Posts Tagged ‘media image’

THE ISRAELIS ARE WINNING

March 28, 2012

Ad banned in the UK for "highly visible ribs"

 

On Monday, Israel put into effect a law regulating the use of extremely thin models within the Israeli fashion industry. The law bans fashion houses and advertisers from using models with a BMI less than the World Health Organization standard of normal (18.5). Models must provide a medical report no less than 3 months old at every shoot or fashion show stating she is not malnourished. The law also forces advertisers to put a disclaimer on any image that has been edited or altered in way which makes a model appear thinner so that young girls and women will know the image is not realistic. This rule does not apply to foreign publications imported into the country. The legislation comes as a response to the relatively high incidence of eating disorders in the country, where approximately 2% of girls age 14-18 have anorexia or bulimia. This is similar to rates in other developed countries. While Israel isn’t exactly a mecca of high fashion, this ban has created a buzz all over the world, and we can only hope other markets will follow suit. It shows that someone is paying attention to the effect the fashion industry has on its consumers, and how the fashion industry responds will show how much accountability they feel to the people who perpetuate and escalate its growth, both the models who sell the clothing and the women who buy them.

This is not the first we’ve heard of a country or city putting restrictions on models used in shows. In 2006, in Madrid, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers was the first body to put a ban on overly thin models. While not a law, there was a guideline put in place that models have a BMI of at least 18. At that time, Cathy Gould of New York’s Elite modeling agency accused the agency of using the fashion agency as a scapegoat for anorexia and bulimia. The ban in fact originated after backlash following the death of a 22 year-old anorexic Uruguayan model of heart failure after starving herself for a show, and shortly thereafter the death of a Brazilian model of complications of anorexia. Following fashion week in Madrid, Milan followed suit that same year. In Milan models were required to produce a medical certificate declaring them healthy with no eating disorder, and stating a BMI of at least 18.5. The models also needed to be at least 16 years of age. This was also not an outright ban, but a guideline requiring “self-regulation by the fashion houses”. Even Mario Boselli, the head of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber did not seem to take it very seriously, stating that only “maybe one girl in a hundred’ in the shows was too skinny. In fact, the average model is 5’11’’ and 117 pounds. This gives her a BMI of 16.3. She would have to weigh 133 pounds to achieve a “normal” BMI of 18.5. The average US woman is 5’4’’ and weighs 140 pounds and has a BMI of 24.  Designers had mixed opinions about the ban. Many supported it, such as Emanuel Ungaro designer Giles Deacon who said  ”At a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.” Many did not approve of the change. Outspoken Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is about “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.” Oh, Mr. Lagerfeld. There are no words.

There are many arguments that have been made against regulating the fashion industry. Some may say BMI is not a great indicator of health status or nutritional status as it is unreliable. It is true that BMI calculations can be unreliable in some cases, for example in children or the elderly, people who are very muscular, or women for example with very large breasts, or even amputees. I can’t think of a fashion model who meets any of these criteria. Some argue that there are women who are just naturally very thin and we shouldn’t punish them for this. I agree that there are those women who are naturally tall and skinny. We all have those girlfriends who for as long as we’ve known them have been twigs, eating twice as much as anyone you know and never being able to gain a pound. That girl everyone tells “You should be a model” even when she’s in her awkward ugly duckling stage because girls that tall and skinny are always models. But these girls are few and far between, and even these girls are very often not as bony as the girls we see on the runway. Should a girl like this be excluded because her BMI is 18.3 instead of 18.5? Maybe not. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. And as for Mr. Lagerfeld’s  statement that women like to look at “illusions” on the runway? I think that most women would rather see clothing on a real woman. When a woman looks at a size zero model wearing an outfit and she is a size 10, she has no “allusions” that outfit will look the same on her. (Hahaha)

Fast forward to now and we have actual government legislation in place in a country protecting models in an industry that up to now has promoted an unhealthy body image, as well as helping shield impressionable young girls and teenagers from images of unachievable ideals. There is some rumbling of similar legislation being discussed in France and in the US. An ad was recently banned in the UK for portraying a model with “highly visible ribs”. Australia has come up with a new code of conduct for the fashion industry. If key recommendations are met, such as not using female models that are excessively thin or male models that are excessively muscular, not using cosmetic surgery or rapid weight loss ads in magazines, putting disclosures on altered photos, not using models under 16 and stores stocking a wide variety of sizes then the fashion labels, modeling agencies, and magazines which comply will be awarded with the youth minister’s stamp of approval. We are not anywhere close to being there yet, but people are recognizing there is a problem and talking about it, and that is a good step in the right direction.

