Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More than the Models

Naomi Hooke tells her story in the Independent about her experience with anorexia, how it almost killed her and why she's convinced it's not about the skinny size <0 models on the T.V. and in the pages of the glossies.

My fall into the dark world of anorexia was never influenced by fashion or waif-like celebrities, though I knew others whose recovery from life-threatening illness was indeed hindered by the Western world's culture of thinness. I believe that the British Fashion Council's guidelines will go some way to protect the models themselves (of whom 40 per cent are said to suffer from eating disorders). However, I see problems both with the approach taken in Madrid of banning models with a BMI under 18.5, and the recent health certification scheme proposed in Britain.

Although BMI can offer a crude measure of physical health, it can never quantify psychological distress. Despite popular belief, low weight is not the only danger of eating disorders. There have been times in my life in which my BMI has been in the healthy range and yet my eating behaviours and mental state were far from healthy. I would starve myself for days on end before my body gave in to the pains of hunger and I would binge, after which I would feel so disgusted with myself that I would make myself vomit and/or cut myself with razor blades.

This story reminds me to always consider more than the obvious blame-issues surrounding a social problem. The easy answer isn't always the only answer and sometimes it's not even the right answer. It disgusts me to no end that girls and women are absorbing images of unhealthy women and often thinking they are an ideal body type, and it disgusts me to see the cut and tucked and photshopped bodies and faces on the covers of magazines with headlines like, "get skinny" and "how to have perfect skin" and the complete lack of real women with real skin and real bodies in the media. Even at the end of Naomi's article, I am still pleased to hear that the fashion industry has begun to take some steps to encourage models to have a healthier BMI, and I hope it will be reflected in the magazines and on the television. I also hope, though, that girls and women who read Naomi' article and are suffering from anorexia are encouraged to reach out to get help and understand the broad range of issues that may be surrounding their illness.

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