The Dangers of Size Zero

Like Diana, Princess of Wales before her, Kate Middleton has become a fashion powerhouse as the wife to an heir to the British throne.  Her clothing, accessories, and grooming are scrutinized and her “repeats” are dutifully noted.  But there’s one dark aspect of her person that’s creating a trend that’s not get very much press time:  how she’s become the gold standard for anorexics, bulimics, and size zero addicts around the world.

Kate in Canada

Kate in Canada

Kate in Canada

Kate in Canada

Kate with Nicole Kidman

Kate with Nicole Kidman

Kate’s 5’10” and weighed 130 pounds when she got engaged last November.  By the wedding, she was reportedly down to 100 pounds (45 kg).  A “healthy” weight for a woman her height is between 130 and 170 lbs (59-77 kg).  People who have seen her in person (including one of your fellow readers who saw her during their recent Canadian tour), are shocked by how thin she is.  If she really does weigh 100 lbs, then she’s probably unable to fulfill her royal duty to create an “heir and a spare” right now – her body has likely gone into survival mode and she’s stopped menstruating.

Not that her menstrual cycle or family planning is any of my business, mind you, but few people are talking about the hazards of being this thin.  No, the press is only saying how “svelte” and “trim” she is because that’s what sells magazines and gets clicks online.

But the pro-anorexic community is all over this.  Like Victoria Beckham, the Olsen twins, and Kiera Knightley, Kate and Pippa Middleton have become the latest “thinspiration” (“thinspo”) celebrity icons on “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” websites – sites that promote anorexia and bulimia.  Many of them say they DON’T advocate unhealthy lifestyles, yet show pictures of the super-skinny smoking, sunning, and whatnot.  This one made me sad.  Take a look at some of the words and images on either side of the blog.  Heartbreaking!

Note:  I DO NOT APPROVE of these sites or such dangerous behavior, but decided to give you a glimpse of this world so you can see for yourself what’s going on.

So what does all of this have to do with size zero?

For many, size zero has become the new body ideal.  It used to be curves, it used to be fitness, but now it’s all about the size.  Or size zero, in this case.  When Jennifer Hudson mentioned in passing that she’s now a size zero, it made headlines.  When Jessica Simpson put on a few pounds, it made headlines.  When Oprah’s and Kirstie Alley’s weight goes up and down, it makes headlines.

What DOESN’T make enough headlines?

How eating too much OR too little is unhealthy, uncool, and unfashionable.

Everyone has a healthy weight range.  You can find yours by using the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator from the National Institute of Health.

A healthy weight isn’t based on dress size, metabolism, bone structure, family history, stress levels, etc. – it’s based on how much weight someone your height should be carrying to prevent any weight-related health issues.  Period.

Overweight People Are More Likely To:

  • develop Type 2 diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have high cholesterol
  • develop coronary artery disease
  • have joint pain
  • have sleep apnea
  • have strokes

Underweight People Are More Likely To:

  • develop Type 1 diabetes
  • be infertile
  • develop osteoporosis
  • be anemic
  • have immune system deficiencies
  • have heart, liver, and kidney damage if anorexic*
  • have stomach, throat, and mouth damage if bulimic

(*Grammy Award winner Karen Carpenter died of heart failure due to chronic anorexia back in 1983)

Wow!  Nothing head-turning about either of these lists.  Except, perhaps, how much time is lost and money is spent on treating these ailments.

Look, how much you weigh is ultimately between you and your scale.  It should have nothing to do with fashion, a certain size, pressure from a mate, or a popular princess-to-be.  Your goal should be to be healthy.  If you need to add or drop a few pounds, then do it.

Kate in 2007

Kate Middleton in 2007

But if you’re having trouble managing on your own, it’s time to bring in reinforcements – namely your doctor, who can help you whether you’re eating too much or too little.  This is particularly important if you’re already suffering from any of the weight-related health issues listed above.  Don’t mess around with this.

So what’s the bottom line?

There can be lots of pressure to be thin, particularly if you’re often in the limelight or work in an industry that’s obsessed with low weight.  But don’t take it to extremes.  Learn from the mistakes of others (including Kate Middleton and the late Princess of Wales) and strive for good health over a certain dress size.  Because in the end, weight trends come and go, but being healthy is always in style.


  • Kathleen

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    Thank-you Diana! It is about time someone seriously looked at our fascination with skinny! I think Kate Middleton looked much better in her pre-skinny days and is now unfortunately setting a very unhealthy and unrealistic standard of skinny. I think history is repeating itself, I can only be reminded of Dianna who struggled with eating disorders and lived a life of misery because of it. I hope Kate can pull out of this before she gets seriously ill.

  • Carrie

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    Great article, Diana. Unfortunately, we’ve become obsessed with the number on the scale when other numbers – fat-to-muscle ratio, body mass index, blood pressure, etc. – really determine how healthy or fit someone is. Seeing a number on the scale you don’t like can ruin your entire day, but if you had an idea of your overall health, that number might not seem so important.

