Conventional wisdom suggests that, when it comes to female happiness, thinner is always, always, always better—that once you whittle yourself down to a perf size 2, all of your problems will disappear, celery will begin to taste like donuts, and Twiggy circa 1967 (the happiest woman e'er to stride the earth!) will slide down your chimney and pay off your student loans. Female happiness achieved!
Recently, however, a British clothing retailer commissioned a study to discover SCIENTIFICALLY at which dress size women are their #1 happiest. Turns out, conventional wisdom is a sham. (More like conventional jizzdom amirite.)
The study's 2000 respondents revealed their dress size and how they feel about their appearance. Seventy-four percent of women who wear a British size 16 (American size 12) say they're happy with their appearance—a higher percentage than any other size, and twice as high as the size sixes.
Here's the Daily Mail:
Half of those whose weight has fluctuated in the past three years, reveal they were at their happiest with a fuller, size 16 figure (49 per cent).
Indeed, the research found 52 per cent of size six women would like to be curvier.
...The survey results show women sized 14 to 18 [American 10 to 14], have a more positive frame of mind when it comes to their appearance.
In comparison, those sized six to 10 are much more critical of their look, with just 59 per cent saying they are happy with their appearance.
...The findings also suggest size six ladies are often envious of those with curves, with a third (35 per cent) wishing for a fuller figure because it's considered sexier.
They also feel curves would make clothes more flattering (31 per cent), and one in four (24 per cent) say it would improve their body confidence.
It's a shame, of course, that so many women derive their self-esteem from a construct as subjective and normative as what's "considered sexier." Feeling sexually attractive is great—if you're into sexual attractiveness—but basing all of your self-worth on external validation is a pretty huge gamble (the world is kind of a dick) and a great way to wind up feeling worthless. Figuring out how you can love you no matter what is like a magic trick, because then there's always someone around (just hangin' out right there in your brain-case!) who thinks you're the bee's knees. Having Nigella Lawson's curves wouldn't make you magically happy any more than they made Nigella Lawson magically happy. Nope, the only surefire way to like yourself is to goddamn like yourself.
When people try to tear down body-acceptance activism, it's usually some variation of, "Hhhnnnnggggg, you're just trying to FORCE MEN to be attracted to garbagey fat women AGAINST OUR WILL." Which is such a bizarre argument, because body acceptance is not about you. It's about me ditching you altogether and liking myself wholeheartedly in your absence. If it were about you then it would just be the regular way that we train women to think about their bodies. We've already tried that. It sucks. (Also, FYI, you and I will never have sex.)
All that aside, though, this study (small in scope and commissioned by a plus-size clothing company as it is) is heartening! The takeaway isn't that being a size 12 or 14 or 16 is some mathematically "perfect" formula for instant joy and contentment—it's that those middle-of-the-road sizes are simply, naturally common, and trying to make your body be something it's not is a formula for frustration and unhappiness. Women can be just as happy at a size zero if their bodies want to be a size zero. I suspect that this study's results have more to do with the absence of 24/7 shame and restriction than they do with the presence of a flawless hourglass figure. Starving is miserable. Obsessing over numbers on a scale is miserable. Fighting your own body is miserable. Hating yourself is by definition miserable.
It doesn't mean "go out and get fat"—it means "give your body a break, man." If you can let go of societally-imposed ideals (and making "curvy" an ideal can be just as damaging as "thin," by the way) and just be like, "Oh, I exist—thanks, body!" it frees up so much of your time and mental energy for legit self-care. You can pick out clothes because you like them, not because they're "flattering." You can hang out with your friends without wondering if everyone in the restaurant is judging you for ordering the salad with tortilla strips on it (Cliff's Notes: nobody gives a shit). You can focus on your health for health's sake instead of grinding away toward some arbitrary (and potentially dangerous) aesthetic standard that your body fucking hates.
Your goals can change from, "I want to look like [X person who I will never look like because they are not me]!" to "I WANT TO CLIMB A MOTHERFUCKING MOUNTAIN." Or, "I'm totally going to run that 5k as soon as I finish watching all seven seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street." Or, you know, whatever level of goal-setting you're comfortable with.
Point is, this shit doesn't surprise me at all. No justice, no cheese. KNOW JUSTICE, KNOW CHEESE.