Recommended Blogs

Size zero vs size 18

'Size zero' has become one of today's most contentious phrases. To some women it's the Holy Grail, to be attained whatever the cost to their long-term health and even fertility. To others, it's the terrifying obsession of an influential few which will lead impressionable young girls to develop eating disorders. Here, two women - one size 0, the other size 18 - pose for these dramatic pictures and defiantly defend their very different body shapes.

Sasha Larner, 29, is a model and mother of two boys, Crawford, six, and Presley, three. She lives in Kent with her partner Matthew, 36, a carpenter. She has been a size zero (UK size four) for the past two years. Sasha says:

A few weeks ago, I went out for the evening wearing my favourite figure-hugging orange dress. Although it covers up my figure at the front, the dress is cut up to my thigh on one side, showing off my long legs, and the back has lots of little straps, revealing patches of flesh.

Walking into the bar with Matthew, I felt sexy and womanly and revelled in the admiring glances. My job involves people looking at me all day and I admit it's enjoyable to be appreciated by the opposite sex.

But - and I have no doubt about it - there were probably a few women looking at me not with admiration but disgust at what they perceive to be my "too-skinny" figure. I hear it from women all the time: "Do you actually eat? You're far too thin."

Well, I admit it, I am a size zero. But I like it, I'm healthy and I refuse to apologise. As far as I'm concerned, I look good, eat three healthy meals a day, exercise moderately and lead an active life looking after my two children, a house and working as often as I can. My weight - 7st 8lb - is not the result of any crazy crash diet but the result of my lifestyle as a hectic working mother.

When these women criticise me for my shape, I just ask them back: "Would you say to a large woman, 'Did you eat all the pies?." I find it offensive and insulting, and it makes me angry.

However, there was a time, I admit, when it wasn't always this way. As a teenager I was quite body-conscious, like many other young girls. Although I was a slim size 10, I still worried whether I looked good enough, especially as I harboured dreams of becoming a model.

When I was 16, I went to London to audition for a modelling school. The interviewer asked me various, quite normal, questions - what I hoped to achieve, what I was studying at school - and then suddenly asked me to strip down to my underwear and jump on some scales.

When my weight came up - 9st 3lb - the interviewer looked me up and down and shook her head: "You're a little bit big, aren't you? If you are serious about modelling, you have to lose weight." Outside, I collapsed in tears. I'd always been happy with my figure, but now I started to doubt myself.

That evening, I ran up to my room, put on my bikini and stood in front of the mirror examining my body. However hard I looked, I just couldn't see what the woman was talking about.

A few weeks later they offered me a place - which half surprised me because of the interview. But after my experience with the scales, I decided against it.

For a couple of years I trained as a make-up artist and my weight remained a steady 9st. I'd learned to be happy again and I actually enjoyed the curves that my size ten figure afforded me - particularly my C-cup breasts.

Then, at the age of 23, I fell pregnant with Crawford. It was in the months following his birth that I dropped to a size eight. I didn't eat any less, but I put it down to the stresses of being a new mother - feeding, changing nappies, being woken up in the night.

It wasn't until Crawford was six months old and I finally had a bit of time to concentrate on myself that I noticed my clothes were a bit too big. It was something of a novelty.

I'd never put any pressure on myself to lose weight, but I did get a kick out of slipping into a size eight. Also, when I tried the clothes on, I noticed how nicely they hung off my new shape.

For the next few years I remained that size, but after the birth of my second son, Presley, my weight dropped again - this time to 7st 8lb and a UK size four (U.S. size zero).

Again, I put this down to rushing around after two young children. At no point did I change my diet or decrease my calorie intake.

A couple of friends remarked that my face was looking a bit gaunt and my cheekbones were protruding, but although I took on board their comments (for a short time I had dropped to 7st and did make an effort to eat a little bit extra to get back up to 7st 8lb), I didn't think there was anything wrong with the way I looked.

In fact, I was quite proud of my 32-22-32 measurements, which are even less than the standard size zero measurements of 31 1/2-23-34.

