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A healthy body is always de rigeur

Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds ANL-151025-114649001
Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds ANL-151025-114649001

The monotonous thigh-gap obsession, the banal bikini bridge and the plague of big-booty/tight-stomach desires - these trends are spreading like an insufferable virus.

Recently a health reform bill in France was voted through by the socialist majority. It directed the spotlight onto the modelling industry’s health problem, revealing a sick army of malnourished and over-worked models.

Modelling agencies in France must now provide a doctor’s certificate showing that their model’s health is ‘compatible with the practice of the profession’ measured by a scale of Body Mass Index. If found without the certificate, bosses are liable to a fine of £50,000, and face a prison sentence of up to six months. The same law requires any digitally altered silhouettes to be labelled truthfully as ‘touched up’.

Olivier Véran, the Socialist deputy (and a doctor) who brought in the legislation, explains that the fundamental aim was ‘to protect adolescents. This image of so called beauty augments the risk of eating disorders’

With females being the primary target of the media, the unrealistic aspiration to have the ‘perfect body’ impacts in almost every western culture, on every person, everywhere. You might think the consequences of underweight and unhealthy models are minimal, but you’d be wrong. The impact can be devastating.

Anorexia Nervosa is a physiological eating disorder that causes people to have a distorted body image and a demonising fear of becoming fat even when underweight. Astonishingly, 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder and, not so astonishingly, 90% of people affected are women.

I’m not saying idolising body image is a bad thing. Perception of the ideal physique links to our primal intuitions. When we take those first three seconds to formulate our judgement on someone’s appearance, we are creating a prediction of their genetic attributes (such as fertility) from physical aesthetics for an ideal mate. It’s natural and it’s healthy.

But ironically getting the ‘perfect body’ is commonly encouraged by the media through body torture such as starvation and self-hatred from their models.

Startlingly, 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages 12-25, the years of most influence. Young, female clothing outlet Topshop is introducing a new line from Kate Moss, the model infamous for ‘heroin chic’, a style based on a drug-addiction figure. This is a primary example of a fashion role-model abusing power to influence others.

France, Spain, Israel and Italy have acted on body image in the media. Why can’t we? The UK has attempted to begin its quest on modelling health reform. A Change.org petition is calling for new laws for health standards in the fashion industry, attracting more than 110,000 signatures. With Debenhams trialling healthily realistic looking mannequins, and MPs such as Caroline Nokes currently considering a new lawsuit, it is certainly a catwalk in the right direction.

Whether it’s our debilitating thigh-gap obsession or another unrealistic clothing craze let’s not waste hours trying to get an hourglass figure. Because, whatever the trends, a healthy body is always in fashion.

-- Cydney-Jane Ault is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds


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