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Fashion

Is Thin Back In?

Credit: Shutterstock/BLACKDAY

Like clothing, body shapes and sizes have proven to come in and out of fashion almost cyclically. The bodies shown in media have been getting steadily smaller in recent years. Both the nineties and 2000s clothes are trending again. While it’s not always true, thin bodies are often shown and centered within these trends.

Six women all similar in size, in jeans and tank tops
Credit: Shutterstock/oneinchpunch

The Trend Cycle and Bodies

It is natural that these style eras are back “in” due to the nature of the fashion cycle. Trends observably repeat and revamp themselves every twenty to thirty years.

Styles from the late 90s and early 2000s, such as heroin chic and McBling, heavily romanticized drug and party culture and eating disorders. For example, supermodel Kate Moss was notorious in the 1990s for her fast and hard lifestyle. She is often associated with the emergence of heroin chic. Many still consider her a cultural icon today due to her controversial drug use and low weight. Moss is responsible for the infamous 2009 quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

The Rise of Ozempic

Ozempic, a GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist) used to manage diabetes, was approved for public use in 2017. It gained popularity as a weight loss drug amongst celebrities in late 2022 and has since skyrocketed in off-label usage. Many celebrities who previously embraced larger bodies and promoted body positivity are openly losing weight at rapid rates.

When asked her opinion on the matter, eating disorder therapist Rachel Goldberg said, “At the moment, the body positivity movement is definitely facing challenges because of the new GLP-1 medications. Many people who had previously embraced body positivity and even had very large social media followings have now reconsidered their stance. Some have even been accused of being traitors or sell-outs because they have begun to receive compensation for endorsing the use of these medications.”

Celebrity Influence

Many celebrities are supporting the pendulum swing back toward thinness as the beauty standard. Reduction of Brazilian butt lifts, liposuction, extreme dieting, and off-label Ozempic use are rapidly increasing in popularity amongst those in the public eye. In 2022, Kim Kardashian wore an archive Marilyn Monroe dress to the Met Gala. In her red carpet-interview, Kardashian publicly bragged about losing a large amount of weight in a short time frame to fit into the dress.

Image of Kim Kardashian in a pink dress
Credit: Shutterstock/DFree

“I tried it on, and it didn’t fit me,” Kardashian said. “I said, ‘Give me three weeks,’ I had to lose sixteen pounds for today… I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein.”

While the public opinion of this statement was overwhelmingly negative, it still set the tone for the next few years.

The Impact of Social Media

Social media usage among younger generations has created a new breeding ground for niche communities. Many communities center themselves around aesthetics, including fashion and diet. While this may seem positive, it can be dangerous, considering the undertones of disordered eating and drug romanticization that exist in these realms.

Platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter have well-known communities of pro-anorexia and pro-drug use people. Several communities overlap with the fashion and/or diet communities.

In the past decade, body-positive and body-neutral movements have also started to form on these platforms. Unfortunately, this does not stop negative content from displaying itself to young people. In fact, a resurgence of thinly veiled anorexia content began a few years ago. Young and impressionable audiences often favor this type of content, and platform algorithms push it to them incessantly.

Pro-Ana Content

Many social media users post about their disordered eating behavior in a way that shares tips and creates competition. Thinly veiled content about young women’s diets, goal weights, body shape, and exercise routines circulate constantly. More blatant types of fat-phobic content exist in the form of jokes and memes. These types of content extend beyond the eating disorder community.

Influencers and celebrities promote pro-anorexia content constantly, both advertently and inadvertently, by participating in trends such as “What I eat in a day” videos. In these videos, influencers count calories and joke about being “big-backed” when they snack. Their participation idealizes this behavior to their fans and followers.

Reaction of the Public

The shifting tides regarding body positivity elicit varied reactions from people. Some think it’s important to center health in the conversation. These people argue that weight loss is a personal journey, and it’s important to monitor one’s weight.

 On the other hand, some people believe the normalization of extreme thinness is a dangerous, slippery slope rooted in the misogynistic ideal of making women smaller. These people worry that diet culture and jokes about fat people are causing insecurity in children.

@georgiarosecurves

Is anyone else absolutely sick of these? Parents havibg their kids do it with them and shit too. Makes me sad #bigback #bigbackactivities #trend #plussize #fatacceptance #plussizeedition

♬ Big Backs Unite – knotwin
Plus size content creator @georgiarosecurves discussing the power of these trends.

User @georgiarosecurves on TikTok said in a recent video, “Really? It’s 2024, and y’all can’t think of better jokes? You’re just going to take low-hanging fruit and make fun of people that have different body types than you?…This shit pisses me off so bad because I know there are some little kids crying over this shit.”

Health Risks

Ozempic triggers a hormonal reaction that curbs hunger and slows the metabolism. Long-term use is similar to bariatric surgery, but it can cause issues such as gastroparesis (paralysis of the stomach) in people who are not diabetic or obese.

The implications of Ozempic on diet culture are also rather negative. Eating disorders become more normalized as thinner and thinner bodies appear in the media and on the street.

Gastroparesis and eating disorders can cause symptoms such as depression, extreme weight fluctuations, constipation, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, acid reflux, etc. These symptoms can take over a person’s life.

Overall Influence

There are critics and those who continue to advocate for body positivity— some who protest the idea of the new drugs and argue that accepting these medications for weight loss is moving the movement backward and bringing back stigma for people who are fat or overweight. Overall, I think it remains to be seen how this will play out, but it is possibly bringing more people into the middle of the spectrum, with the embracing of body neutrality and health being more relevant to the overall picture.

Rachel Goldberg, founder of Rachel Goldberg Therapy
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