Upon her introduction to the A4 challenge, also known as the Paper Thin challenge, Andrea Miller, a GTA-based registered dietitian, called the activity that has gone viral on social media “crazy.’
To win, an A4 sized piece of printing paper, which is 8.3 inches/ 21 cm wide, must completely conceal a person’s waist when held up against it.
The trend appears to have started circulating in China before gaining momentum in North America and parts of Europe, causing a clash between cultural beauty standards.
Some women are retaliating against the challenge by holding papers in front of their bodies with messages countering the social pressure to achieve extreme thinness.
I got some body positivity for y’all. I heard of this crazy new challenge called the #a4challenge #a4paperchallenge or #A4. Or something like that. The point is like they hold a paper to their waist and see if they are as thin or thinner than the top of the paper. If you are that’s great! But there is no need to shame anyone who isn’t that small. So here we go #notpaperthin 😊 -Kady
#notpaperthin #A4Challenge #NotPaperThinAndProud A photo posted by Ash Ochko (@aw_its_ash_) on
Miller says that “being a smaller body size and frame is genetically more common in Asian women” but that does not excuse the health risks the challenge may impose.
“Anytime we’re measuring our worth against some arbitrary measurement, [it] is not a healthy thing to do,” she says. “There won’t be a positive outcome on that.”
Kia Khadem, a Toronto based personal trainer, says that the trend is challenging people’s perceptions of a healthy body.
“You can be thin but still have emotional [and] physiological issues that we can’t see. That’s giving the impression to people that if I’m thin I’m going to be healthy but that’s very far from the truth,” Khadem says.
Fan of the paper test, British YouTuber, Oghosa Ovienrioba, claims to have experienced years of body shaming for being too thin.
Ovienrioba says the movement allows people to see that there are different standards of beauty in each culture and that beauty is not restricted to just one image, and references the “thin waist and larger hips” models that she’s been encouraged to mirror.
However she acknowledges that “the problem with the A4 challenge is it is blinding women to what their body shapes naturally are. You don’t have to be a certain body shape to be beautiful.”