A woman in the changing room next to me insisted on fitting into a size zero

M. Brown

Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

Going into women’s fitting rooms at busy department stores always has the potential to be interesting. There can be toddlers whining while their mothers are desperately attempting to try on clothes, people having conversations on their cell phones next to you, or even people opening your fitting room door while you’re changing because the locks never seem to function correctly.

One day, the conversation I overheard while trying on clothes was so stunning to me that I had to pause and listen. Here’s how it went:

Woman: “Hello, I know you’re busy, but can you help me? I need to find these pants in a size one. I just need to lose a little bit more weight to fit into a size zero, but for now, I need a size one.”

Saleswoman: “Okay, sure, I’d be glad to help. Let’s see what we can find here…”

Woman: “Oh, well you know I’m going to be forty-six next week, and I want to be down to a size zero by then so all these clothes will be a bit baggy on me.”

Saleswoman: “Okay…”

Me inside my head: Are you serious???

Now, I was in the changing room trying on size ten jeans at this time, and I was feeling pretty darn good about that. I worked hard for my size ten figure.

I don’t see anything wrong with women wanting to lose a lot of weight, but what I heard next disturbed me:

Woman: “Hello, are you still out there?”

Saleswoman: “Yes, I’m here, do you need anything else?”

Woman: “Yes, I need you to come in here and tell me the honest truth”

Door opens.

Saleswoman: “Oh, those look great on you, do you like them?”

Woman: “Well, as I said, I want to be down to a size zero, so even though these are tight, they should be baggy on me by next week. I think these are quite flattering on me, don’t you think? Tell me the honest truth, I’m buying them anyway, just tell me.”

Saleswoman: “Yes, they are very flattering.”

Woman: “You would tell me if these looked too bulky right? Please tell me.”

Saleswoman: “They look very good on your figure.”

Woman: “Okay, Yes, I bet you want to know the secret as to how I stay so thin?”

Saleswoman: (silence)

Woman: Well, the truth is I eat whatever I want all day long, in fact, I just had two chocolate donuts at the coffee shop next door. The secret is I work out A LOT but I love sugar. So no matter how much sugar I eat, I never gain weight. Can you believe I used to be 170 pounds!?”

Saleswoman: “Oh…. really? Wow.”

Woman: “Yeah, I know right?”

Me inside my head: Please make it stop!

Let me give you some perspective on this. The woman trying on clothes in the room next to me was pencil-thin. The saleswoman who was patiently helping her probably weighed more than 170 pounds. I felt bad for her.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe in shaming skinny people. There’s just something questionable to me about shaming your previous weight of 170 pounds — which is not too far off from the average weight of an American woman — while speaking about it to someone who is obviously much heavier than that.

The other characteristic I noticed with this woman was her absolute obsession with size and weight. Yes, I judged her. I totally did. I highly doubted everything this woman was saying about eating whatever she wanted. 

I didn’t buy anything at that store. I told myself the lines were too long. I had found a pair of jeans that fit nicely — which was rare — but I felt depleted and drained from listening to that conversation. I had a new fear — which was being close to 46 and being so obsessed with my size and weight that I was oblivious to other people’s feelings.

I can only imagine what was going on in the mind of the saleswoman. I’m sure she just wanted to run away. I’m also sure she told all her co-workers, friends, and family about this customer at the store striving to be a size zero.

All in all, I think I learned something from this fitting room experience. The main lesson was that obsessing about your size on a daily basis is not only selfish, lonely, and depressing, but the desperate need for reassurance from complete strangers is startlingly sad.

Size zero may be a natural size that many beautiful women are born to fit into, but spending all of your days slaving away, focused only on the goal of achieving size zero is not any way to live, in my humble opinion.

Being healthy, fit, and at peace with your own body is more vital than needing other people’s compliments and reassurance that you’re good enough. Especially when it’s perfectly obvious that you don’t think you’re good enough.

Size zero, you’re not my hero.

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