Why we can’t give up trying to change the fashion industry

Five friends in a row smilingIt’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and once again the argument is raised – Are the models too thin? Members of the fashion industry are quoted as saying that many of the models are naturally thin or athletic. Some designers are reported to be saying that they are merely focusing on making their clothes look good. This year, there are rumours that the models are not being fed back stage and that the coffee and cigarette diet is still alive and well in the industry. The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether a model is naturally thin or starving herself to look that way. Whether they are being given smoothies or BBQ chicken back-stage is irrelevant. The point is that our young people are continuing to see images that promote the idea that to be beautiful, glamorous and successful, you need to be thin.

Yes, the argument has been going around and around for years. I can understand why many people just throw their hands up in the air and think that the modelling world is so far removed from reality, we shouldn’t worry so much about it. But just because most of us don’t relate to the images we see on the catwalks or in fashion magazines doesn’t preventĀ  damage being done.

When an adolescent girl is struggling with self-consciousness, she is extremely vulnerable. She may look at these models and know on the one hand that they are very thin, but also dream of having their confidence. It’s so easy for that teenager to experiment with her weight by eating less and exercising more – all under the guise of being healthy. Parents love seeing their children choosing to be healthy so at first, they encourage the behaviour. Her body starts to change. She loses some weight and gains some muscle tone. Her friends notice and compliment her and that feels good …. for a short while. She starts to equate losing weight with positive feedback and so she eats even less and exercises even more. By now, everyone is commenting – friends and family: You’re going too far. You’re looking skinny. Stop now. But in her mind, she knows that skinny is beautiful and she does not feel beautiful or skinny, so she can’t stop.

The road back from an eating disorder is a long one. It can take years. We can’t give up on trying the prevent a distorted body image from taking hold. We have to keep speaking out against the use of underweight models in the fashion industry and airbrushed photos in magazines. And we as parents, have to be so vigilant. We can’t be fooled into believing that our child is just trying to be healthy when he or she starts restricting their food intake and over-exercising. We can’t make the mistake of complaining about our own bodies and yo-yo dieting. We must try never to comment on our child’s body or our own. We have to try to be the best role models we can be.

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