In an earlier post, I discussed the issue of the kind of dieting women do not to get from "fat" to "normal," but from "normal" to emaciated. The kind of disordered eating that is standard-issue for women who ostensibly could take "worrying about weight" off their list of concerns, and worry about something else - international tragedies, career and family, what color to paint their toenails... the possibilities are endless.
In the comments to that post, there was some dispute over what constitutes a legitimate weight-related concern. That is, when will a woman actually benefit, in some tangible way, from attention to calories and portion size, beyond what's necessary to more or less maintain a natural-ish set point?
What seems to be the case is that there's a size at which a woman becomes no healthier and no more attractive if she loses weight, yet her non-emaciatedness, which serves as proof that she, well, eats, is classified - by the woman herself, by other (dieting/disordered-eating) women, or by (sadistic) men - as problematic. Not problematic insofar as weight loss would in some way improve the woman's looks. More like, women are expected to be careful about their diets, to feel guilty for eating bread/meat/pasta or other non-salad, non-yogurt items, and a woman whose physical appearance suggests having perhaps opted out of that game (although of course plenty of women of all sizes are dieting and exercising like crazy to be as they are) poses a threat to... to other women's desire to play the game? To men, who want to keep women down? Who knows. Women in this category would be laughed out of town (or accused of failing to own their privilege) if they referred to themselves as anything but thin, yet there is this substantial pressure on such women to be thinner still.
So we have the Sartorialist (via, and note the mention of "Sart's" fellow fashion-blogger girlfriend referring to her beau as her "weight-loss coach" because he tells her what to eat - delightful as always; more coverage here), with shots of a woman who has the audacity to blog about fashion at maybe a 4 rather than a 2, patronizingly declaring,
The subtle thing she achieves so successfully in these two looks [in photos, the woman has on massive platform heels] is to complement the sturdy but beautiful shape of her legs with an equally strong shoe. A daintier shoe would be overpowered but these shoes create a beautiful harmony for the lower half of her body.Ah yes, thin-but-not skeletal women do best to wear thick stilts, because they're just a pair of kitten heels away from grotesque. Just... just... yes, heels can be slimming, and the wear-something-thick-at-the-ankle-to-give-the-illusion-of-slimmer-thighs strategy is nothing new, and explains why every so many years, flared jeans and '70s shoes make a comeback. The Sartorialist, for all his alleged fashion expertise, has highlighted a well-known phenomenon, not discovered something new and interesting about "proportions." But it is supposed to be some kind of rule that if a woman fails to reveal no body fat whatsoever, she has to wear massive clunkers on her feet, as though with a more delicate footwear choice, she'd positively stomp through it, crushing the poor ballet flat to bits. (In a classy touch, "Sart" features this woman, a blogger, he notes, without linking to her blog or providing her last name.)
But that's from the world of fashion - at a good remove from the sphere (so to speak) of models themselves, but it's true that, especially with the prominence of fashion blogs, those who write about fashion are held to an unusual standard. So consider that in a "Well" blog thread responding to the question of grown women with eating disorders, we have a commenter with no known association with fashion, unconvinced by a previous commenters claim that "Dropping a size does nothing to help society, and frankly, does not make your own life any better either."
I disagree with the latter part of this statement. My life has vastly improved since I lost weight. I didn't even lose that much - 15 lbs off a small 5'2" frame to put me around 100 lbs. But I was previously "pleasantly plump" while I am currently "fit" or "wiry" depending on who you ask. ALL areas of my life have improved - career, relationships, general life efficacy, you name it. Strangers, male and female, of all ages, are even nicer to me. It's a very strong reinforcer, and there are many days when I wonder if losing more weight will make my life even better.Let's see. I get that bodies are different, and the same height and weight might appear as slimmer on one person than another, that a woman used to being a particular size who "balloons" up to Weight A will feel different about that weight than will one of the same height and proportions who struggled to get down to the same. So I will not go as far as to say that because I am and have for my entire adult life been something like this woman's "fat" size, and would be hauling myself to zee Parisian psychiatrists if I became concerned that I was fat, that this tells us anything definitive. But unless this woman's "extra" 15 pounds were contained entirely in a double chin, it's hard to see how, at her "heavy" weight, she presented as anything but slim. Not thin enough for the runway, but this isn't a concern a woman who's 5'2" and old enough to mention "career, relationships, [and] general life efficacy" should take into account.
I will toss out a wild guess and speculate that the positive changes this woman experienced are 90% her own thrill at being some arbitrarily-chosen weight, 10% the approval women get from others who are equally weight-obsessed for having "accomplished" something along these lines, for having asserted her membership in the just-a-salad club. Or maybe it's exercise endorphins. Oh, and she's probably wearing more form-fitting clothes, and confusing the fact that tight pants turn men's heads with some kind of transformative effect stemming from her weight loss. (Side note: leggings-as-pants never really caught on in Paris, but one of the few times I saw a woman in those, the male head-turns they inspired were quite something.)
Women in our society who are in fact overweight/fat/heavy, who lose weight, get compliments and witness a spike in male attention, perhaps career prospects. This is not in their imagination, and this is why we refer to such a thing as sizeism. Thin women who lose weight and claim to see this effect are witnessing something easily attributed to other factors (explained above), and are projecting the genuine concerns of heavy women onto themselves. In extreme cases, they imagine that they really are fat to begin with, which is what leads this particular woman - who is already, as another "Well" commenter points out, below BMI-normal - to write, "there are many days when I wonder if losing more weight will make my life even better."
And who's to say it wouldn't? Maybe she'd be so happy to weigh as little as she could before keeling over that if she was informed that a side effect of toeing that line was keeling over, she'd consider it worth the risk. It's a bit like the ex-gay who gets more pleasure out of thinking of himself as a heterosexual Christian than he would from an actual sex life with another man. The problem in both cases is not at the individual level - who's to say what works for individuals? - but once these broadly-speaking ridiculous goals get imposed on the general population, as they have in both these cases.