Israel bans underweight models

Passed in March 2012, on January 1, 2013, Israel’s ban on models with a BMI of less than 18.5 went into effect. This is the first government enforced weight-influenced regulation on the fashion industry. Models will also be required to produce a medical report no more than three months old (thus, requiring a quarterly medical evaluation). Additionally, advertisers are required to clearly identify any images that have been digitally altered. I say, “Bravo, Israel, taking this courageous step in the fight against eating disorders!”

At this point in time, the United States has no intention of following suit. The United States’ fashion industry is self-regulated. Steven Kolb, chief executive of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), is quoted to have said that the CFDA has, “never had an approach of mandate or enforce. We create awareness and education.”

To my recollection, the modeling industry began to take sharp notice of these industry dangers back in 2006. To refresh your memory:
Luisel Ramos, the 22y/o Uruguayan model, suffered a fatal heart attack in August 2006. She was 5’9″ tall and weighed 98lbs at the time of her death. She had a BMI of 14.5.
Ana Carolina Reston, the 21y/o Brazilian model, died in November 2006. She was 5’8″ tall and weighed 88lbs at the time of her death. She had a BMI of 13.5.
Eliana Ramos, the 18y/o Uruguayan model, died of malnutrition in February 2007. She was 5’9″ tall and a size 0. Her weight was not disclosed at the time of her death. She was the sister of Luisel Ramos (above), who had passed away the previous August.

In response, in September 2007, the Madrid city council, sponsor of Madrid fashion week, imposed mandates upon runway models. Ultimately, these more stringent mandates would have kept 40% of the models who participated in the 2006 fashion week from participating.

In 2007, the CFDA instituted the following guidelines:

  • Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder.
  • Models who are identified as having an eating disorder should be required to seek professional help in order to continue modeling. And models who are receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional’s approval.
  • Develop workshops for the industry (including models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders, how they arise, how we identify and treat them, and complications if they are untreated.
  • Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; and providing regular breaks and rest.
  • Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
  • Promote a healthy backstage environment by raising the awareness of the impact of smoking and tobacco-related disease among women, ensuring a smoke-free environment, and address underage drinking by prohibiting alcohol.
    • Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, explained that the CFDA has no intention of policing or regulating a model’s weight or her body-mass index (BMI).
    • Diane von Furstenberg: “We create inspirational images and it’s important that we don’t encourage unhealthy behavior. We can promote health and encourage it, empower women and give them role models not by how much you weigh but by de-glamorizing models. Few women can become models and it lasts for a short time. Yes there is a problem and because we are in the business of fashion and image we can help.“ Ultimately, von Furstenberg explained that the responsibility lies with the agencies, not the designers.

What do you think about all of this? What do you feel is the appropriate way to address the dangers of the modeling industry? Should there be mandates? Who is responsible for making them?

About Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

Jodi graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY at New Paltz and earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University. In addition to over a decade of work as an LCSW and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist with individuals, families and groups in her private practice, Jodi is a NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer and created Destructively Fit®, a training that addresses eating disorders within the fitness industry. She is a former director of Day Treatment at The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders and a founding member of Metropolitan Psychotherapy and Family Counseling Practice. Jodi also specializes in infertility and has served on the Clinical Advisory Board of Seleni Institute since its inception. Jodi is the creator of a curriculum on eating disorders for the Graduate School of Social Work at New York University and has been teaching this course, as well as guest lecturing in the NYU Post-Master’s Program, since 2007. Jodi actively lectures and teaches students, families and professionals throughout the metropolitan area about the etiology, prevention, treatment, assessment and work with eating disorders. Through psychotherapy and supportive work with adolescents, adults and families, Jodi works to create a secure sense of self, increased self-esteem and a healthy relationship with self and others. She works with an eclectic person-centered approach and tailors her practice techniques to the unique needs of each individual. Please feel free to contact Jodi directly in her Greenwich Village office, 212.529.5811. View all posts by Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

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