HONEST KATE

March 24, 2012

Supermodel Kate Moss graces the cover of W magazine this month. The most famous among those who started the trend towards exceptionally thin models in the 90’s and inspired the terms “waif” and “heroin chic”, she is also likely the most controversial. Her figure, drug use, choice of men and parenting skills have all been called into question. Yet she is revered for her beauty, flair for fashion and longevity in an industry that tends to chew people up and spit them out.  She is a woman we love to hate. This is a woman who in a 2009 Woman’s Wear Daily interview stated her life’s motto to be: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. On one hand, I completely agree with the many outraged parents who worried what kind of message this statement sends to the children and teens who look up to Ms. Moss. Unfortunately this statement has been adopted as the mission statement for many “pro anorexia” websites all over the internet. As a woman who understands all too well the mentality such a statement arises from, it makes me sad to think that there are girls and women who will hear, internalize, believe and repeat this statement. But that is the topic of a whole other post.

Today, I am focusing on the fact that although there is one part of me that is completely disgusted reading this quote, there is another part of me that respects her honesty. It’s refreshing to hear a supermodel basically admit that you have to starve to be skinny. Maybe that sounds insane. But I feel like some people will read her quote and say “Hmm. Maybe it is better to be skinny than to eat.” I feel that a whole other (and I would like to think larger) group of people will say “Well, if I can’t look like Kate Moss and still eat, then I guess I won’t look like Kate Moss. Pity.” (The pity is said in an English accent because Kate Moss lives in London). Sometimes it’s nice to know that these creatures we see in magazines and on TV are actually human. I want to know that they don’t wake up in the morning looking like goddesses, and that their bodies are not genetically predisposed to repel fat. It is why although we try to look away, we are magnetically drawn to the “Guess which celebrities cellulite this is?” and “Who has the worst beach body?” tabloid issues at the grocery store. We don’t want to wish anyone ill will, but my god does it feel good to know that Giselle Bundchen has cellulite on her ass. She has millions of dollars, Tom Brady, a body to kill for, amazing hair and she is one of the most beautiful women in the world. But she has cellulite!!!!! That knocks her down to my level. She’s just like me! I’m just like her! We’re equals!!

I am so sick of celebrities who claim they do nothing to look amazing. Oh, I can eat whatever I want. I never diet. See. I’ll even let you take a picture of me holding this cupcake. Do you have the shot?? I don’t need to exercise. I’m naturally athletic. I’m outdoorsy. I’m 65 and I have no wrinkles and my eyebrows are at my hairline, but I have NEVER had a face lift. My breasts are real, they naturally punch me in the chin. I didn’t have a nose job, half of my nose just magically disappeared. (Ashley Simpson-did you really think we wouldn’t notice??) I gave birth 20 seconds ago and now I’m 5 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight, but I didn’t diet or exercise. I lost weight because of breast feeding. BREAST FEEDING? Give me a break. I know you burn a few extra calories but you just had a BABY! Your stomach stretches out the size of a basketball. It’s not normal to have a flat stomach 2 weeks later. I love you Heidi Klum, but you are a freak of nature. I ran into a friend I went to University with and could have sworn she was pregnant. Good thing I didn’t ask, because she had given birth 2 AND A HALF MONTHS AGO!! Celebrities don’t owe the public an explanation about anything, but if you agree to do an interview there is some expectation of disclosure. At least don’t insult our intelligence by lying.

Here are some celebrities who are refreshingly honest:

Elizabeth Hurley losing weight after giving birth to her son- “I’m on a good old-fashioned low calorie diet-I’m going to bed hungry.”

Gwen Stefani-“It’s a daily struggle. I work out five days a week, I can’t imagine not doing it. I’d like to have no rules and eat what I want, but I’ve learned over the years that I’m so disappointed when I can’t wear the clothes I want to wear..”

Julianne Moore-“I still battle with my deeply boring diet of essentially yogurt and breakfast cereal and granola bars. I hate dieting. I hate having to do it to be the ‘right size’. I’m hungry all the time.”

Kristen Bauer-“The other day I realized that as long as I’m in this business I’m going to be hungry.”

Samantha Janus (soap star)-“I spend most of my days thinking about food and I’m hungry all the time…When I finish working as an actress there is a size 22 woman desperate to get out and just sit and munch.”

Portia de Rossi (recovered anorexic and television star)- “I don’t remember if I was hungry all the time. I’m sure I was hungry some of the time, or even most of the time, but I do think that after a while I didn’t even recognize that I was hungry. I felt very empty and I felt very anxious. It was worse than hunger. I felt like my brain wasn’t functioning”

There are many other celebrities who are open about the work it takes to be camera ready. I feel this is important, because it helps people to realize that media images of models and celebrities are not readily achievable, nor are these people always happy and healthy. The media drives what the “ideal” is, and people will tend to strive towards this. When these revered idealized people become more real to us and we understand the struggles and demands they themselves face, perhaps women will stop being so hard on themselves for not meeting ridiculous standards.

Are you skinnier in the morning?

March 19, 2012

Can your body really change in one day??

A friend said to me yesterday: “I think I’m skinnier in the morning”. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on the receiving end of some variation of this sentence. “My body looks better in the morning before I eat anything”, “I look skinny in the morning, but then I’m fat again at the end of the day”, “I think I gain 10 pounds during the day”…..It begs the question: Is it these women’s waistlines or their self-confidence that is fluctuating so wildly throughout the day?

