Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Is Our Fascination With Being Thin?

Super Skinny Women On the Fashion Runways

This was supposed to be a rant. It would have been a good one, too, if I had kept my focus.

In fact, I was on the road to Feminist Rantsville over pictures of emaciated women that make me gasp, like the ones above.

Then I got sidetracked.  Happens a lot.

As I looked for an appropriate picture for the post, I viewed a number of thin women from Jennifer Aniston to Victoria Beckham to supermodels like those featured in the picture above.

The more I looked, the more fascinated I became.  I even got sucked in and found myself thinking, 'I wonder how long it would take to get that thin?'

Me, an avid student of 'The Beauty Myth' and 'When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies.' 

I know, Bad Feminist! Bad Feminist!

Inner Critic has never been happier.

B-man and I talked about this, even though I was embarrassed to tell him I had been lured into thin thoughts.  

He pointed out that many of the male models in his Esquire magazine are also very thin.  We looked at his most recent issue and quickly went from 'ewww' to 'huh, interesting.'

As we opened our minds, I had to wonder, what is the line between thin and Too Thin?

And what is it about being thin that attracts us?

For me, it represents power and control. 

And also freedom.

During my thinner times I have felt, if not happier, certainly more energized.  And, of course, it's wonderful to wear anything in any style at any time. 

The power thing?  Maybe it's all in my head.

But today, instead of finding my inner rant, I found myself jonesing to be thin. 

Don't tell anyone.

Photo from


  1. Is that first image on the left REAL? How could anyone ever find that attractive?

    I used to have what I think is a typical relationship to food for women -- kind of a subtle ongoing battle. Not a war, but a back & forth. Some underlying hostility.

    Now, I am forcibly skinny due to a gluten intolerance. I used to occasionally eat for the sheer pleasure of eating. Now, because the number of things I can eat is greatly reduced (I'm mostly vegetarian), I really only eat when I'm hungry, because my menu gets kind of boring. I guess this is what it was like for most of human history -- food wasn't always available, so you ate plentifully when it was, and that was that.

  2. I won't tell anyone if you don't. ;)
    I've always wanted to be thin (even when I was, how you never appreciate that when you're a teenager) and even now, when I look normal (and fall exactly in that category by my BMI), I still get the urge to be thinner.
    Not anorexic but thinner (3-5 kg less would be exactly right).

    Although, I do have to admit that not eating brings a strange peace to one's mind and at one point you lose the urge to eat much. I was on a very strict diet once and after 2 weeks I felt so light and great but that couldn't have lasted too long because I missed both alcohol and then some stronger food.

  3. Hi Elisa - I don't know how skin and bones is attractive, or how the woman on the left even keeps walking.

    Interesting about the gluten intolerance changing not just your eating but your thoughts around food and pleasure.

    Food has been a source of comfort for me the past year, sometimes the only thing that felt right. Now I'm ready for some kind of shift toward feeling more connected to my body again. Perhaps we are meant to go through cycles with food, since it is not optional to omit it from our lives.

    The relationship continues...

  4. Ines, thanks for your comment. I am also in that normal, boring BMI stage, but know the fun of being thinner, too. And that's really all it

    As I mentioned in the post, I don't remember being happier or feeling more attractive when I was smaller. However, I did enjoy a wider range of clothing styles and felt...peppier, for lack of a better description.

    Still, I'm not about deprivation, so wine and cheese will always fit into my life.

  5. Josephine, you hit the nail on the head when you said "...I did enjoy a wider range of clothing styles..."

    I too enjoy food and drink, and although I need to get into shape (I'm a little weak these days because I haven't been out in the yard, walking, etc due to winter), I have finally come to an understanding that for me it's more about acceptance (I'm 51 yrs old now) and enjoying myself as I am.

    And looking at old photos of myself when I thought I was fat - that young-me was adorable!

  6. I think it is intolerable that we accept these images . I don't know a single man who would like those women. When you can afford all the food we want maybe that is boring and "common" . I think common is the word going through fashionista's heads.Whilst in the third World they die in agony from starvation.