  • S

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    When your email showed up in my spam filter, I chose to read it instead of deleting. I am a size 0. Always have been. I eat in moderation, exercise regularly and am trying to age gracefully. I was excited that perhaps you were going to give some fashion tips for petites. Instead, we get this stuff that is not based in reality. This is a Hollywood problem, not a “real people” problem. Give us more reality-based stuff. I have suffered years of verbal abuse from fat people and these types of articles only compound the problem. Some of the pics you show are not of anorexics but slim people, like myself. The problem is, no one knows what a healthy weight looks like anymore because almost everyone is obese.

    • Thuy-Hong

      Reply Reply August 22, 2011

      I agreed with you completely. I am 5’3″ and 98 lbs. I have been the same weight since high school. What we really need is nutritional education on how to eat and exercise properly. Yep, I have heard comments from some people that I am too skinny too. I strongly believe that as long as we are physically, mentally healthy and eat a wholesome diet, we are at the ideal weight. Input=Output.

      Thank you for speaking your mind. I am glad there someone like me out there at a normal weight.

  • janetdarbey

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    Carrie I could not agree more. Unfortunately people go by weight and BMI as a guide to how healthy they are and both are misleading. A muscular woman who is extremely fit will actually have a bigger BMI and scales weight than one who is unhealthy and carrying more fat. Scales weight is highly unreliable as it gives no guide to lean muscle mass or even hydration levels. We need to concentrate on building muscle mass, which will actually make you look leaner than dieting down and ending up the same shape but smaller.

  • Jenny

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    Dear Diana
    I welcome your concern about body image and unhealthy weights, both overweight and underweight. And you are right to highlight the dangers of being underweight in relation to fertility.

    However please can I speak up for the many women, of which I am one, who are a *natural* size zero, who would love to be a size or two bigger with curvy busts, bottoms and hips. To be told that we ‘suck’ is rather offensive.

    It is a huge mistake to think that all skinny size 0/00 women have an eating disorder, or even diet. I eat a lot, including junk food, but I’m always thin. The body ideal of curves that you are promoting is as unattainable for women like me as size zero is to curvy women. So often I see the phrase ‘real women’ applied to curvy figures – this message that my body type is undesirable and makes me not a real woman has had a hugely negative effect on me and several of my close friends since we were teenagers (I am now 39).

    We have tried everything to gain weight, develop curves, ever since we were teens; one of my skinny friends (a natural size 00) was so desperate to please her curve-obsessed husband that she spent $8000 on breast implants. We wear padded bras to make clothes fit properly. We’ve been the brunt of cruel jokes and comments about flat-chestedness since puberty.People always say we’re too skinny – strangers have walked up to me in bars to tell me this, as if it’s any of their business. People have told my friends and I that we’re too thin to get boyfriends. Etc.

    Please don’t make naturally skinny women feel any worse, a lot of us feel pretty crappy already. All body shapes are beautiful, as long as they are natural to the person they belong to.

    Thanks for listening

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 20, 2011

      Hi Jenny & Susette,

      I appreciate your input & viewpoint. I meant no offense to the “natural” size 0’s reading this and am not saying anyone with a naturally thin build “sucks.” Like those who are petite and tall size, I realize you have your own issues when it comes to clothing and body image.

      But truth be told, “natural” size zeroes weren’t in my thoughts when I wrote this.

      No, my perspective comes from years in ballet, performing, and modeling where I encountered legions of anorexics and bulimics struggling for that elusive size 0. You know your childhood’s coming to an end when you’re lacing up your pointe shoes and have to hear a 14 year old crying over the fact that she’d been “ratted out” by the dental hygienist who noticed all the stomach acid damage to her gums during a routine checkup. Ever been called “the fat one” for wearing a size 4? I have – right after being told that the tuna, tomato, and spinach I’d had for lunch was likely the cause of my extreme “poundage” (I was 5’5” and 116 lbs at the time). Non-natural size zeroes playing like they are can be nastier than a mean drunk sometimes.

      My goal was to bring this topic to light for further discussion. We have enough unrealistic images of health and beauty icons these days that these reports about Kate’s weight and possible anorexia are cause for alarm. Not only because she has SO MANY people watching and imitating her, but also because it echoes Diana’s struggles a generation ago. I can only imagine the pressure she must be under, but to have people celebrate seeing your hip bones or collar bone? Kind of creepy. Healthy reality check required, IMHO.

  • Amy

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    Hello Diana, I would love to gain 15 lbs.. Any suggestions?? I am 5’3 115lbs always stuggled to gain.. have no eating diorders.. just cant gain easily…

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 20, 2011

      Hi Amy,

      It’s all about exercise and diet, just like when you’re trying to lose weight. Here are some tips on how to gain weight from WebMd.

