SOURCE: National Eating Disorders Association

January 12, 2007 15:19 ET

National Eating Disorders Association Reacts to 'Guidelines' Announced Today by Council of Fashion Designers of America

SEATTLE, WA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 12, 2007 -- The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) reacted today to the Council of Fashion Designers of America's newly announced "guidelines" to promote health and wellness among models, a demographic notoriously predisposed towards eating disorders.

Those recommendations include: education on the early signs of eating disorders; requiring models with eating disorders to seek professional help; not permitting models with an eating disorder to work without a doctor's approval; and improving nutritional content of food catered backstage at fashion shows.

Fashion designers in Milan and Madrid have banned overly thin models, adopting a height-to-weight ratio, using the BMI Index. But the American Council's response falls far short of those actions.

"The National Eating Disorders Association applauds the Council of Fashion Designers of America for opening a dialogue," said Lynn Grefe, CEO of NEDA. "But we urge them to further their influence and control beyond that of a 'guideline.' Simply making a suggestion is a band-aid on a much larger wound. Our concern is, who is going to monitor this program? What are the next steps? Eating disorders kill. For the sake of the models themselves and the young women who look up to them, change is vital. The fashion industry does not cause eating disorders, but to a young girl predisposed to an eating disorder, these images are like handing them a loaded gun."

Studies have shown that fashion models and magazines significantly influence the self-esteem of teenagers and young adults -- particularly females. Ever since the mid '60s, when 16-year-old British model Twiggy, at 5'7" and 91 pounds, hit U.S. shores and became the first supermodel, the self-image of women has never been the same. Today, the average American woman is 5' 4" tall and weighs 140 pounds, yet the average American model is 5' 11" and weighs 117 pounds, making them thinner than 98 percent of women in this country.

Said NEDA Ambassador Emme, model, TV host, author, lecturer and clothing designer, who has long promoted healthy body image, "We need to take collective responsibility for this cultural catastrophe and recognize our obligation to not only learn as much as we can about eating disorders but also how our actions influence young women and girls. It is imperative that we not just skim the surface, but dig deeper about unattainable ideals of beauty which can lead to life-threatening diseases with sometimes permanent consequences."

Eating disorders are serious illnesses with a biological basis modified and influenced by emotional and cultural factors. Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder.

People with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem and obsession with weight loss. Pervasive cultural norms and customary media image standards dramatically impact the likelihood of the development of an eating disorder among those who are genetically and environmentally predisposed.

Experts agree that the successful treatment of anorexia -- recently recognized as a mental illness with a biological core by Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health -- requires not only stabilizing the patient's health and redefining their relationship with food, but addressing underlying emotional and mental health issues.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., is a not-for-profit organization advocating prevention, treatment and research funding for eating disorders; expanding public education and awareness; promoting access to quality treatment for those affected; and providing support for their loved ones. Since the inception of its Helpline in 1999, NEDA has referred more than 50,000 people to treatment and tallies more than 40 million hits annually on its Web site. For more information on eating disorders visit www.NationalEatingDisorders.org.

For treatment referrals, visit www.NationalEatingDisorders.org.

Or contact NEDA's live Helpline: 800-931-2237

Monday - Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (PST)

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