The ‘hench girl’ obsession is just as dangerous as size zero

Whether it’s thin or stacked, being addicted to how you look is never healthy


The size zero craze has always been a huge part of the 21st century fashion industry. For many years, runways have been dominated by spindly legs and jutting out ribcages: gaunt, painfully thin girls and their pained, dead-behind-the-eyes grimaces.

For a while, it was a norm. Shops mirrored the runways with their sizings and models, magazines fat-shamed any celebrity above seven stone and thigh gaps were top of most girls’ Christmas lists. Sadly, fashion is a mirror, and the stick-thin ideal became very dangerous.

Online, pro-anorexia websites started to appear, where girls would boast about their militant starvation and encourage each other to keep on going, sharing tips on how to fool their parents and survive on diets of celery and crushed ice. Social media sites like Instagram became huge driving forces for the promotion of being thin, with hundreds of accounts dedicated to clean eating and Transformation Tuesdays.

As awareness of these disturbing trends reached breaking point, the fashion industry took much of the blame and it was soon recognised something needed to change. In 2006, Madrid and Milan both banned underweight models from their fashion weeks and Victoria Beckham did the same for her 2010 New York fashion show.

Obviously, the size zero craze is never going to cease to exist entirely, but as the industry changes so does society, and there has been a huge shift in attitude. Now, there is an unsaid stigma attached to being excessively thin, and the skin and bone look is no longer something that is openly encouraged. Hashtags like #thinspiration have been written off as appalling, and skinny-shaming has become a thing. Gradually, the grapefruit diets and weighing scales have merged into a new trend of girls purporting to be “strong, not skinny”.

Punishing workout regimes are just as dangerous as starving yourself thin

Celebrities like Millie Mackintosh regularly share workout videos of themselves lifting weights in unthinkable positions, and Vicky Pattison has even released a new line of protein supplements. Muscle-toned limbs and six-packs have become the summer 2015 vibe, which is fine when applied to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

As with the size zero obsession though, this focus on a strong, muscly look is now developing an unhealthy, cult-like following. Facebook events are popping up every day with new workout challenges and Instagram feeds are full of Ludwig-tinted abs and carefully assembled food prep. Gone are the days of #thinspiration. Instead, hashtags like #girlswholift are making an appearance, with gym bunnies posing in their lifting gloves and sharing recipes for their protein cakes.

Their accounts, and their lives for that matter, are becoming dedicated to the pursuit of muscle. Health-wise, it may not be as harmful as size zero but it still isn’t okay. Ultimately, it’s replacing one extreme for another, and encouraging any unrealistic body image to the point of obsession is a bad thing, whether that’s being really thin or really muscly.

We get it, you work out

It isn’t a case of which we find more attractive either, or which is better for us. There’s a reason we have to work so hard to achieve these looks: our bodies aren’t designed to mould themselves so extremely.

Any lifestyle so devoted to the pursuit of an exteme body image is a dangerous one, especially if it comes at the cost of forgetting what else there is to live for. Yes, we should be living healthily, but we should also be going out and having fun, eating food because we enjoy it, and not believing we are defined by the way we look.

Nobody should end up looking back on the best years of their life and only remember hours of meticulously preparing food, obsessively checking their Insta for likes or sacking off their mates to make gains. Obviously all of these things are fine in moderation, but this addictive body image culture is damaging and unnecessary, in whatever form.