SOURCE: National Eating Disorders Association

September 18, 2006 11:51 ET

Spain's Promotion of Healthier Images Shocks International Fashion World but Is Lauded by Many, Including the National Eating Disorders Association

SEATTLE, WA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- September 18, 2006 -- Amid an international uproar in the fashion industry, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) applauds the decision of Madrid's regional government to establish Body Mass Index guidelines to police their own modeling industry by promoting "healthy body weight" during its upcoming annual Fashion Week and encourages the United States fashion industry to do the same.

"This is a great call to global action," commented Lynn Grefe, CEO of NEDA. "We invite our leading fashion executives to come to the table with us to discuss the importance of setting similar guidelines here in the U.S. Just as we had the wisdom to set restrictions on tobacco and alcohol advertising because of the potential hazards to our children, it is high time to address the impact of fashion ads on potentially life-threatening eating disorders.

"Sadly, while we have set occupational safety standards for other industries, we have ignored the hazards innate to the modeling profession or the impact made by their profession on children and young adults. We applaud Spain's leadership in safe guarding the health of both our youth and the fashion industry's own and hope we can make similar changes here at home," Grefe concluded.

The Madrid show is utilizing the body mass index or BMI -- based on weight and height -- to gauge models' eligibility (requiring a rating of around 18) and has turned away 30 percent of the women who took part last year. Medics will be present at the Pasarela Cibeles fashion show in Madrid, Sept. 18-22, to check models.

"Fashion is a mirror and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk," said Deputy Finance Minister of the regional administration Concha Cuerra about the Sept. 13th announcement in which the agency cited a responsibility to portray beauty and health. Spain's Association in Defense of Attention for Anorexia and Bulimia had campaigned for the restrictions -- which many Spanish modeling agencies and designers are said to oppose -- since the 1990s.

Many experts in the field of eating disorders believe that poor body image and self esteem -- often negatively impacted by the unrealistic body images prevalent in advertising and other media -- are a major contributor to the development of anorexia and/or bulimia among those who are already biologically and emotionally predisposed.

The average American woman stands 5'4", weighs 140 pounds and wears between a size 12-16. In 1965, the average fashion model weighed just 8% less than the average American woman. Ideals shifted with the popularity of British model Twiggy (considered one of the world's first "supermodels"), who stood 5'7", but weighed just 91 pounds. The average fashion model today is 5'11" and weighs 117 pounds, which makes her thinner than 98% of American women.

Madrid's required BMI rating of 18 would disqualify top Spanish model Esther Canadas and supermodels like Kate Moss (based on unofficial records of their height and weight).

Body mass index is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared, and multiplying that total by 703. If the resulting number is between 18.5 and 24.9, the person's weight is normal. Below 18.5 they are underweight.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., is the largest not-for-profit organization in the country dedicated to supporting research for the prevention, treatment and cure of eating disorders; supporting state legislative and advocacy efforts for access to treatment; expanding public education and awareness of eating disorders; promoting access and providing referrals to quality treatment for those affected; 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 treatment referrals, visit

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

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

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