Obsession with Size Zero

Measuring tape
Photo: © George Tsartsianidis / 123RF Stock Photo

Teenage/adolescence is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. This is a time when they begin to discover themselves, want to be more independent, desperately need peer acceptance and start developing an attitude towards their appearance. Their body starts developing at a rapid pace and is also accompanied by hormonal changes, sexual maturity and emotional bouts. Girls deposit a relatively greater amount of total body fat, whereas boys deposit more muscle mass. As per the Indian Council for Medical Research, the average growth spurt in terms of height and weight is as follows: Boys: 20-38 cm and 20 kgs; Girls: 15-16 cm and 15 kgs. Many teens fear that this weight gain is permanent but in actuality, once the physical changes during this time cease, their weight will also stabilize and go to their bodies’ natural set point without the need for dieting.

We live in a society where slim figures and beauty are highly valued and often associated with success and wealth. Some researchers suggest that the media also contributes to a poor body image among teenagers. Celebrities, models, show hosts are often seen as role models by teenagers and they start associating social acceptance with thinness. This trend started when Kareena Kapoor, the goddess of size zero, dropped oodles of weight for her look in the much maligned film Tashan. The same legacy was carried forward by Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Mughda Godse. Talk about a glam body and boys are not lagging behind. Young guys crave for the Darde-e-Disco body of Shahrukh Khan. Gyms are full of young guys and gals and protein supplements sell like hot cakes.

Now what exactly is this size zero? Size zero refers to extremely thin individuals (especially women and adolescent girls), or trends associated with them. The measurement of chest-stomach-hips varies from 30-22-32 inches to 33-25-35 inches. This kind of negative body image incites young girls to adopt unhealthy eating patterns that have collectively been termed as eating disorders. The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating. Anorexia is a life-threatening condition characterized by severe food restriction and excessive weight loss. Bulimia on the other hand is identified by binge eating (eating large amount of food in a short span of time) followed by self-induced vomiting/purging. Eating disorders are often accompanied by mood swings, anxiety, impulse-control, or substance use disorders. A research study by Bristol University showed that girls who diet vigorously to achieve a zero figure are at higher risk of decreased bone density and bone thinning. The long-term risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis due to a nutrient-restricted diet is also of considerable concern. There are many celebrities who have lost their lives to this psychological disorder.

Should youngsters worry so much about their weight?

As a matter of fact, becoming aware of your present nutritional status is definitely a stepping stone towards a healthy and successful adulthood. But for this purpose, it’s better to take professional help. Nowadays, ‘Google Baba’ has infused so much health-related information in people, some good and some misleading, that everyone out there has one or the other tip ready to puke out on striving peers! Beware of such half-baked knowledge!

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Sonia Jafin
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Sonia Jafin

Sonia Jafin is a clinical nutritionist with over 6 years of experience. She is currently working as a senior nutritionist specializing in weight management and therapeutic management of diseases through a balanced diet and lifestyle modifications.