My modelling work was going through the roof, too. Having shrunk a couple of sizes I was suddenly in much greater demand. I had a few catwalk jobs, even though I'm a little on the short side for their 5ft 8in requirement. I also found myself getting a lot more work in adverts and a huge amount of catalogue opportunities.

I think it really helps that, since getting to a size zero, my face is much more structured in terms of having defined cheekbones and so on - which is just what's needed for fashion photography. My earnings in the past two years have trebled.

Some of the other models can be a little envious. Sometimes, at the catwalk shows, they say: "I wish I had a waist like yours."

But I tell them they shouldn't starve themselves - because I certainly don't.

People are meant to be a certain way, and I think it's terrible if young girls force themselves to be something they're not. I'm not naive. As a mother, it does worry me that young girls see pictures of celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Nicole Richie - who are both painfully thin - and think they have to be that way.

When I look at Nicole Richie, who is even tinier than me, I do wonder how she could naturally be so small. She can't be eating enough.

At least I have a shape: I'm not just skin and bones. Not all overweight people are overeaters, just like not all size zero women starve themselves.

Mikyla Dodd, 29, played Chloe Bruce in Channel 4's Hollyoaks. The actress, who is single and lives in London, is 6ft, size 18 and weighs 15st 7lb. When she joined ITV's Celebrity Fit Club in January last year, she weighed 19st 2lb but lost 44lb through healthy eating and exercise. Mikyla says:

Despite appearing on Hollyoaks, this is the first time I have ever been asked to take my clothes off for a glamorous photoshoot.

Are you incredulous at my audacity in believing the British public may want to see someone of my generous proportions naked? Or are you relieved that amid the size zero hype we are spoon-fed as a misguided interpretation of attractiveness, there's an image of a larger woman looking - if I do say so myself - pretty foxy?

I hope you conclude the latter, and that my pictures are the beginning of the womanly woman's fightback.

Why are we bombarded with airbrushed images of unobtainable female bodies - and made to feel inadequate if we don't match up? The trend for women to be ever-more skinny is frightening.

So Posh has the waist of a seven-year-old. Am I to go on a crash diet and develop an eating disorder in order to be in vogue? No, I'm not. I'm a real woman, with real curves - and more than a few wobbly bits thrown in. So what?

I am perfectly content with my lot. If I never lose another pound, I will be happy. I am a desirable woman. I've got great boobs and my last boyfriend said I had a nice bum. I've certainly got no inhibitions when it comes to the bedroom. I know for a fact that you don't have to be slim to be sexy.

I was a big child. I was also greedy and loved food. I gained weight quickly because, if I was hungry, I would eat at home then visit other people and say I hadn't eaten.

However, I do wonder whether I would have been so happy if I was a child in today's society. Things are so different now. I watched the TV footage about that poor 14st eight-year old who was in the newspapers the other week and thought it was a tragedy. I don't know how his mother can look at herself in the mirror.

My weight began to seriously rocket when I was 17 and started to prepare my own food. I was eating five or six meals a day and, at my heaviest when I was 21, I weighed nearly 25st and was a size 28. It wasn't a happy time and the only thing that alleviated my depression was food.

I was in complete denial about how big I was getting. I was working in the plus-size High Street shop Evans, so I always managed to buy clothes that would fit, allowing me to sink further into denial. I was permanently exhausted. But I still wouldn't accept how big I had got.

I feel much better now that I've lost some weight - but I'd never want to be a size zero. Pictures of people like Nicole Richie in her swimwear are so worrying. They are all skin and bone, and look as though they might snap.

The size zero craze is going to leave countless young women with eating disorders. I really fear for them.

I no longer feel I should be ashamed of being a bigger woman and I've got a much more relaxed view about my appearance. Men do not want to snuggle up to waifs. They want boobs and a bum.

I hope my pictures strike a chord. I may not have the best body in the world, but it's the only one I've got - so I love it, wobbly bits and all.

Popular Posts

Past Posts