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Roni Joyce

Dr. Freymiller
BMI or Bust
Audience: This essay would be a letter sent to the Council of Fashion Designers of
America (CFDA) along with a petition signed by people who agree with its message. It is
important that they see the issue at hand and take measures to put an end to the unhealthy images
to which everyone is exposed. This will benefit the American Society by no longer putting
pressure on models and those who view them to be too thin.
Lose weight. Be thin. You could never wear that, youre not model thin. These are
the messages that are received by many of todays young adults who flip through a magazine. I
have watched girls stand in front of the mirror sucking in their stomachs, pinching their fat,
wrapping ace bandages around their waists. All of this because they are distressed that they will
never look like a Kardashian. There is a need for change in the world of modeling. I am asking
you to help petition for a federal law that prohibits agencies from hiring or showing models who
have a BMI of less than 18. This will help to ensure that unhealthy images are not being
circulated to the public; images of unhealthy models can no longer have a negative effect on their
impressionable viewers. It will also ensure that the models themselves have to maintain a healthy
body weight on order to keep their jobs. France, Spain, and Italy have made enforceable
restrictions on those who employ models to make sure that they do not promote the idea of being
too thin. The United States should follow suit in order to protect its models and those who view
According to The American Body in Context: An Anthology young people are exposed to
plastic bodies in the media. They are told to change their bodies in order to fit into the same
mold as the models. They are shown that they should take extreme measures like over-exercising

or even plastic surgery to achieve the perfect body (Johnston, 123). Around half of teen girls and
a third of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting,
smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight. The frightening thing
about this is the fact that anorexia kills more of its victims than any other psychological illness.
Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia also have a very low treatment rate; those who suffer
from them often times live with them their whole lives rather than getting help (Ekern). These
issues are more relevant today than ever because the number of people per year who develop
eating disorders has been rising steadily for the past eight decades. This correlates with the
average weight of models going down in the same time span (Get The Facts On Eating
Disorders). Although eating disorders are highly intricate in their causes, a major factor is
society. Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body
weights and shapes cause people to look at themselves in a negative light. They feel pressured
to obtain the perfect body or face rejection from society (Factors That May Contribute to Eating
Disorders). These negative images lead to bullying of people who do not have the perfect
body. This leads to low self-esteem and poor body image even at a young age as well as an
increased risk for eating disorders (Treasure, Wack and Roberts). There may be jokes about
unrealistic beauty standards which feature headless mannequins but that phrase has real
meaning to many of the teens in todays society. Every skinny model that is given high praise is
another reason for already awkward adolescents to judge themselves (Hellesvig-Gaskell).
Something has to be done to decrease the exposure of young minds to such harmful images. A
law needs to be made to protect fragile teenagers from being shown such extreme standards of

The people viewing the models are not the only ones who are harmed in this industry. If
you type model dies from anorexia into a search engine, the unique headlines are endless.
Isabelle Caro, Anorexic Model, Dies at 28; Anorexia tragedy of teenage cover girl: Parents Tell
of their Grief Over 19-year-old Who 'Didn't realise How Beautiful She Was'; Anna Carolina
Reston: The Model Who Starved Herself to Death; Model Bethaney Wallace Dies of Anorexia
Aged Just 19 sadly: etc. These are just some of the stories that you will come across. Most
runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia (Jones). For a woman
to be healthy, her BMI should be around 19-25. A woman with a BMI under 17.5 is considered at
risk for anorexia. Anorexia can lead to (or be a sign of) serious mental health problems or
substance abuse (Simon). These issues lead to greater health problems that follow the models
long after their time of strutting down the runway and posing for the camera. They too are
exposed to the idea of needing to have the perfect body. Models strive to be as thin as possible in
order to obtain or maintain employment (Treasure, Wack and Roberts). The average size of
models has dropped from six in the 1980s to a 0 in the present day. Models are often
discovered under accidental circumstances. They are promised a life of fame and fortune if
they can just lose a few pounds (Trebay). Therein lies the real issue. Those who hire models put
the pressure on the models to lose weight so they can keep their jobs. Legislation needs to be
passed to ensure that agencies are no longer allowed to encourage models to be unhealthy in
order to secure a job.
Many cities that are known for their fashion shows have guidelines but they are rarely
well-enforced. Very recently however, France has taken charge and put a ban on models who are
too thin. Models will have to prove that they have clean bill of health before they are allowed to
be employed. This means that they need to have a BMI of hire than 18. Those who ignore this

