Aiming to curb anorexia

April 16, 2012

Israel says working fashion models cannot be underweight. How can the U.S. lessen runway influence on impressionable teens?

The downside of rail-thin runway and swimsuit models is the effect they have on women and men who want to look that way. Unless genetically blessed, it’s just not natural for most people to eat healthfully and have such skinny bodies.

Yet the fashion industry and pop-culture media influence many people to the point they compromise their health. Eating disorders are common in the United States: Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders, said the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, which cited a Renfrew Center Foundation study.

A few additional nuggets from other credible sources cited by NAANAD:
•    Only one in ten men and women with eating disorders receives treatment
•    95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8
•    25% of college-age women binge and purge as a weight-management technique
•    Just 5%-15% of those with anorexia or bulimia are male

Attempting to quell eating disorders in its nation, Israel passed a new law prohibiting the employment of underweight models. The United States probably wouldn’t legislate such a requirement—though The Lempert Report would advocate some different imagery by the fashion industry and pop-culture media, as a way to relieve pressure on impressionable youth and protect them from potentially dangerous dietary behaviors.   

To do a photo shoot for the Israeli market now, models must produce a medical report no more than three months old that states they aren’t malnourished according to World Health Organization standards that mandate a body mass index of at least 18.5, reported the Associated Press.

Two recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover models—Bar Refaeli of Israel in 2009, and Kate Upton of the U.S. in 2012—exemplify beauty without extreme thinness.  They are better examples of proper weight management in our view, with looks that more teens aspiring to copy could possibly achieve while eating and exercising without excess.