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France Considers Banning Anorexic Models

About 35,000 people in France suffer from eating disorders.

About 35,000 people in France suffer from eating disorders.

France has long been known as a fashion capital of the world with its impressive designers and notorious runway week. Lately, however, the country has been focusing on the darker side of the industry. A health bill proposed by Parliament official Dr. Olivier Veran centers around anorexia in modeling and recommends measures to eliminate the glorification of dangerously thin body types.

The legislation, publicly backed by President Fancois Hollande, would require modelling agencies to obtain medical records from their clients stating their body mass index (BMI) is at least 18 (the average BMI in France is 23.2). Regularly scheduled weigh-ins would also keep hired models under careful watch to make sure they maintain a healthy body weight. The bill also has language that prohibits media organizations from publishing pro-anorexic material meant to “help” those suffering from the illness keep to their intense diet restrictions.

“We have had chief editors of prestigious magazines tell us that more and more often, they are obliged to use Photoshop,” said Dr. Veran. “Not to make the models look slimmer, but to erase the tracks of bone under the skin, to make them look bigger.” Practices like this becoming commonplace in France’s fashion industry have prompted the proposed health reforms.

Those found in violation of the anti-anorexia legislation will be penalized with fines and potential jail time. Dr. Veran feels this is the first step toward curbing the issue of anorexia in France. “We can’t resolve it with a law but we can begin a public health policy to prevent and protect and limit the number of those suffering from anorexia,” Dr. Veran told news sources.

France first looked into legislation dealing with anorexia in 2008 but scrutiny from the fashion industry caused the bill to be dropped. The country revived the issue in 2010 after the untimely death of model and actress Isabelle Caro. Caro publicly discussed her struggle with an eating disorder and even appeared on the VH1 show “The Price of Beauty.” She was 28 when she died from her illness and weighed 86 pounds.

France is not the first country to enact political reforms against extreme body weight images. In 2007 Spain began the movement and used the BMI of 18 as a reference as well. Several years later in 2013, Israel followed with their own bill. The worldwide coverage of the France proposal may spark more countries to action in the coming months.

The United States could be one of those countries as the anorexia situation in America worsens. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, about 24 million people in the U.S. struggle with a varying form of anorexia. Negative body image can begin as early as elementary school and has the potential to last a lifetime. 69% of girls from middle school to high school admit that media portrayals of “the perfect body” have influenced how they view themselves and diet. By college, 90% of women say they have struggled with their weight in some varying form of diet and exercise, from mild, healthy cases to dangerous restrictions.

France is still in the deliberation stage of the anorexia legislation, however, the bill is showing momentum. Perhaps this time the proposal will become law, revolutionizing French mass media. If one of the international fashion centers can change how men and women are viewed in the media the results could be life-altering for millions who have an eating disorder.

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