 

First of all I would like to talk about the physiological. Overnight you obviously don’t eat or drink anything for the amount of time you are asleep, usually about 6-8 hours. So when you wake up you are in the fasted state and often slightly dehydrated. This is because as you sleep you lose water through respiration (small water droplets are lost in your breath) and transpiration (you lose water through your skin). Water weight loss overnight can be as much as 2-3 pounds or even more if there is a lot of perspiration. Also, a lot of digestion occurs overnight, and any food in the stomach moves further along the digestive tract, which can give the appearance of a “flatter” stomach. When dehydrated, a lean person’s muscles can appear more defined which makes them appear more toned (this is a common trick bodybuilders will use pre-competition). This may be a reason women like their bodies best first thing in the morning. During the day as food and fluids are consumed the water weight lost overnight is regained, Women may feel that their stomachs are no longer “flat” once it has been filled with food (whether this is true or imagined) and sometimes the food consumed, for example a high-sodium meal, can lead to water being retained and the appearance of a larger stomach due to bloating. Weight fluctuations throughout one day can be up to 5 pounds, and this is mainly due to water retention and loss. Certain factors, such as eating a very large meal before bed, constipation, and water retention can in fact cause people to weigh more or be very bloated in the morning. However, it does in fact seem as though some women may appear “skinnier” in the morning, even if this is only due to normal physiological changes that occur in everyone and in no way represent any actual fat loss overnight.

 

So are there psychological factors involved? Before looking at any data, I want to shed some personal light on the matter. When in therapy for my eating disorder, a recurring discussion theme was that of control. A theory about eating disorders is that often they are triggered by emotional or traumatic events and that women use the eating disorder as a coping mechanisms. If you can’t control what’s going on in your life, at least you can control what you put into your body. In group therapy, I learned a common goal for women with eating disorders (including myself) was to eat as little as possible, or that only certain foods were allowed. If you ate “too much” or something unacceptable, you had failed. However, each morning was a fresh start. In the morning you were not yet defeated, you had a new chance to stick to your plan and you felt revitalized. I am not insinuating that when a woman says she feels her “skinniest” in the morning that she has an eating disorder. My point is that I think that for all women, each morning is a clean slate. Ideally you are rested and revived, your mind is alert and the emotional tone for the day is still to be determined as no events have occurred to influence it. So whatever your goal is for the day, it seems within reach. Studies have shown that mood influences body image. A 1995 study in Behavior Therapy titled ‘Body image disturbance, memory bias and body dysphoria: Effects of negative mood induction’ showed that when women were induced to be in a negative mood, they perceived their body size to be larger than it currently was and had increased body dysphoria. A 1992 study in Behavior Research and Therapy showed similar data. So perhaps throughout the day, women’s body image worsens due to daily stressors and our emotional responses to them, and the morning is the only time we are free from this effect.

 

Another thing I learned in group therapy is that it for women with eating disorders, the feeling of having no food in your stomach is the feeling of success. It is a comfort. Even as I write this statement, I know it will be hard to comprehend and shocking to many. It’s almost metaphoric really, because when you are in that place you feel empty in all respects because you have isolated yourself and your whole life has become consumed by your disease. Even sometimes today after waking up with that hollowness in my stomach that I used to relish, when I eat my first meal, and I can feel my stomach filling up and pressing just slightly harder on the waist of my pants, I can’t help but feeling like I’m suddenly heavier. I no longer strive to feel hungry, but sometimes disordered thoughts like this interrupt my life. It makes me wonder if other women have these thoughts? When a woman says she feels “skinnier in the morning” is it partially because she hasn’t filled her stomach with food and when you feel hungry, you have an artificial feeling of lightness?  Does simply feeling satiated make a woman feel heavier?

 

As women go about their day, they are exposed to hundreds if not thousands of media images. Many of these images depict artificial, retouched models and actresses representing what the “ideal” woman should be, and it is an unattainable goal for most if not all women to achieve. There are over a hundred studies proving the negative effects of these extremely thin images on a clear majority of adolescents and women. Not only do women feel greater body dissatisfaction upon exposure, but they also report more depression, stress, insecurity, guilt and shame. Many studies have shown that when body image and body perception are measured right before and right after exposure to media images of very thin models, women will report a more negative body image and falsely perceive themselves as heavier than is accurate. So it’s possible that exposure to so many of these images throughout the day, can contribute to a more negative body image later in the day vs. first thing in the morning.

 

I’m sure there are many other factors that can affect why women may feel differently about themselves at different times of the day. Women are complicated, and body image and self-esteem are very complex, multi-faceted issues. However, it does not appear that beyond any normal physiological changes, women are any “skinnier” in the morning. However, sometimes by the end of the day a woman may feel like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, so she sure may feel heavier at the end of the day.