  • Karen

    Reply Reply August 19, 2011

    I think this is a real problem, not just a Hollywood problem. These pictures of Hollywood zeroes are beamed right around the world and we see them every day. Worse still, young girls see them every day and many of them try to emulate that look. Hence all the pro-anorexic websites. As a society, we demand more, more, more. More cars, more gadgets, more money, more everything. Our ecomomies rely on this principle of ‘growth’. And we take that into our very own bodies. We either take it overboard eating – more more more! , or not eating – more, more, more (equals less, less, less). How do we ever fix this? Maybe one way is to every day teach our children that they are valuable no matter what they have, don’t have, look like, or don’t look like. A constant process of love and acceptance and reality.

  • Jill

    Reply Reply August 20, 2011

    Whilst I agree that extremes of weight can be dangerous, we must beware of discrimination. I am 5’6″(unsure of the metric measure here) and 45 kilos. I have a fine bone structure – it’s how I’m made! My blood tests are excellent and I eat heartily – never diet. I know I should exercise more, but I rarely eat what would be called ‘junk food’. I would agree with the comment made by S.

  • Nancy

    Reply Reply August 21, 2011

    As a comedian once wisely observed, “If the camera adds ten pounds and ten years, then why don’t those special effects geeks at Lucasfilm fix that?” What a great idea! A camera that removes ten pounds and ten years!!

  • Lisa

    Reply Reply August 22, 2011

    Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé , Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson are far better ‘real’ women role models.

  • Thuy-Hong

    Reply Reply August 22, 2011

    Why do American and Western culture emphasize too much on weight? Everyone is beautiful the way he/she is. What matters most is we are physically and mentally healthy and fit. Many people must realize that there is a different between genetically thin and anorexic. I am 5\’3\" and 97 lbs. I have an ectomorph body. I wear size 00 which used to be size 2. I have such a hard time finding clothes my size in America. In Asian countries, I am consider normal weight. Both my parents are thin and I am naturally thin. I prefer to eat anything healthy and wholesome food. I enjoy my food. I have been this same weight since I was in high school and twenty plus years later I am still at the same weight. I exercise twice a week, do yoga once a week. I have three meals a day. I have an egg for breakfast and two slices of bread. For lunch, I have a healthy and hearty meal with brown rice, chicken/turkey and vegetables. I eat something similar for dinner.

  • Thuy-Hong

    Reply Reply August 22, 2011


    I forgot to mention that I eat a lot of peannuts, almonds, walnuts, avocado and fatty fish I just metabolize efficently.

  • Kathleen

    Reply Reply August 28, 2011

    Hi Jenny,

    I just have to say that there seems to be a big divide here. It appears that people think there are only two extremes when it comes to weight.

    This isn\’t a war between thin and fat, it is a comment that the pressures in our society make many women feel like they don\’t measure up in one way or another. This leads to may problems with self esteem, especially in young girls. Over eating and under eating are two sides of the same coin and both damaging to our health. Not to mention undegoing dangerous, unneccesary surgical proceedures!

    While there are a few \"naturally size \"0\" people out there many are not. Most naturally thin people love the fact they don\’t gain weight easily and can fit in whatever they want to wear. Some however feel unfeminine and would like to look curvier.

    As a physical therapist I do have some thin clients who want to have more definition to their bodies so I suggest taking up weight training. That is a healthy way to add some curves to your frame. Real curves come from toned muscle not fat.

    Naturally thin people can have a poor muscle to body fat ratio too. Don\’t eat junk food just because you can, eat healthy good food and exercise and you will be naturally healthy. Every body can be beautiful, we all come in different shapes and sizes.

    I do agree with Diana though that there is a very unhealthy obsession out there with extreme thinness. As unhealthy and dangerous it is to be obese and overweight Diana makes a good point that eating disorders are also on the rise.

    As for Kate, she appears not to be naturally size \"0\" as evidenced by her ealier pictures, but appears to have dramtically thinned down over a short period of time. When I saw her in Ottawa, I was shocked. She is so thin she looks sick. Not at all natural or healthy. She is reportedly on a strict NO carb diet and isn\’t eating much of anything.

    I my profession I see many different body types, naturally thin people can be as healthy as anyone else. Kate did not look that way to me.

    I also deal with a fair number of young athletes and I see girls as young as 9 or 10 on diets. One young gymnast was in tears because she had her body fat measured by her coach as was told to lose some weight. This kid was 4\’10\" and weight under 80 lbs! At the childern\’s hospital in the city I work at we have a whole eating disorders unit and it is filled to capacity with a long waiting list of young women and girls destroying their health by either anorexia or bulimia.

    This is a serious problem and has nothing whatsoever to do with people who are naturally thin.

    So those of you who don\’t have to worry about gaining weight be happy that this isn\’t something you need to deal with. Live a healthy, active life and enjoy your good health.

    As for nasty comments I think every woman regardless of her size, race or looks has experienced this in her life. That is more of a problem with our sexist society that allows people to make inappropriate comments to women.

    Think of the guys at bars \"rating\" women. That is something none of us should have to put up with.

    Celebrate your natural beauty and live a healthy life. Oh and also dress well…. thanks to Diana! 🙂

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