I have always thought that surely women are intelligent enough to realise that models in both fashion and beauty are airbrushed in print and being stick-thin is not a natural state of being for most people. The reason that many models become models is because they are naturally very slender, tall and fine-boned, which is not a usual combination. But in reality, there are very, very few models whose natural state is thus. Most have to really work hard at keeping their weight down and anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows what a miserable state of existence living on the edge of hunger all the time is. If you are young and healthy, your body can sustain this level of semi-starvation for a while, so I would never worry initially about the health of a thin model in the short term and if they want to persue a notoriously short-spanned career being thin and wearing clothes, then so be it.
However, the coroner from the case mentioned made a statement that I find quite startling because it is a very clear link to the responsiblity magazines have to take in creating a weight hate culture. He says that ‘the prevalence of eating disorders in young people did not exist before the seventies’. His connection is that it was from that point in recent history that magazines began promoting thin figures, and guess what? Ever since, there has been a problem and it is escalating out of control. We live in a world where thin is the ultimate aspiration and some people are just not made to be thin. I might add that nobody is made to be obese either, but that is a different issue.
What you need to be is a healthy weight for your size and height. And not because it looks great, but because it keeps all of your organs functioning at its best. Everyone’s size and weight will differ but we are now in this hideous state of aspiring to be what our bodies were never meant to be. The pressure to be thin has never been greater than it is now. I’m a natural size 10/12, but I’ve also been as low as a size 6 and also a size 14. I’m quite short so really can’t carry a lot of extra weight and feel great on it. We are no more meant to be thin as slivers of cheese as we supposed to be obese. Neither is a good state and yet one is far more acceptable than another in the eyes of the media, and therefore in the minds of impressionable groups. I would never celebrate extreme obesity just as I would never celebrate extreme thinness.
Ideally, all magazines will follow Vogue’s footsteps and picture naturally shaped models; I don’t really expect them to start promoting overweight-ness (is that even a word?) but really, we should all want to see healthy bodies above all other considerations. If you are 14 and desperate to look like models and celebrities it’s unlikely you’ll have the understanding of airbrushing or the benefit of a chef and a personal trainer to keep you on the weight straight and narrow. Parents too are caught between a rock and hard place; you can’t tell your kids they’re too fat in case they get anorexia and you can’t tell your kids they are too thin in case they get body dysmorphia. While you are growing up your body goes through all kinds of permutations and you can be just right, a bit over and a bit under in a short space of time. It’s all about perspective and keeping a healthy mind about a healthy body. So, while it’s fine to aspire to a healthy weight, clear skin and shiny hair, all normal aspirations in my view, let’s take a leaf out of the past when bodies weren’t starved or stuffed and just accept bodies for what they are; individual and unique to everyone.