  7. I can only speak for myself, as a man, and say with absolute certainty that thin women, like those pictured here, are a total turn-off for me. I much prefer women to be naturally the shape they are genetically destined to be. For some that may be a bit bigger or chunkier, and that is perfectly fine. I'm not saying that any man or woman should simply 'let' themselves go. Fitness and health are a good thing. But honestly? Give me some curves - and if there's a bit of flab, cellulite or stretch marks, what the hell. Most women have them. It's normal for God's sake, and not entirely unsexy in moderation. Just my opinion, but I suspect far more men feel this way about women than is generally let on, particularly by the fashion magazines that airbrush women to death.

  8. Hi Angela - I believe you are right about these shocking images and perhaps, also, about an abundance of food being considered common. It may be the extremity of it that some find appealing.

    Thanks for your comment.

  9. Michael, your comment mirrors that of all men in my life, and you say it so well. People are interesting partly because of their differences, shapes included.

    I feel the very same about men; extreme thinness is a huge turn-off. I would prefer a little extra weight if I had to choose.

    Like most other things in life, I suppose body size is all about finding the balance that fits.

  10. Hi Frida - thanks for your comment! You and I are the same age, and I also like living my life in acceptance of my body and many other things.

    Also, I want to spend my thinking time on topics of meaning, and I'm not sure my size is one of them. Nevertheless, I hope to find a bit more balance in that area. Then it requires no thought at all.

  11. Yeah, those pictures are pretty sickening. I read that fashion models are anorexic because designers are gay men and want their models to look like boys. I sense some exaggeration there, but there has to be an explanation for it.

    A lot of men like skinny women, and a lot don't. For me personally, it's always been about health. I lost 15 pounds recently and am taking a personal trainer certification course. But still, I'm a size 8 and will be lucky if I get to a 6. I've always been big-boned. Some people are genetically heavier than others, and there isn't anything they can do about it.

    So yeah, most people will never be a 2, but rarity is always prized the most. Just like diamonds.

  12. Hi Joan, you make an interesting point about rarity. And gay male designers.

    After writing this post, I was thinking of all the women I admire (older and younger) and realized that their body size is of no consequence to me. Neither is it tied to their success or the respect they receive from others.

    This is good for me to ponder at those times when thinner seems better.

  13. I have abandoned the desire for a perfect figure (not that the desire was all that strong anyway) and replaced it with an equally delusional desire that's easier on my self-esteem: I want to be able to afford a tailor. A custom tailor that will create gorgeous architectural clothes for me that will convince the viewer that my existing shape is perfect.

    Meanwhile, I wear rumpled black, eat fried chicken, and urge myself to ride my tricycle and go to the gym occasionally.

  14. Josephine, thank you so much for this. Truly. As a not-so-recovering anorexic, I think that "power and control" are the keys to this "thin" fascination. Where one cannot exert them over the world, one exerts them over the self-- and damn the cost. (But there is a cost-- to everyone.)

  15. Chickenfreak, I love your tailor option! "Clothes...that will convince the viewer that my existing shape is perfect." Nice!

    The last year has been a time of hiding out and comfort. Food has certainly been part of that. I'm ready for something new...

  16. Olenska, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your realness and think you are right about exerting power and control over ourselves when we cannot exert them over the world. Weirdly, some of that is healthy. It's knowing when we've crossed the line that's tricky.

  17. My weight goes up and down according to levels of work stress and preoccupation with absorbing tasks, which can mean I forget to eat. However, I do enjoy my food when it's in front of me, while these pictures are quite horrific. I am quite skinny on top and comparatively well padded below the waterline. I'd really like to upend myself like an hour glass, and redistribute some of that weight up top, especially in my face!

  18. Hi Vanessa - yes, wouldn't it be nice if we could evenly distribute our weight wherever we want it? I, too, fluctuate to some degree, but I'm generally okay with that. I do love food and wine, but trying always for moderation and balance.



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