Study Shows How Common Disordered Eating Is Among Models

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The fashion industry has long been criticized for promoting eating disorders by overwhelmingly featuring extremely thin women in fashion shows and advertisements. Now, these claims are being backed up by research which says many fashion models live with eating disorders and the constant pressure to conform to dangerously thin ideals.

“While acknowledgment of disordered eating within the fashion industry is not new, our research study shows the lengths that models are willing to take to achieve the industry’s physical ‘ideal,’ and the extent to which models feel pressured by their agents and other industry professionals to compromise their health for their job,” said study co-author Sara Ziff. She was a Harvard graduate student while doing the study.

For the study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the team of researchers surveyed 85 models. Of those, over 62 percent reported they had been asked to lose weight or alter the shape of their body by their modeling agency, a casting agent, or another industry professional within the past year.

Over half of those models (54%) said they were warned they would be unable to find work if they didn’t alter their body shape, and 21% were told they would be formally dropped by their agency. Over 9% were explicitly told to get plastic surgery.

Out of all the models surveyed for the study, more than half (56%) said they had skipped meals, 52% had fasted, 24% had used weight-loss supplements or diet pills, and 8% had forced themselves to purge.

In a news release, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Claire Mysko said, “Developing an eating disorder typically begins with a diet, with 35 percent of ‘normal dieters’ progressing to pathological dieting and, of those, 20 to 25 percent to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.”

In their report, the study authors also warned that eating disorders and unhealthy weight control behaviors such as those included in the study can put people at risk for serious health issues like infertility, permanent heart damage, organ failure, and death.

Following the release of the study, a group of 35 high-profile models signed an open letter urging the fashion industry to address these health concerns, as well as promoting people of all races, ages, and sizes on the runway.

“I am signing the letter because this matters and we should speak out,” said model and NEDA ambassador Iskra Lawrence.

“I believe diversity and health are important and must be taken seriously, especially during a crucial time like New York Fashion Week. Let’s celebrate those brands, influencers and media outlets who are looking after the well-being of models and are conscious of the impact that body image has on everyone,” Lawrence added.

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