a few hours, it’s now $10-15. For a salad. You can get a full meal with McDonalds for $5 that will stick with you for a while. What we need to do, if you want people to be healthy, is to look at the food price inequality, then not judge some people for being overweight.
      Also… if someone is overweight and eating pizza, you shouldn’t judge them. Maybe they haven’t eaten pizza for a month and this is their treat because they’ve been eating nothing but veggies for a while. The fact is, you don’t know. You aren’t in their kitchen. You don’t know what health issues people are dealing with…
      So maybe… Don’t judge people so harshly. We need to love ourselves… but we need to not judge other people for loving themselves as well.
      And quick side note: Weight does not define us. This campaign continues to define women as beautiful based on their weight, not on their merit as human beings, as pointed out by previous people.

    • Preach it!

  13. I am a size 3 and I absolutely hate it when people are like, you’re so tiny or you’re so skinny, they might not realize it but it’s almost the same thing as saying you’re fat or you’re large. Why don’t they instead say you’re beautiful or not say anything at all! I think it’s ridiculous that people care about what size they are (that might be because I’ve always been close to a zero). The headline for the campaign “say no to size zero” can be offending, but I agree that girls and women shouldn’t strive to be a size zero, they should thrive to be beautiful on the inside where it really counts (but of course keep a healthy diet, if you treat your body well, it treats you back better).

  14. Maybe it’s because I’m not a zero, but I’m pretty sure this campaign isn’t a discrimination against naturally small people. Ignorant people pester naturally thin people whether they’re a size 0 or not, just the same as they pester naturally larger people. The issue is, that at a size 6… I’m made to feel fat. Even at a 4 I wanted to be smaller. I was okay with being a 2. It’s hard to look at magazines and be told those women are beautiful, even though you know they’re photoshopped, because you know that is society’s perception and standard for beauty. Let’s stop nit picking each politically incorrect term and fight against the larger underlying issues. We, as a culture, are obsessed with being thin, not necessarily healthy, thin… Although, sometimes so obsessed with “health” we give ourselves health problems.
    Beauty, if its only about appearance, is shallow. What about inner beauty? . When mental health issues are in the rise, because women are increasingly bogged down by everyday life pressures… Shouldn’t that be part of health, not just eating habits? Priorities people.

  15. I am a size 6 (which would be 2 or 0 in American sizes I think) and I personally am not offended at all my this campaign – I think it’s a significant issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not about body shaming, every woman’s body is beautiful, it’s about ensuring that healthy women don’t feel constant pressure from the media to lose weight unnecessarily. As a recovered anorexic, I think people need to prioritise health over the fact that they are “offended” by this campaign, and support the fact that 95% of women are not a size 0, and deserve to be represented in magazines too. I do agree with the name change though, “say yes to healthy” sounds better.

  16. This article states that we shouldn’t shun those that are thin but we shouldn’t kick the campaign just because of them, because most of “us” are bigger. But in supporting this campaign that’s exactly what you’re doing. I was very thin in middle school and often got teased about being anorexic and was laughed at. It didn’t make me feel good to know I was a small size, I felt horrible about myself. Size shaming, no matter the size, is wrong. This campaign should have been named something different to build confidence in every woman, big or small, as long as their ultimate goal is being healthy. The models they should choose should be all over the board with different sizes, not just throwing out the skinny ones in favor of larger ones. That’s not fixing a problem, it’s creating a new one.

  17. They should call it something like “Say Yes to Healthy” that’s more of a positive and encouraging title that ALLOWS you to do things rather than an atmosphere of RESTRICTING you from things and could get us to focus more on the healthy eating and could include pics of ALL WOMEN OF ALL SIZES EVEN 0 to show you can be any size (within reason) if you eat healthy,that’s what matters. Yes, there are 145lb women that go into modeling and are immediately told the MUST lose 20+ lbs. Considering the average model is 5’8″+ that is unhealthy and often forces them into unhealthy lifestyles to keep their dream alive. So, I vote for “Say Yes to Healthy”

  18. It is ridiculous even if you see that the models we are trying to be like don’t even look like that for real cause a lot is photoshopped.
    The sizes are also getting smaller to compete with the french industry. We woman are always critical of the way we look.
    We should learn more to be okay with ourselves and embrace the figure that you have cause it makes you .
    Fashion makes a lot of victims cause well a lot of models have died from being anorexic and getting thinner for the clothes, even the fashion now has issues with it at some points

  19. How about, instead of a “Say No to Size __ Campaign”, we start a “Say No to Defining Yourself Based on Arbitrary Societal Standards Campaign”, where we encourage ourselves and others to stop looking to our society, culture, and media to inform us of who we are and what we’re worth. Anyone?

    • Yes! I totally agree. Once we, as individuals, decide to stop letting societal standards dictate how we live our lives, we’ll be happier. If you’re naturally a size 0, then that’s awesome. However, that’s not what this article is about – its about not letting the media dictate what is beautiful, and the media has been championing thinness for decades now. I, as a size 16 woman, am not represented by the models in any ads, or by the actresses we see in commercials or on our favorite tv shows. If there is a show that includes a heavier woman, there are often jokes made at his expense. This us not okay, and I believe that’s the basis if the campaign.

  20. As a naturally petite size zero, I also don’t agree with the title of this campaign. I have just as difficult a time finding clothes that fit me as those who wear larger size, and still have body issues (I would gladly give up my size 0 for some boobs!) I feel that this campaign insinuates that those feelings are invalid because of the number of my size.
    I am in no way saying that eating disorders are not an issue, they are, and can be extremely devastating. They are psychiatric issues that need to be treated properly.
    However, I feel that obesity is a much greater problem in our society. 23.9 million children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese and 154.7 million adults are overweight or obese. Obesity is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, bringing along their own set of problems that cause exponentially more deaths than anorexia. I am currently a medical student, and I will be treating these diseases for the rest of my life. I think this campaign should focus on a healthy weight (BMI) rather than a clothing size. Controlling what you eat (aka dieting), if done properly, is necessary for all of us (kids included!) to maintain a healthy body weight and therefore a long, healthy life!

    • Thank you for bringing up the numbers on obesity. Anorexia and bulimia truly are horrible things but when you bring up that obesity is also very detrimental to health and many more people suffer further health issues from it, it seems to be taboo to talk about.

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