A Zero-Sum Game

Size zero may have become the magic number, but it’s a tricky one to achieve. Kate Spicer, writing for the London Times, documents her six-week attempt to become model thin—and the physical and emotional ramifications of the process. It’s not a pretty picture.

Following a plan that is used by actresses to prep themselves for movie shoots and award shows, Spicer swears off real food.

First up, the tried and tested master cleanse diet, a concoction of lemons, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and spring water, used most famously recently by Beyoncé to lose 20lb in 14 days. … Within two days I know I cannot live on this stuff while working. Am agitated, bored … have a feeble attention span. My legs … struggle to climb stairs and my head is light as a feather. At times I woozily weave rather than walk.

With food out of the picture, she begins chain-smoking. “A girl needs some kind of sensory pleasure in life,” she says,”and sex and smoking are the only ones left.” But even though she is not actually eating, food is never far from her mind. “What a strange life, thinking about food all the time but eating none. And when I do, such guilt.”

The plan works, but Spicer is passing out at the gym, unable to make it through a full day of work, and avoiding friends and family. “On this diet my happiest place is tucked up in bed alone, stomach grinding with hunger, wrapped round a hot water bottle (I am always cold) with some prescription-strength sleeping pills.”

The article is related to a British Channel 4 documentary, Super-Skinny Me: The Race to Size Zero, which follows a group of female journalists as they try different diets in an attempt to reach the vaunted size double zero. The documentary, which is set to air on April 22, has outraged some people, who fear it will glorify crash dieting.

I’m just glad it isn’t a reality show—with a modeling contract for the winner.

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