Seeing through the ‘Paper Thin’ challenge

A trend circulating on social media challenges female physiques to fit behind a piece of A4 paper

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.

#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.

Other strange body challenge trends:

Thigh gap: For this, girls displayed the space between their thighs as a sign of physical fitness.                                         Collarbone Challenge: This required fitting a roll of coins on your collarbone was meant to show a healthy balance. Belly button challenge: Involved wrapping one’s hands around the body and reaching the belly button to prove thinness.                                                Waist trainer: Led to people squish their organs in a contraption designed to shrink their waist.                                  Bikini bridge: The time the space between one’s pelvis and bikini strap formed a gap with the imaginary strength of a bridge.

“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.”