The rate of eating disorders around the world has reached epidemic proportions. To help combat this dangerous (sometimes even fatal) disease, some of the fashion shows (namely in Spain, Italy and Germany) enacted policies to increase the standard size of runway models. But two University of Bolonga researchers warned against these measures last Thursday, claiming that skinny models encourage healthy living.
Dr. Davide Dragone and Dr. Luca Savorelli presented their research at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference, claiming that skinny models provide a valuable incentive for viewers to lose weight. They warned that featuring normal size (heaven forbid, plus size) models on the runways will only make it seem acceptable for obese people to gain more weight and encourage them to continue their unhealthy eating habits.
At the conference, the researchers argued that “to promote chubby fashion models when obesity is one of the major problems of industrialized countries seems to be a paradox…Given that in the US and in Europe people are on average overweight, we conclude that these policies, even when [they] are welfare improving, may foster the obesity epidemic.” They supported their statements with evidence, citing a study they conducted where people were shown pictures of fat people and subsequently ate more than when shown pictures of skinny people. The researchers also said that while featuring extremely thin models on the runway might foster the eating disorder epidemic, it also discourages obesity, which according to them, is a more critical goal.
Am I the only one shaking my head in disbelief? First of all, I would really like to know what their opinion of “chubby” is. After all, a 5”10 model who wears a size 4 is not even in the vicinity of being chubby. And secondly, while I don’t doubt their research, I can’t help but question it. Personally, if I see a super thin model, I am likely to get super depressed about my own body image and promptly comfort myself with a handful of emotional onion rings. But watching a slender model strut her stuff (sans the protruding ribs or jutting hipbones) inspires me to work out and make nutritious eating choices. While I only have anecdotal evidence as proof, I would venture to predict that a sleek, yet healthy model is more likely to encourage viewers to pursue the healthy, moderate lifestyle our country needs more of, while her scarily thin counterpart incites negative self-esteem and destructive behavior.
As someone who loves fashion, I don’t expect runway models to mimic the rest of American society and I expect they will always waver on the leaner side than average. However, the reality is that many models are thinner than ever. Not only do their sickly frames distract from the clothes they are supposed to be highlighting in the first place, but they idealize a type of beauty that can often only be attained through dangerous behaviors. And while I don’t think our world’s high rate of eating disorders can be blamed entirely on the modeling industry, I certainly believe it is more difficult to develop a healthy body image when our role models are so unrealistically thin.
But that’s just one collegiette’s opinion. Now I want to hear what YOU think! What are your thoughts on these statements? Do you think super thin models encourage or discourage healthy behavior? Help me start this important conversation in the comments section below!
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