I grit my teeth when I hear the term Size Zero. The problem really isn't about fitting into a Size Zero world. Let's start talking about trying to fit into a size Twelve world.** Let's change the conversation.

Most of this dieting and self-hating and haranguing of others over weight isn't about anything near Size Zero. It is about average sizes. It is about fitting into size Twelve, Fourteen, Sixteen. The average "healthy weight" American woman is a size 12 or 14. This puts you in and around the "Plus" size section, which in our fat-phobic society is an admonition, not a description.

"Fashionable" clothing stores don't even CARRY normal sizes. And with teen clothing designers the situation is even worse: clothing sizes are defined as XXL at puberty proportions. What does it mean when being average - when by definition most bodies - are automatically off the rack and and "catalog only?"

The longing for and idealizing of size 12 is probably causing more anguish and foolhardy dieting than any Size Zero envy. Real women out there are falling over themselves trying to stay out of "relaxed fit" jeans, not mannequin-sized boy shorts. By using the term "Size Zero Debate" we make a miserable mockery of what is already a circus.*

How would the conversation change if we said "Trying to fit into her size 14s" instead of "Size zero?"

*I still think we're barking up the wrong tree, of course, at trying to fit ANYONE into any size as a proxy for health and appearance and eating morality. And no, I don't think the "Size Zero" nonsense is directly causing eating disorders, which I believe are a mental disorder triggered by dieting in those with a genetic predisposition. But we could all stand to change the conversation and the standard and that might decrease dieting and moralistic eating, and therefore eating disorders.

** US sizes. To convert: www.cntraveller.com/toolkit/clothes_sizes.asp


  1. It helps me to think of the question in terms of shoe sizes: what if everyone suddenly wanted size zero feet? Would foot-binding suddenly be back in style? Would researchers start studying the relationship between foot size and health? Would size 8 shoes and up be stored in their own special section of the store?

    Really, it's no different for clothes.

  2. isn't it awkward/sad that just when our daughters are hitting puberty they are about a size 12 childrens.....And some, I said some, of us moms are a 8 or 10 or 12 adult. But do they hear/feel that they are bigger than mom just because of a number? Also, just when they are becoming a "tween" they go into the next step-up in fashion and become...presto a "0". Child: Hey that somehow seems better than a childrens 12. (But wait, it just depends on the store and the price tag that goes with it.) I can still fit in a 12 at justice, but take a 0 at Abercrombie or Aeropostle. Hmmm, I really all of the sudden LOVE the clothes at those stores!!

    Grrr. Makes you wonder what our daughters must be thinking.

  3. What is even worse is 00. I won't name the stores, but I did some research for an Adolescent Female Development project and was mortified when I saw some of the more popular stores (and the more expensive ones) for tweens/teens change their sizing charts and have sizes as low as 00, maybe smaller. These sizes are the same proportions that say, other stores (still popular but less expensive) have listed as a 3, 5, 7, or 9-meaning they alter their sizes down, further messing with our children's brains. I was irate.

  4. I wore a size 26 when I started the diet that would eventually lead into my eating disorder. My goal then was to wear a size 16, only when I reached a size 16, I didn't stop until I reached a size 4. The ironic thing now is that going on four years of recovery and eating a healthy diet with appropriate levels of physical activity, I now wear my original goal size 16. I try to remind myself that I am already at my "goal" weight every time I "feel" fat.

    And, as someone who shops for tops in the misses section and pants in the plus-size section, I think we need to do away with misses and plus-size altogether and instead have one clothing section for adult women. Not only would clothing designers face more pressure to make the same clothes they make for thin women for fat women, but I might also be able to finally shop together with my size-10 coworker and shopping buddy.

  5. Very well written, as usual, Laura.
    I have a dream that one day we will all wear "free sizes"...(ooh, we could do combine to do this!)
    There is a store in MI where I buy all of my clothing --all except from my work out clothes (though, yea! they are now carrying yoga pants) and my two suits (boo hiss on me--these were purchased at Ann Taylor loft and their sizes are whacky). The clothes are "free size" for the most part (& there are many organic and freetrade items to boot). The owner of the store uses "real people" as models on their website. It's not to say that I've solved the issue, but I'm one person making a stand against the mass-marketing stores of "00"'s and "12" and "xxl" ...together we can make a difference.
    I normally do not share sizes, but for the sake of supporting your point and "Annonymous"'s point: I find it pretty curious that my running shorts are an XL (sometimes an XXL) ---and I'm a small person. What if someone bigger than me wanted to buy running shorts? Would they first have to diet in order to fit in and run?! Egad.

  6. THANK you.

    I've only recently discovered that (to my disgust) my size 12 is now considered plus--indeed, I've been told that anything over a single digit is considered plus. Last time I was a single digit, I was starving to death because my jaw was wired shut!


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