New Message to Models: Eat!


Sept. 15, 2006— -- Some of the world's top models may be about to be kicked off the catwalk after a recent ban on super-thin models from runways in Spain.

The ban on "skinny" models performing in shows, instituted by Madrid Fashion Week organizers after a model died during a show in South America last month, sent shivers around the world of haute.

But many people in and out of the fashion world believe the new ban is long overdue, and should have been considered even before 22-year-old Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos reportedly died of heart failure after stepping off a runway during Fashion Week in Montevideo.

The concern over the Spanish ban, which demands models have a BMI (height to weight ratio) above 18 to participate in shows, spread to the United Kingdom, where there is now questioned whether the British Council might put a similar rule in place before the upcoming London Fashion Week.

But officials from the BFC said they will not interfere with designers' choices of models.

Hilary Riva, chief executive of the BFC said in a statement that, "the BFC does not comment or interfere in the aesthetic of any designer's show."

Many suspect that some of the world's top models, from Kate Moss to Jacquetta Wheeler, will be banned if a cut off BMI of 18 in enforced.

"Naomi Campbell is one of the healthiest, buff- looking models out there," contributing ABC fashion correspondent Katrina Szish said. "People have said that she woulnd't be allowed on the runway -- even she wouldn't be in that range."

"Some people that look incredibly healthy, really aren't and vice-versa," Szish added. "It's something you can't quantify."

The average runway model is estimated to be 5 feet 9 inches tall and to weigh in at 110 lbs.-- resulting in a BMI of just 16, according to the British newspaper the Evening Standard.

Despite concerns over eating disorders in young women and teenage girls, some fashion experts feel that banning skinny models is not the answer.

Eating disorders among models have never been a secret.

"Yes, there is an issue with people starving themselves and going on fasts," said Nellie Sciutto, an actress and writer on "E!'s 101 Most Sensational Crimes of Fashion." "Yes, there is a problem with eating disorders."

"But, to tell people that they must have a certain amount of body fat is reverse prejudice... Weighing in only perpetuates eating disorders."

Michelle McParland, a registered dietician and nutritionist specializing in eating disorders, agrees that "weighing in" might exacerbate the problem.

"I think although this is in the name of help -- creating more criteria and more emphasis on body might make it more anxiety-promoting for sure," McParland said. "They do that in schools now, they weigh kids to try to prevent childhood obesity, but it's not really helping the problem."

She added that for women with severe eating disorders, "media images can exacerbate... But they're not the sole cause of eating disorders."

Richard Pesikoff, clinical professor of psychology, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston also believes the ban is an "excellent idea," and a "first step to re-formulate the attitudes that the fashion industry has toward weight and body image."

Pesikoff also says that depending on the press the ban gets and how the media cover it, the ban could be merely a "fluke," or it could have a "contagious quality" that will overall be positive for body image and eating disorders.

Despite the supposed positive effects for young women, many models have complained that this ban discriminates against those who are naturally thin. Sciutto agreed.

"I, being on the skinny side, find that people are taking it too far. Your body is your body. People should be happy if they have a full figure or a skinny figure or whatever," she said.

But McParland disagreed.

"I think there's a small subset of the population that has a body type that's naturally slender," she said. "But models or anyone that thin, is doing something -- whether or not it's a full-blown eating disorder, or drug use, which often goes hand in hand with an eating disorder."

But modeling, says Szish, "is one of those professions, like being a marathon runner, or a jockey, or a ballet dancer where you do need to have an extreme, somewhat unnatural, physique in order to be successful."

"Models don't sign up because they want to be examples," she said. "They're hired to be coathangers for designers ... props for the collection."

ABC's Julia Hoppock contributed to this report.

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