The definition of ‘beautiful’ is constantly changing in our society – particularly when it comes to women’s body shapes and sizes. The 1950s, for example, called for Marilyn Monroe-style hourglass curves, while the Nineties favoured a waif-like, extremely thin frame as embodied by Kate Moss, the muse of that decade.
But body positivity became mainstream in the early 2010s, and practically the entire female population breathed a sigh of relief as the idea of celebrating our bodies – exactly as they are – became popular. Curvier models started to occupy runways and advertising campaigns and plus-size singer Lizzo became a global icon.
Many of us, myself included, believed that we had finally escaped the largely female-targeted grip of body ideals.
But more recently, there’s been an undeniable and worrying shift towards thinness. For all the progress that’s been made with inclusivity in the fashion industry and the celebrity sphere, there are signs we might be reverting to the ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ days of the 2000s.
Is the current revival of Noughties' fashion partly to blame? Possibly. Low-rise trousers, cut-outs and Miu Miu-inspired mini skirts are the fashion trends du jour, and designers seem to be reverting back to waif-like, typically thin models to display their take on these styles; the spring/summer 2023 catwalks were noticeably lacking the size diversity of past seasons.
Celebrity influence is also at play: the Kardashians are said to have had their BBLs (Brazilian bum lifts) reversed for a less curvy, more slimmed-down physique, and Kim Kardashian has lost a noticeable amount of weight recently. It’s important to note that we can’t lay blame at the feet of a single individual, of course, but the impact that she has on societal norms and trends is undeniable, and this conversation wouldn’t be complete without exploring that influence.
We may not know all the details about why she lost the weight, and it may well be due in part to the stress surrounding her very public break-up that included child custody issues. However, the impact of this sudden and dramatic weight loss will undoubtedly have inspired others, particularly because she has openly spoken about the fact that she chose to lose weight in an unsustainable way in order to fit into a dress.
Another issue at play with this re-emerging idealisation of thinness is the pharmaceutical industry. In September, Variety published a story titled ‘Hollywood’s Secret New Weight Loss Drug, Revealed’ about the sudden and dramatic rise of Ozempic, a drug prescribed for type 2 diabetes that also can lead to significant weight loss. Like the headline suggests, it has, allegedly, become incredibly popular among the celebrity set and has been described as "the worst kept secret in Hollywood".
But, even more sinister is that while the popularity of this drug might have started in Hollywood, it doesn’t end there: the keyword ‘Ozempic’ recently went viral on TikTok and now has more than 300 million views, with users trying to get their hands on the drug. Healthcare professionals have now spoken out to warn against the trend and advised people to stop using the drug for weight-loss purposes – particularly given the now inevitable impact on shortage of Ozempic for people who have diabetes type 2 and require the medication for their health.
Ozempic isn’t the only weight-related content to thrive on TikTok – the platform is chock-full of weight-loss tips, body transformations, ‘what I eat in a day’ videos and, most concerningly, body-checking videos.
Body checking is, according to Heathline, "the habit of seeking information about your body’s weight, shape, size or appearance". Essentially, it involves obsessive thoughts and behaviours around your body – like frequent weighing, pinching fat and checking yourself in mirrors. Body checking trends to have originated on TikTok recently include assessing the size of your wrist by seeing how many fingers fit around it, or judging waist size by whether or not a pair of wired headphones can reach around you. It’s terrifying, especially given the demographic of TikTok users – the majority are aged 18-24.
All things considered, it’s not a stretch to say that thin appears to be back in. And here’s the thing: ultra-thinness is just not achievable nor sustainable for the vast majority of women. For many, it requires constant surveillance of calorie intake, food restriction and an intense exercise regime, none of which are healthy – mentally nor physically – and can lead to disordered eating, body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders.
Ultimately, body shapes and sizes should never be trends; we shouldn’t aspire to look a certain way just because it’s fashionable. Plus, body trends come and go; the only thing we can safely count on is ourselves and the body we were born with – and the only thing that really matters is looking after it. We cannot allow ourselves to be consumed with trying to emulate something we’re not, and comprising our wellbeing in order to do so.
I know it’s easy to get swept up in attempting to fit in with trends, but please remember that that’s all it is: a trend – and one that will go out of fashion as quickly as it came in. Block out the noise and concentrate on you. Your body is good enough exactly as it is and you are good enough exactly as you are. And remember, how we look is the least interesting thing about us; what really matters is nothing to do with appearance, I promise you.
Thin might be back in, but we can opt out.
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