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The Fashion Industry Battles Anorexia

“Anorexia nervosa is a medical condition in which an individual reaches fifteen percent under their expected body weight. The average model is twenty- three percent below their expected body weight” (Thompson). The fashion industry today is filled with women wearing sizes zero and two. Young girls aspire to be just like these women, a feat that is unattainable while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Anorexia is on the rise and the fashion industry needs to step up and show girls how to be healthy and beautiful.

People with anorexia have an unexplainable loss of appetite. The main cause of anorexia is a diet that spirals dangerously out of control. Anorexics usually attempt to limit their calorie intake to 200 or 400 calories per day. This is considerably low since the average person requires two-thousand calories per day to maintain a healthy lifestyle (Cotter 10). The effects of anorexia are alarming. One in ten people who suffer from anorexia die, due to starvation, cardiac arrest, or suicide (Hoffman).

“Eating disorders have more than doubled since the 1960s”(Terzieff). According to a Philadelphia-based Renfrew Center Foundation survey, 47 percent of U.S. females between fifth and twelfth grade say they wish they could lose weight. Also 60 percent of the same group say that magazines influence what they think of the perfect body type (Terzieff).

Everyday young girls are bombarded with new diet ads, ensuring them if they lose weight they can be happy. While they flip through their favorite magazine, size zero and size two appear on every page. Young girls believe this is normal and that everyone should be able to achieve the “media’s perfect body image.” The media is shaping the minds of young girls around the world.

Tyra Banks often talks openly about the pressures to be thin that she faced while in the modeling industry. She says that “she’s happy that she doesn’t have to live up to that model standard anymore.” Natalia Vodianova (a former super model) also says that “After I started modeling I began to hate my body- no matter how thin I got.” These are perfect examples of how the fashion industry forces young girls to be to thin (“Skinny Scandal” 149). This is not healthy for the models, or for the young girls looking up to them.

The fashion industry constantly refuses that they are at fault for any health related issues. Yet, Janice Dickinson (a former super model and now an agency owner) said “I’m dying to find kids who are too thin. I’ve got 42 models in my agency, and I’m trying to get them to lose weight. In fact, I wish they’d come down with some anorexia” (“Skinny Scandal” 149). The industry is constantly pressuring young girls to lose weight. Usually a healthy diet just does not show the results the models need so they resort to not eating at all.

The fashion industry also claims that there is no evidence that correlates them with anorexia, yet many young models have died of anorexia related problems. Ana Carolina Reston is a young model that passed from this terrible eating disorder. The size six model started modeling in Sao Paulo, Brazil where she was told she was too fat. She was determined to make it, so she secretly stopped eating. On November 14th of last year, she finally got her big break. She was on the cover of magazines all across Brazil and the world. “Soon she made headlines across the globe, not for her modeling but for dying of anorexic related problems.” Reston went from a size six to a size two and the change was blatantly obvious. She began to feel pain in her kidneys around October. Later the doctors found out she was living off tomatoes and fruit juice. She was admitted to the hospital on October 25. She spent her last 21 days in an intensive care unit. Her death certificate reads cause of death as “multiple organ failure, septicemia, and urinary infection” (“Everyone Knew she was Ill”).

Reston was not the only model to die from an eating disorder. Weeks before her death Luisel Ramos “suffered a heart attack thought to be the result of anorexia.” The model was a size 00, or the typical waist size of a seven-year old (“Everyone Knew she was Ill”). Also in the same year, three South African models died due to anorexia-related problems (“Skinny Scandal”).

Not only models are dieing from anorexia, employees at the Cygnet Hospital Eating Disorder Unit see deaths and hardships everyday. These people strongly believe that the fashion industry is a huge component in the continuing increases in cases of anorexia. One patient said “You look at them and think, God, I wish I looked like that.” An employee commented “Seeing waif-like models didn’t cause their disorders, but they certainly exacerbated the process.” Also, Bryan Lask, one of Britain’s leading authorities on eating disorders was quoted “The massive increase in eating disorders in the last twenty years has to be attributed to the pressure to be thin” (Henry).

The fashion industry should follow several examples that some institutes have made. On September 13, 2006, Madrid Fashion Week set a ban on underweight models. This was the first time a large-scale fashion show set a weight limit in a healthy direction. In order for models to be in the 2006 Madrid Fashion Show, they needed to be in alliance with the “World Health Organization guidelines for healthy height-to weight rations used to calculate a person’s body mass index, which estimates the portion of fat in the body” (Terzieff). Organizers of the Madrid fashion week wanted to “project an image of beauty and heath, rather than a heroin chic look.” The Madrid’s regional government placed the rule that stated no models under a BMI (body mass index) of eighteen would be allowed to participate in the Madrid Fashion Show (“Skinny Models Banned”).

The decision by the Madrid government turned controversial quickly. Thirty percent of the models who formerly participated in the show were disqualified under the new rule. The fashion industry immediately split into two groups, those for the new rule and those against. Cathy Gould, New York Agency Director, stated “The ban was outrageous and discriminatory to naturally slim models.” Even though the ban didn’t change everyone in the fashion industry mind on what is healthy, Milan, Edinburgh, and India, hosts of premiere fashion shows jumped on the band wagon. They placed the 18 BMI rule in their shows immediately after the Madrid incident (Terzieff). Madrid Fashion Week made a positive impact on the fashion industry and encouraged good health around the world.

The fashion industry should follow the examples of the shows that require a healthy living rule. The industry is setting an unattainable ideal for young girls around the globe, causing them to fall into a trap of low self esteem and self doubt. Lynn Grefe, the executive officer of the Seattle-based Nation Eating Disorders Association, says it best “The worst part is that the images being portrayed in popular culture are completely unrealistic, airbrushed, manipulated….while putting a lot of pressure on young people to look a certain way” (Terzieff).