Arts & Culture

Fashion vs. Food: Are we building a better body image?

Fashion vs. Food: Are we building a better body image?
Photo by Petr Kratochvil via publicdomainpictures.net
written by Rose Behar
October 7, 2011 1:00 pm
Body Image. Photo by Petr Kratochvil via publicdomainpictures.net

Photo by Petr Kratochvil via publicdomainpictures.net

The fashion world can be an unfriendly place sometimes, especially towards healthy food consumption. But are things finally starting to change?

It peaked between 2006 and 2009. Anorexia and bulimia awareness, that is.

Every issue of Teen Vogue and Seventeen had an article touting a “real-life story.”

The No Anorexia Nolita campaign ran in 2007, with its poster child an anorexic model, Isabelle Caro, who died a few years later at age 28.

In those years before her death, Caro experienced more fame and opportunity than she ever had before, including modelling contracts, talk show appearances, and even a publishing contract for her book, The Little Girl Who Didn’t Want to Get Fat.

The media was abuzz with cries of outrage over the rake thin bodies of models on the runways, and in 2006, Italy banned models with a body mass index of less than 18 to walk the runway.

If you Google the issue today, the most recent articles you’ll find are from early last year. Does this suggest that talking about eating disorders is no longer important? Is society really cured of its obsession with thin?

It may seem that way, with shows on the airwaves like TLC’s Big Sexy following the lives of plus-sized models in NYC, and Glee, which featured the character Lauren Zizes, a sassy and proud plus-sizer.

But the cynic inside tells me that this curve-embracing attitude is just another way to exploit the weight taboo.

Just like the dissection of the problem of under-eating that occurred a few years ago, the treatment of the subject appears to be one full of care, concern, and a desire to help, especially in slim-down shows like The Biggest Loser*, which depicts the weight loss experience from a health and fitness perspective. But these shows nevertheless result in on-screen coverage of an overweight woman tripping and falling on a treadmill, or breaking down and shovelling ice cream down her throat.

In reality, eating disorders haven’t disappeared. We’ve just shifted our collective focus to a different kind of weight struggle; our runways are still filled with girls who are starving.

And the fashion world is no less to blame than ever before, even though it will deny its complicity until it’s blue in the face.

Dolce & Gabbana have stated that “Anorexia has nothing to do with fashion but is a psychiatric problem,” while Armani said, “Even people who take no notice of fashion get anorexic.”

But the truth is painfully evident. The way the fashion world has configured its precise conception of beauty – tall, lean, elegant – plays a major factor in the body images of girls everywhere.

So how do we change? There are two things we can do: renew our push to include women of all shapes and sizes on the runway, and most importantly, stop watching, and start really caring.

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