Is a 14-year-old girl really fat if she can't fit into a size 10?
September 5, 2009 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Is she fat? A question about a fictional British girl and whether or not she would actually be considered fat.

I'm currently reading Julia Bell's Massive about Carmen, a fourteen year old with a nagging mother who is constantly on her about her weight. In the book, her mother despairs when Carmen finds it difficult to fit into a size ten. It's made clear that in the book that her mother has an eating disorder herself.

As a non-Brit, I'm curious if Carmen would be considered fat as an English teenager, since in my opinion she seems pretty thin if she is just above a size ten. But I'm not familiar with the cultural expectations for English teenage girls in terms of their weight. It's also hard to tell for me since Carmen spends a lot of time in the book eating junk food.

I'd love to have some insight into this as it seems a fairly crucial distinction to understand the book properly.
posted by so much modern time to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
British dress sizes are smaller than American sizes (so the American equivalent of a UK size 10 would be an 8 or even 6). So that's pretty thin. I was a teenaged size 8-10 (American) at my largest weight, and only my bitchy mother considered me overweight.
posted by availablelight at 6:50 PM on September 5, 2009

Womens 10? (Or girls?) And how tall is she?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 7:06 PM on September 5, 2009

Barring some very odd proportions, she would not be considered fat.
posted by decathecting at 7:12 PM on September 5, 2009

A UK women's dress size 10 would be an American size 4: 35" bust, 28" waist, 36" hips. Without knowing how tall she is there's no way to know if that would be slender or stocky.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:15 PM on September 5, 2009

Response by poster: Good point about her height. Unfortunately, it's not stated what her exact height is, but it seems that she's not particularly tall, but then not particularly short, either.
posted by so much modern time at 7:23 PM on September 5, 2009

Response by poster: She's a woman's size 10; the scene between Carmen and her mother occurs when Carmen can't quite fit into clothes from Top Shop.
posted by so much modern time at 7:24 PM on September 5, 2009

UK women's 10 is US women's 6, not US women's 4. (It's either AUS women's 8 or 10, depending on the manufacturer, and it's an EU 38 and a Japanese 7).

Even so, unless she was unusually short, she wouldn't be considered "fat" by anyone other than her anorexic mother. (Which I think is the whole point of the book, actually--Carmen's whole world view is shaped by her mother's obsession with thinness. The story would be less effective if Carmen was actually someone who most people would think of as even a tiny bit chunky.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:42 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok, so let's say she's about 5'5" tall (a pretty unremarkable median height for a modern Western woman). I don't know about UK sizes, but as an American size 10, I'd put her around 160 lbs, maybe? A poster above has equated a UK size 10 to a US size 4, in which case she'd probably be in the 125 pound range. Neither of those is obese by any means. American size 4 is on the small side of normal, and size 10 is probably a little on the bigger side of normal, but not what you'd reasonably call "fat" at all. So it sounds like her mom is being mean- maybe the puberty growth spurt is alarming her. Here's a photographic height and weight chart you could refer to for a clear visual of sizes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:49 PM on September 5, 2009

Where was your copy of the book published? Because if it's been 'americanised' for publication in the US, the '10' could mean an American 10, ie a UK 14, which would probably be fat for a 14 year old.

But yes, a UK10 is not fat. Topshop sizes are also on the small side, and they don't carry many things about a UK12.
posted by girlgenius at 7:50 PM on September 5, 2009

Because if it's been 'americanised' for publication in the US

It hasn't been; it's size 10 in the Picador edition as well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:02 PM on September 5, 2009

A UK size 10 isn't fat, as other posters have pointed out, it is the same as a US 6. For a 14 year old girl though, it probably means she's got a few curves already and is the size of a grown woman, while many of her peers are still flat chested and lanky. This phenomenon of adolescence tends to cause unrest between unbalanced, perfection-driven mothers and their daughters.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:42 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Even if you are about to die of starvation induced organ failure, there is bound to be someone out there who still thinks you're fat. It doesn't matter if the girl is actually 'fat' or not, it's about the relationship that her mother's anorexia brings to her own body. She could be a twig and it would be the same.
posted by Jilder at 1:28 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Top Shop goes up to 14 in the UK so I am guessing the sizes in your copy have been Americanised.

I was a teenaged size 14 and yes I was considered fat. I'm recovering now though.
posted by handee at 3:49 AM on September 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers for this! Later on in the book I found out that she was indeed a UK size 10 at 114 lbs, and it is more of a matter of the mother's perception.
posted by so much modern time at 10:05 AM on September 6, 2009

Clothing sizes means little to those of us who are taller than average, shorter than average, or who have body fat distributions outside of the fashion norms. Furthermore, clothing size numbers change across manufacturers, cultures and eras (and clothing size preferences are just as changeable).

What is more important than worrying if someone fits the "fat" label or becoming anxious over the number attached to the clothes she fits into is worrying if someone is actually healthy. Is she physically fit and active? Is her immune system healthy? Does she eat a healthy diet? Does she live/work/play in toxic areas?
posted by Piscean at 1:20 PM on September 6, 2009

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