Ladies, gentlemen, readers and friends of all genders, gather round, as The Sun wants to tell us a story. It all started when former UK pop star Claire Richards gained some weight, and decided to commemorate her unhappiness with her body by… posing nude in a magazine.
Claire told Closer magazine about her yo-yo weight: “I’m obviously disappointed that I’ve put weight back on and I’d be lying if I said I was more comfortable being a size 16, but I’ve got to stop beating myself up.
“For me, staying thin is like a full-time job.”
All right. I’m all for realism. The Sun — is The Sun a tabloid? it looks like a tabloid to my American eyeballs, but I’m not sure what the standards are in the UK — decided to use this opportunity to get three of its “big but beautiful” readers to copy the image. So the Sun can then exploit their feelings about the experience for a provacative fluff piece! Oh, good times.
“Big but beautiful” here means wearing a UK size 16, and the article reminds us about seven million times that over half the women in the UK wear a 16 or larger. A UK 16 equates to roughly a US 14, for reference.
First up is Rebecca, who’s recently lost some weight. She says:
“…[A]fter seeing some holiday pictures I realised I needed to do something about my weight. I really wasn’t happy with what I saw in those photos.
“Initially I tried to crash diet and even spent three days nibbling my way through just one can of tuna.
“But I quickly realised that I couldn’t diet as I love food far too much.”
Dear, that’s not a diet. That’s an eating disorder. I know, what’s the difference, right? Joking aside, being unable to stretch a couple ounces of tuna over three days does not mean you “love food far too much”. It means it is really difficult to starve yourself. And you know what? It’s supposed to be. Wanting to eat more than a single can of tuna in a 72-hour span does not signal weakness in the face of an overwhelming love of food, it rather signals the human body’s persistent instinct to survive. And damn, thank the maker that instinct exists, because some women’s brains sure are failing to logically process the idea that starvation is unhealthy.
I don’t want to kick Rebecca too much, as she does seem to be the most confident of a dubious bunch:
“I felt wonderful posing naked for these pictures, just as I feel great lying by the pool in a bikini.
“But if you don’t have any self-confidence, no matter what size you are, you will never feel content about the way you look.”
It’s great that Rebecca is happy with her food-lovin’ body. Nevertheless, the fact that the Sun reports her can-of-tuna comment as though it is totally normal? That’s horrifying.
Next we have another Rebecca. Really, Sun? You couldn’t find three chubby-lady readers with different names? Other Rebecca says of her diet history:
“Last year I dropped two dress sizes on a protein shake diet and felt great about the way I looked. I felt people accepted me more and I enjoyed getting dressed in the morning with a slimmer body.
“But unfortunately I couldn’t keep it up and my love of carbs, especially bread, kicked in. Now I feel disappointed with myself and uncomfortable in my own body.”
Poor Other Rebecca. I don’t want anyone to feel disappointed with themselves over a really horrible and unsustainable diet, nor do I like the idea of people ever being uncomfortable in their own bodies. But again we’re seeing an inability to starve oneself framed as an individual lack of discipline. Other Rebecca couldn’t keep to a liquid-only starvation diet — keep in mind, this is the same kind of diet that even OPRAH FUCKING WINFREY, diet queen of the universe, has condemned as evil and blamed for her apparently-destroyed metaoblism — but she credits her “love of carbs” for her failure.
Generally protein shake diets amount to as few as 800 calories per day, well below the World Health Organization’s threshold for starvation (and even below the average caloric intake of a concentration camp victim during World War II). The thing is, you crave bread when you’re starving because carbohydrates are most quickly processed into energy to keep you alive. Body fat is actually quite slow to break down into useable fuel; it’s intended for long-term storage. Other Rebecca may indeed “love carbs” but one can argue that every human “loves carbs” when they are being starved, because carbs will keep us alive.
Other Rebecca won’t be looking at her naked pictures, as she really hates the shit out of her body. Which is a shame, as she looks lovely.
Finally, we have Alice, who provides a comment that serves as this article’s coup de grâce. Alice is mostly cool with her size, though she worries about her long-term health. That’s not all she worries about.
“A decade ago I was a size 18 and couldn’t find jeans that would fit me. So while my friends were looking fashionable, I was wearing trousers that my mum had to make for me. Although this was awful, it made me lose weight and realise that I shouldn’t be that big.
“But now, some High Street stores stock clothes sizes up to 32. It makes it easier to be overweight, which isn’t right.”
Y’hear that, kids? It is WRONG for fat women to have clothing they can wear. By Alice’s reckoning, we should abolish plus size clothing altogether, because the undeserved convenience of covering our nakedness is morally suspect because it enables us to be fat. Long we have wondered why so many fat people exist, and lordy lordy this young believer has SEEN THE LIGHT: we are fat because of plus size clothing.
This is an ancient argument. When Torrid first arrived on the scene, there was an absurd amount of handwringing over whether the existence of plus size clothing aimed at young people would “encourage” teenagers to be fat. The argument fails on a million levels. For example, if the sizes in which trendy clothing is available dictate the size teenage bodies are, wouldn’t the majority existence of tiny trendy clothing mean all teenagers should be skinny, even now? Also, the implication that a manufacturer of clothing who has never met you — indeed, that isn’t even a person you can communicate with — could somehow intuitively know how big you are “supposed” to be, and transmit that knowledge to you via their available size range? I am dubious, kids.
The sum total is that Alice seems to think being fat should be more difficult than it is. Given the cultural loathing already heaped on fat bodies, I’m hard-pressed to come up with ways that might happen. Maybe the beating of fat people on UK public transport should be compulsory and not just optional. It’s a start, anyway.
What makes the Sun article unfortunate is that it could have been an interesting conversation about body politics and self-esteem. Instead it’s exploitative as fuck, rounding up women with distressing diet histories and lukewarm (if not antagonistic) relationships with their bodies simply for the purpose of putting them on display and manufacturing controversy, with no criticism and no commentary, and certainly no productive discussion. The only purpose this “article” serves is to document the sad conflict millions upon millions of women feel in regard to their bodies and their relationship with food and eating. What is the point? It tells us nothing; it only underscores the existing shitfuckery that is body culture, with a side of naked plus-size women, because plus-size women must always be naked when represented in media. Hooray. Good going, Sun.
At least there are naked fat ladies in it. Look at the pictures. Just don’t read the words.