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Being a zero takes on a new meaning: the body image battle continues

Vanity sizing results in negative body image
Vanity sizing results in negative body image

J. Crew has raised the stakes in the uphill battle against unrealistic body pressures: the triple zero. The company says that this new pant size is a merchandising tool to address the Asian marketplace — where women often possess a naturally slender frame. But is the company’s newest vanity size irresponsible in a society in which girls and women struggle daily with unrealistic body pressures?

Reaction on social media engines, such as Twitter have been immediate. Responders have posted comments such as “Sorry, what? Just shop at Baby Gap and call it a day,” and “People are criminal who want women to be the size of a twelve year old. Fitting a 00 or 000 requires them to be anorexic, bulimic or starving.”

The National Eating Disorder Association concurs. In a press release sent out last week, the eating disorders advocacy group stated “Zero is not a size.”

The organization’s president Lynn Grefe said “We are disappointed that J. Crew is competing in the race to achieve a new low in marketing. which promotes poor self-esteem and dangerous weight-loss behaviors. The company’s new, 000 sizing will only triple the practice of unhealthy dieting in a society obsessed with skinny.

This obsession with thinness results in both men and women engaging in behaviors aimed at reaching unreasonable weight goals, key among them, symptoms associated with anorexia and bulimia.

As many as 10 million females and 1 million males have an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 15 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder. For various reasons, many cases are likely not to be reported. In addition, many individuals struggle with body dissatisfaction and sub-clinical disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. More than 80% of women state they are dissatisfied with their appearance.

“Sadly, some of those vulnerable to eating disorders will compete to fit in this new size.” Grefe continues. “And, others will be subjected to even worse self-image challenges, because they can never achieve such an unrealistic goal naturally.”

While many people are influenced by sizing, younger women are particularly at risk and are among those in J. Crew’s target market.

“The National Eating Disorders Association would welcome the opportunity to meet with J. Crew’s senior management to educate them on the damaging effect this type of marketing has on consumers, particularly our youth,” Grefe says.

The peak onset of eating disorders occurs during puberty and the late teen/early adult years, but symptoms can occur as young as kindergarten.

How can you help? While it is often difficult to combat this type of marketing, it helps to remember that size does not define us. Healthy body image means accepting one’s natural body, without extreme efforts to change it.

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