In an effort to promote healthy body image, the French fashion industry has passed a charter of good conduct regarding the use of models in promoting healthy body size. The charter, supported and signed by the French minister of health, recommends the fashion industry to promote “diversity in the representation of the body, avoiding all form of stereotyping that can favor the creation of an aesthetic archetype [ideal body image] that is potentially dangerous to [youth]”. Those members of the fashion industry who signed the charter also are pledging to participate in preventative actions that would discourage idealization of unhealthy body sizes and also plan to increase public awareness about the “risks linked to extreme thinness.”
In addition to the charter, French parliament is considering a law project aimed at preventing anorexia. Possible implications of the law include fines and jail time for individuals involved in promoting eating disorders, such as on pro-anorexia (“pro-ana”) websites or in fashion ads.
Other countries have begun to address the weight of top models in the fashion industry. Spain, for instance, has banned from fashion shows models with BMI’s (Body Mass Indexes) less than 18. Milan (in Italy) bans models less than a BMI of 18.5.
The World Health Organization and other health agencies classify a healthy BMI as 18.5-24.9. Someone who is 5’8” tall with a BMI of 18.5 would weigh 121 pounds. However, ideal body weight for a woman with medium/regular bone and muscle structure is around 140 pounds. So, there is considerable variation in what might be classified as healthy. And, it is important to note that BMI is not the only determinant for the diagnosis of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are multi-factorial, life-threatening mental and physical illnesses that involve a complex interlay of emotional and physical issues. Many individuals with eating disorders (or simply disordered eating) go undiagnosed or untreated and may suffer with a life-long battle with food and weight issues.
Here are some facts that may surprise you:
- In the US, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
- Millions more are suffering from binge eating disorder.
- Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder – the majority of deaths are due to physiological complications.
- An estimated 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.
- An estimated 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
- The majority of people with severe eating disorders do not receive adequate care.
For more statistics, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
For eating disorder/disordered eating treatment in the area, contact the Southlake Center
Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published April 20, 2008 in the Statesville Record and Landmark.