Anna Cooban wonders whether the size zero debate has gone too far.

Size zero and the skeleton culture promoted within today’s modelling industry have sparked furious debate over the messages this sends young, impressionable women.

The effect these emaciated models have on the malleable minds of teenage girls is, undeniably, a significant one. Only a fool would disagree that anorexia should not, under any circumstances, be allowed promotion within our susceptible society.

However, has hypocrisy within some strands of the media pushed this debate too far? What was once a healthy celebration of the female form has now morphed into a vicious criticism of many naturally skinny women.

Deemed “vile” and “sickening“ in some quarters, natural slimness is at the epicentre of recent image critique and the blame must lie at the feet of the ever-growing raft of women’s magazines. Their hypocrisy and eagerness to jump on the bandwagon are the epitome of the mixed message. By endorsing adverts featuring the very models they berate, these publications continue to contradict themselves.

Heat is just one of the weekly magazines which is all too willing to brand celebrities “skeletal” whilst numerous modelling campaigns grace their pages and it would be commercial suicide for these magazines to relinquish the vast amount of advertising revenue they receive over such an ethical dilemma.

It is this hypocrisy which begs the question: Is the answer to boosting the self-confidence for one body type really to demean, criticise and condemn the body type of another? Can we not all accept that women really do come in all shapes and sizes? This saying has, of course, been used many times in women’s magazines along with the exhausted phrase “real women have curves”.

It is frustrating to say the least, that a particular strain of body now constitutes as a “real woman”. You simply cannot state that a woman’s shape is undefinable and then proceed to define it.

As a consequence, it now appears women are no longer pressurised to become the emaciated doppelgangers of supermodels; subliminal coercion means that they’re now pushed into fulfilling a body type complete with ‘curves’.

Only this year did actress Lindsay Lohan come under fire over “protruding ribs” and “prominent cheekbones”. In January, www.showbiz.sky.com established a poll asking “is Lindsay too skinny?” – thus allowing website visitors the opportunity to assess Lohan’s physical predicament and subsequently pass judgment.

It’s no mystery then as to why celebrity decline is such a common occurrence when their bodies are repeatedly scrutinised and judged by the world’s media (and the readers who appear to revel in it) – who feel it their obligation to analyze every physical affliction they may bear.

Unfortunately, a new bar has now been set through modern editorial techniques such as air-brushing, which ever-expands the boundaries of attainability whilst constantly challenging women to reach the lofty heights of so-called ‘perfection’.

This then plays a stark contrast to singer/songwriter Beth Ditto, 28, who in March adorned the cover of LOVE Magazine. The clearly obese Ditto was dubbed by www.showhype.com as “curvy, plump and proud”. Since when did morbid obesity amount to ‘curvy’? This woman is promoting nothing less than an unhealthy, dangerous body image – the very image the media are so quick to condemn the modelling industry for endorsing.

Katie Grand, fashion stylist and editor-in-chief of POP magazine spoke of Ditto’s latest venture: “She is a very good, positive role model. There is something about her that makes everybody say, ‘I’d like to be like that’.”

It’s a shame that influential figures such as Grand continue to assert these opinions that masquerade as fact. What can possibly be “positive” about an overweight singer being hailed as a crusader for women’s bodies due to a penchant for fatty food?

Nevertheless, body dismorphia in all its forms, but particularly anorexia, are indeed serious problems. In the UK alone, one in 100 women aged between 15 and 30 suffer from this mental illness which disfigures the sufferer’s body image leading to dramatic weight loss and, in cases, death. Alice Rae – a Hampshire teenager with everything to live for and who had been offered a place at Cambridge – died in 2006 after succumbing to this unforgiving disease. Incidents like Alice’s are sadly echoed throughout modern society and are likely to continue as long as the public is bombarded by these media endorsements that only serve to fuel anorexic tendencies.

There are many culprits in this debacle and while magazines will argue they are merely serving the wants of their readerships, is it not their responsibility to now take a stand and put an end to this body fascism?

Surely a compromise would be for these magazines to applaud all body types, not criticise one for the purpose of complimenting another. It is time for all shapes and sizes to be both accepted and celebrated.