A decent primetime ITV documentary, then
The Truth About Size Zero was on two nights ago. Watched it last night. It was an hour and a half long (albeit about 20 minutes if you forwarded over the adverts), and thus a big commitment by ITV to a burning issue that concerns me less because it’s about fashion, more because it’s about the media, who are, after all, in bed with fashion. In it, Louise Redknapp, formerly Louise Nurding, formerly Louise, footballer’s wife and Clothes Show presenter (I didn’t know that, but I can’t say I’ve followed her career in much detail since she stopped being a singer and started being an FHM cover star), aimed to get her not-considerable weight down to the fabled Size Zero in 30 days. For the unitiated ie. me, Size Zero is the American conversion of our own Size 4, for some reason. I don’t know too much about dress sizes, but I know that Size 4 is tiny, because Size 8 is pretty slim in itself and Sizes 12 and 14 are medium. For the record, Louise began as a Size 8 and didn’t look to me like she had much to lose. Her footballing husband, Jamie, said he liked her “curves” and rued the day she decided to do this experiment in the name of shaming those that crash-diet.
This was Super Size Me in reverse, and much less sensational and LCD than you might expect from the channel. I’ve read on Clair’s blog that this wasn’t an original format, having been done on BBC3, but I didn’t see that one, so it was new to me. Basically, Louise seems a likeable young woman. She and Jamie and their baby were filmed around their house, which although spacious and with its own gym, was a world apart from other footballers’ houses I’ve seen the interiors of, which are ostentatious and cold. When the Beckhams had that documentary crew in, the most telling thing was that clearly neither of them ever used the kitchen. I believe that Louise knocks up a stir-fry or pasta dish for her family. Anyway, she went to LA to be trained at Barry’s Boot Camp, and after seeing a Harley Street doctor who told her not to do it, and that she would get bad breath, started a new dietary regime: no carbs, one-egg omolettes for dinner, a bit of salad, some steamed fish and a side order of nothing. The endless gym sessions, morning and night, combined with the no-laughs diet, knocked pounds off her (she went from 7 stone 10 to 7 stone 3 in a week); it also made her irritable, tired, vomity, jealous and pissed off. She started shouting at her fat bulldogs when they’d done nothing wrong.
The change was palpable. Ignoring a slightly-staged warning from her doc halfway through to stop, she made it into a Size Zero dress after a month and looked like a grey, hollow-eyed, knackered apparation of her former self. The programme constantly snapped back to rostrum shots of skinny models and actresses with their bony chests, concentration-camp arms and that frightening gap between the legs – as if their limbs have been screwed into the pelvis too far apart – and you couldn’t help but see some kind of conspiracy against women. Louise visited a clinc for young girls with eating disorders, the youngest of whom was a recovering anorexic aged 12 (yes, 12). It was interesting that all of these girls were well-spoken. Is the eating disorder a product of Affluenza? Jamie Redknapp spoke for all heterosexual men when he said he loved Louise for her curves (these “curves” of course, are relative – but his point is sound), and that he didn’t know a single bloke who fancied stick-thin women. Nor do I. But then, we are talking about models and film stars, the sort of people who wear high-fashion clothes in public, and are thus unwitting – sometimes witting – victims of a multimillion dollar industry’s tyranny. Clearly a nice new dress will actually look best hanging on a wire coathanger, so turning women into walking, pouting bone versions of the same is good for fashion shows. Here’s a controversial thought: is it because most male fashion designers are gay? (You will probably tell me that dresses designed by women are just the same. But why are women made to look like long, thin boys? That whole Sophie Dahl thing lasted about two weeks, didn’t it?)
Hats off to Louise Redknapp, anyway, for putting herself though hell and hating every minute of it. And don’t feed your bulldogs pasta.