The Academy for Eating Disorders, an international organization for eating disorder treatment, research and education professionals, calls for a global ban on the use of severely underweight models in fashion shows and in fashion magazines, and encourages the industry to adopt a minimum acceptable height-to-weight ratio in keeping with the guidelines established by the World Health Organization.
"The unprecedented move of a major fashion show in Spain to impose weight limits on its runway models, in line with World Health Organization guidelines, is a sign that the industry is starting to take responsibility," said AED President Eric van Furth, PhD, FAED, "but we need to take this a step further to include global action."
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are potentially life threatening mental illnesses that primarily affect young women. Research shows that a combination of genetic and environmental factors triggers the onset of these devastating illnesses.
One such environmental factor is an emphasis on body shape and weight. Research indicates that the gap between the beauty ideal presented by the fashion industry and reality can have a negative effect on self-esteem. Many young women and men turn to dieting in an effort to live up to this beauty ideal. For those who are vulnerable, the combination of dieting and low self-esteem may lead to the development of an eating disorder.
Although the fashion industry does not directly cause eating disorders, it does contribute greatly to our culture's perception of beauty. The AED has collaborated with professional and patient/carer organizations from around the world to draft an international bill of rights, the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders, for people with eating disorders and their families. The fashion industry, modeling agencies and fashion magazines should collectively adopt the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders and set terms for establishing a healthy industry.