Israeli law eyes super-thin models as bad examples (AP) Associated Press) By DIAA HADID and DANIELLA CHESLOW JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 03/20/12 2:41 pm ET)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-Top
JERUSALEM – Told she was too fat to be a model, Danielle Segal shed a
quarter of her weight and was hospitalized twice for malnutrition.
Now that a new Israeli law prohibits the employment of underweight
models, the 19-year-old must gain some of it back if she wants to
Not that she was ever overweight. At 1.7 meters (5-feet-7), she
weighed 53 kilograms (116 pounds) to begin with. Feeling pressure to
become ever thinner, she dropped another 13 kilograms (29 pounds).
The unnaturally skeletal girl weighed 40 kilograms (88 pounds) by
then, or about as much as a robust pre-teen, and her health suffered.
The legislation passed Monday aims to put a stop to the extremes, and
by extension ease the pressure on youngsters to emulate the skin-and-
bones models, often resulting in dangerous eating disorders.
The new law poses a groundbreaking challenge to a fashion industry
widely castigated for promoting anorexia and bulimia. Its sponsors
say it could become an example for other countries grappling with the
spread of the life-threatening disorders.
It´s especially important in Israel, which, like other countries, is
obsessed by models, whose every utterance and dalliance is fodder for
large pictures and racy stories in the nation´s newspapers.
Supermodel Bar Refaeli is considered a national hero by many. She is
not unnaturally thin.
The new law requires models to produce a medical report no older than
three months at every shoot for the Israeli market, stating that they
are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards.
The U.N. agency relies on the body mass index, calculated by factors
of weight and height. WHO says a body mass index below 18.5 indicates
malnutrition. According to that standard, a woman 1.72 meters tall (5-
feet-8) should weigh no less than 119 pounds (54 kilograms).
Also, any advertisement published for the Israeli market must have a
clearly written notice disclosing if its models were made to look
thinner by digital manipulation. The law does not apply to foreign
publications sold in Israel.
In Israel, about 2 percent of girls between 14 and 18 have severe
eating disorders, a rate similar to other developed countries,
The law´s supporters hope it will encourage the use of healthy models
in local advertising and heighten awareness of digital tricks that
transform already skinny women into seeming waifs.
"We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real," said
Liad Gil-Har, assistant to law sponsor Dr. Rachel Adato, who compared
the battle against eating disorders to the struggle against smoking.
The law won support from a surprising quarter: one of Israel´s top
model agents, Adi Barkan, who said in 30 years of work, he has seen
young women become skinnier and sicker while struggling to fit the
shrinking mold of what the industry considers attractive.
"They look like dead girls," Barkan said.
Aspiring model Segal says she´s thrilled with the new law and wishes
it had been passed years ago. "I wouldn´t have grown up thinking that
this (being underweight) is a model of beauty. I wouldn´t have
reached the point I reached," she said.
Segal said an agent told her three years ago that she had a beautiful
face — but not a "model´s body." Trying to attain that ideal through
drastic diets, she ended up in the hospital twice and stopped
Segal said she met Barkan during her modeling work, and he convinced
her that she could succeed as a model without being unnaturally thin.
Segal, who now weighs around 50 kilograms (110 pounds) and would have
to gain 3.5 kilograms (almost eight pounds) to qualify for work.
Barkan estimated about half the 300 professional models in Israel
would have to gain weight to work again.
Top Israeli model Adi Neumman said she wouldn´t pass under the new
rules, because her BMI is 18.3. Neumman said she eats well and
exercises. "Make girls go to a doctor. Get a system to follow girls
who are found to be puking," a symptom of bulimia, she said.
Critics say the legislation should have focused on health, not
weight, arguing that many models are naturally thin.
"The health of the model ... should be evaluated. Our weight can
change hour to hour," said David Herzog, a professor of psychiatry
and a leading U.S. expert on eating disorders.
Pressure on the fashion industry has intensified in recent years,
sparked by the deaths of models in Brazil and Uruguay from medical
complications linked to eating disorders.
Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos, 22, collapsed and died soon after
stepping off the runway in August 2006, reportedly of anorexia-linked
Other governments have taken steps to prevent "size zero" medical
problems but have shied away from legislation.
The Madrid fashion show bans women whose BMI is below 18. Milan´s
fashion week bans models with a BMI below 18.5.
The U.K. and U.S. have guidelines, but their fashion industry is self-
Unrealistic body images in the media are believed to shape eating
habits, especially among young people, though there is debate about
how influential they are. Other factors include psychological health,
trauma like sexual assault, or a tendency within one´s family to
emphasize physical appearance as a sign of success.
It´s not certain that the law will have a measurable impact, because
Israeli teens take their cues from both international media and local
publications, said Sigal Gooldin, an eating disorder specialist at
Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Social worker Uri Pinus, who treats seven teens with eating disorders
at a Jerusalem hospital, said the law was unlikely to affect his
"But our expectation is that this law will impact the wider public,"
Pinus said. "(It) will reduce pressure on the girls to lose weight."
Segal said putting weight back on would be a challenge. But, she
said, "in the end it´s a very low price to pay when I think about
other girls who won´t grow up sick in the future." (© 2012 The
Associated Press 03/20/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY