The Devil Wears Prada but Also Rose-Colored Glasses

Leaders of the three leading eating disorders organizations expressed disappointment after an “invitation-only panel discussion on beauty and health in the fashion industry” held early in New York City, February 5, 2007 during New York’s semi-annual Fashion Week. Members of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) and the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) urge the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to improve its health initiative and take the problem of eating disorders more seriously. “We commend the CFDA for its initiative. However, it seems that the devil not only wears Prada, but also rose-colored glasses,” said Lynn Grefe, CEO, NEDA. “Our goal is to protect the health and lives of young women in the fashion industry. Clearly the catwalk is a dangerous balance beam for some, who will not be helped by such baby steps. We urge the Council to take a position of leadership and to take the next step.”

The panel presented the Council’s recommendations to promote health and wellness among models. Missing from those guidelines is a requirement for an annual physical exam certifying that models are healthy to work. Recommendations did include educating the industry about 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 promoting a healthy backstage environment. States Dr. Eric van Furth, president of the AED, which issued its own guidelines for the fashion industry in January (www.aedweb.org/public/AED_Guidelines_for_Fashion_Industry.pdf), “Requiring yearly physicals is a practical and effective solution to monitoring health in the fashion industry. Such an exam should include a comprehensive evaluation for eating disorders.” Kitty Westin, president, EDC, who believes that external regulation may be required, said, “We are concerned that a federal response to industry practices may become necessary if the industry is not able or willing to adopt meaningful self-regulation and protect the health and well-being of models. As a mom who lost her daughter, I am here to help save lives.”

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. In May of 2000, the British Medical Association identified a link between the images of “abnormally thin” models, which are increasingly common in the media, and a rise in eating disorders. 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. NEDA’s 20th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is Feb. 25 – March 3. For more information on eating disorders visit www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

The Academy for Eating Disorders is an international, trans-disciplinary professional organization with over 1,400 members worldwide. The AED promotes excellence in research, treatment and the prevention of eating disorders. It provides education, training and a forum for collaboration and professional dialogue. Visit www.AEDweb.org for more information.
The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action is a cooperative of professional and advocacy-based organizations committed to federal advocacy on behalf of people with eating disorders, their families and professionals working with these populations. Visit www.EatingDisordersCoalition.org.

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