Fashion Industry Taking Steps to Promote Healthy Body Image Among Women

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 juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

Published April 20, 2008 in the Statesville Record and Landmark.


Learn to Love Yourself the Just the Way You Are

But I Want Yours!

“I wish my hair was curly like yours!”

“No way!!! I wish I had beautiful straight hair like yours!”

This conversation is almost universal. It seems that we all want what we don’t have—or perceive that we don’t have. Whether it be straight or curly hair, blonde or brunette, blue-eyed or brown-eyed, tall or short, full-figured or thin, everyone seems to want what someone else has.

The problem with this phenomenon is that it leads to a negative body image. Instead of seeing yourself as beautiful, you see yourself in a negative way. You focus on what you don’t have instead of what you do have. This kind of comparison to others always leaves you feeling badly about yourself.

Why Does It Matter?

Having a good body image is good for your health. When you feel good about your body, you can feel good in other areas of your life. It works the same way with a negative body image—a bad image leads to feeling bad in other areas of your life. In fact, a negative body image can lead to many different problems such as:

  • Emotional distress
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • And more

If you have a negative body image, you are not alone. And it is no wonder. Television commercials, print ads, movies, and even children’s toys bombard the population with the “perfect” body image—typically quite thin and young. These advertisements lead you to believe that if you aren’t the perfect shape, you will not find happiness, love, money, health, or enjoyment.

This message couldn’t be farther from the truth. You don’t need to have your body be a perfect shape—instead, you need to have a healthy body. And guess what? There is no perfect shape for health!

You don’t have to change your body to be happy. Instead, you simply need to change your mind!

Although this may take a bit of time and training, it is possible. And the outcome will be well worth the effort.

The first thing you need to do is realize that you have a unique body. There is not another one in the world that looks just like yours. Even if you are an identical twin, there will be some differences, no matter how small. Your unique body is your very own. No advertisement or friend or even family member can tell you what your body should be like. In the end, you only have to satisfy yourself. Yet still—this is no easy feat!

So the next step is to learn to stifle those negative thoughts. It is tempting at this point to try to come up with excuses for why this simply isn’t possible for you. If you catch yourself thinking in “Yes, but” terms, such as “Yes, but my unique body is too thin” or “Yes, but my unique body is too heavy” or “Yes, but those women in the advertisements really ARE beautiful” then you need to know that those “yes, buts” are bad news! They are nothing more than negative self-talk, and they will never get you to your goal of healthy body esteem.

Simple Steps for Increasing Positive Self-Talk

The only way to get rid of negative self talk is to replace it with positive self talk. Let’s learn how.

  1. First, become aware of what you are saying to yourself each day. How many “Yes, buts”? How many negative things? The best way to figure this out is to write down what you say to yourself for a few days.
  2. Now, take that list of negatives and write down a positive thought to replace the negative one. Be very specific. For example, if you said, “I hate the way I look. Everyone that sees me thinks I am ugly.” The positive could be something like, “I accept the way I look and focus on being the best me I can be.”
  3. Your list will now have what you say most often to yourself as well as new things to say instead. It is time to cross out the negatives! Use a dark marker and cross through each negative thought while reminding yourself that you are choosing to think different thoughts from this moment on.
  4. Read your positive statements several times every day. If you find that you have a negative thought in your head, simply tell yourself “STOP!” Then replace it with the positive thought you now have. If a new negative thought arises, write it down, come up with a positive and realistic thought to replace it, and then cross out the negative. Over time, the negative thoughts will happen less and less often and the positive thoughts will come to you effortlessly.

How you feel about yourself is something you CAN control. It is all up to you. Rather than see yourself through the eyes of a world overly-fixated on an artificial and narrow standard of body shape and size, see yourself through your own eyes and be happy with what you see. You can do it and you will be happy that you did.

Kimberly Krueger, MSW, LCSW is a therapist and the founder and director of Southlake Counseling and The Center for Self Discovery in Davidson, NC. Kimberly may be reached at kkrueger@centerforselfdiscovey.com. This article may be used but original content must be kept in tact and full credit must be given to author, including contact information.