rule when hiring models can face jail time or steep fines (Apatoff). Though it will be hard to
tackle the thinness that pervades most social media sites, this is a good start. The law also allows
the government to punish those who run websites promoting anorexia. Italy, Israel, and Spain
have also implemented BMI requirements (prior to Frances new legislation). These laws not
only protect the models from negative ideal body images but also those who view these models.
France hopes to combat the problem of bad body image as a whole. They believe that this is
the first step towards eliminating the health problems to which it can lead. They are aware that
healthy BMI may not signal total health in the models. However, they know that the people who
see those models will no longer feel compelled to drop their own BMI to unhealthy levels
(Persad). Something needs to be done to help the models who are affected by the standards of
modeling agencies in todays society. A law needs to be passed in the United States to ensure the
health of the models we all see every day.
In America many steps have been taken in the right direction. In 2007 the degree of
unhealthiness of models caused the CFDA to develop a plan of action so as to combat this issue.
They made the CFDA Health Initiative to promote healthy bodies for models. They worked with
fashion industry, medical experts, nutritionists, and fitness trainers construct guidelines for the
industry. This is what those guidelines look like:
-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, and models who are receiving professional help for an
eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professionals approval.

-Develop workshops for the industry (including designers, agents, editors, and
models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders, how they arise, how
we identify and treat them, and complications that may arise if left 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.
(Consult the applicable labor laws found at when working
with models under sixteen.)
-Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide
nutrition and fitness education. (CFDA Health Initiative)
While this is a mammoth step in the correct direction, it has no penalties. These are nothing more
than suggestions (Avins). They certainly promote the right ideas and they look good dont they?
If everyone in the fashion industry were to voluntarily follow these guidelines, there would be no
more issues so far as the health of models. However, these are only the first yellow bricks laid
down for Dorotheas road to Oz. In order to see real change in the industry that loves skirt
around suggestions in ways like hiring underage models there needs to be a much firmer set
of rules to follow (Ramsey). A law similar to that of France would greatly benefit the American
modeling industry. A models BMI should be no lower than 18; employers should face jail time
or fines for hiring underweight models; models should have to prove their overall health before
being a part of an ad or runway show. These are just some of the ideas that should be
implemented in an American law. I think that the CFDA could be integral in drafting a law that
will protect the models and viewers from the harm that is caused by the unattainable perfect body

Poor body image and eating disorders plague this country especially its youth. This
problem is greatly caused by the images they see in the media. They are exposed to models with
unachievable bodies and they judge themselves based off of what they see as being perfect. Few
of those people remember the fact that these models are simply not healthy; to look the way they
do, they work to maintain BMIs that put them on the anorexia scale. To date, only a small
number of countries have worked to restrict the thinness of models on their runways. They dole
out punishments to employers who do not follow their rules. The U.S. has only made guidelines
thus far. There needs to be some real power behind the rules to make sure the industry follows
them. There needs to be a law in place to protect the models and those who view them. I am
unable to think of any girls I know who have not at one time or another discussed in great detail
what they would like to change about their bodies. I, myself have taken part in these talks. We sit
around poking and prodding ourselves, imagining what we could look like if we just lost a few
more pounds. However, my friends and I are lucky because none of us have let these ideas affect
us to the degree that we develop a poor body image or an eating disorder. Many other girls and
boys are not in our same situation. Far more people than I find to be acceptable suffer from low
self-esteem or worse.


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2015. 9 April 2015. <>.
Avins, Jenni. Thin Logic: In France, you can now be jailed for employing extremely
thin models. 3 April 2015. 9 April 2015. <>.
CFDA Health Initiative. 2015. 9 April 2015. <>.
Ekern, Jacquelyn. Eating Disorder Statistics & Research. 20 April 2014. 9 April 2015.
Factors That May Contribute to Eating Disorders. 2001-2015. 9 April 2015.
Get The Facts On Eating Disorders. 2001-2015. 9 April 2015.
Hellesvig-Gaskell, Karen. How Do Models Affect Teens? n.d. 9 April 2015.
Johnston, Jessica R., ed. The American Body in Context: An Anthology. Vol. 3.
Wilmington: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2001. 5 vols.
Jones, Madeline. "Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?" PlusModel:
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Ramsey, Raya. "So, Vogue is Going to Promote Healthier Body Image? Hm." D
Magazine: Shop/Talk 4 May 2012. Web. 9 April 2015.
Simon, Harvey. "Anorexia Nervosa." New York Times 8 March 2013. Web.
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Group: The Health Implications of a Size Zero Culture." British Journal of
Psychiatry 192 (4) (2008): 243-244. Web. 9 April 2015.
Trebay, Guy. "Looking Beyond the Runway for Answers on Underweight Models."
New York Times 6 February 2007. Web. 9 April 2015.