(Beth Ditto, above - the poster girl for ignoring Size 0)
As a teenage girl, I have had times where I have been self-conscious of my body. It does not help in the least when your classmates are groping their 'podgy bellies' and complaining, when you and they know full well that yours is much larger and wobbly than theirs. When your peers can still fit into a My Little Pony t-shirt from the kiddies section and you're struggling into those skinny jeans which are far too short and far too tight for you (and this is from the supposed Petite section), it hardly fills you with confidence in your own physique. However, stepping back from those niggling worries, which would I rather be - size 00 (a rare UK Size 2) or a UK Size 20 (US Size 16)?
Personally, weight has been an issue with me for some time. I have never been capable of remaining a constant weight because I just love food too much - and not necessarily the good foods; I detest most fruit and vegetables and crave cheese, chips and chocolate. I also rarely exercise - at the moment I am no longer attending martial arts classes and do very little other physical activity other than what is dictated by the government. Because of this, not only is my skin a landfill site, but I changed from size 4/6 (US Size 0/2) at 12 to a size 12 (US Size 8) at the age of 14. For someone south of five foot, weight gain shows tremendously. After a huge summer diet last year, I am now at size 10 (US Size 6), but this is continually changing in both directions with the shifting tide of a rumbling stomach.
Before I hit the scales with significantly more weight than I was used to, I was a staunch believer in being proud of your weight - and that involved not dieting or changing yourself for society. However, I caved in. Why? There was the obvious feeling influenced by others around me who had a much slimmer figure, concern expressed by my parents who saw me do nothing but shovel down food - but I did feel ill. At my UK Size 12 peak, the excess weight brought on perpetual hunger, sluggishness and was a factor in becoming ill over two holidays in the summer with an infection, and ultimately having to spend a couple of days in hospital abroad. I knew I had to make a change in my diet, as the type of food I was constantly digesting was turning me into a bleary-eyed, green-hued person I didn't want to be.
Taking an outsider's point of view on weight, there are plenty of examples in the media of thin supermodels - Kate Moss and Lily Cole but to name two. Their waif-like bodies were 'practically made for catwalk' - the clothes are advertised on their bodies in a way we class as an art form. However, just one image of a model in a swimsuit with her ribcage and backbones protuding through her skin really brought home to me that the designers are flaunting their latest creations from the way it hangs, rather than the way it is worn. The question of whether we should ban size 0 models from the catwalk is a non-existant one - designers build their name on constructing clothing for the impossibly small-waisted and those with thighs no wider than their knees. Take away thin models and you take away the industry.
However, looking at the heroin chic that's becoming more popular in recent times, there is almost no healthy way to go about obtaining that 'perfect' size 00 figure. Either it's the nil-by-mouth route, which has led to the death of three South American supermodels, or drug use. Either way, the body cannot take lack of food or injection of drugs - an adult, female human being is not meant to have the waist size of a seven-year-old girl. It inevitably spells disaster for the mind and the organs.
Fortunately, there is a 'big girls, you are beautiful' movement at the moment. Progressing from the celebration of women's curves, powerful and larger ladies like Beth Ditto are being hailed as the new ideal role model - she's lovable, she's a little mad onstage and she's not paving the way for thousands of emaciated teen girls. A new fuller figure is being reported as the way to go - a stand against the disfigurement the conventional fashion industry brings.
However, with an obesity epidemic hitting the western world, should we really be encouraging this? Beth Ditto herself has stated in an interview with music magazine Uncut that she exercises and eats no little or more than her friends do, and likewise with exercise. Yet some people may misinterpret larger ladies in the media as a green light to an unhealthy lifestyle. Let's not forget that whilst not eating at all leads to organ failure and death, malnutrition is the more silent killer, leading to diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. It seems that either stance we take on weight in the cut-throat media, we are sentencing this generation of teenagers and the next to health problems, insecurities and an early grave.
Relating back to my choice to go on a diet, however, I believe that the most important decider on what weight a person should be is health. It is not just to starve yourself if you cannot concentrate on other areas of your life as a result, yet is it not acceptable to gorge yourself and as a result develop arterial disease. Therefore, I urge people to look out for your own wellbeing. If your diet is resulting in mood swings, fatigue or a poor immune system, change it. Ensure you get the recommended amount of carbohydrates and protein in your diet - it's not too hard to have grilled fish for lunch and wholemeal pasta for dinner.
As for the catwalk debate, size 0 models should not be banned - but designers who only support the skin-and-bones style of fashion should be fazed out as model agencies should be forced by law to ban models with a BMI of lower than 18. Responsible model agencies should encourage models to eat more by arranging light meals before catwalk shows, denounce drug use (taking any model who is not willing to go into rehab off their books) and encourage exercise so that models are heavier due to larger muscle mass and so look and feel healthy. Models and teenagers alike, please don't put down that cream scone just yet.