Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Academy of Eating Disorders Releases Guidelines for the Fashion Industry

Here are the AED proposed guidelines for the fashion industry. What do you think???

* Adoption of an age threshold requiring that models be at least 16years of age so as to reduce the pressure that adolescent girls feel toconform to the ultra-thin standard of female beauty.

* For women and men over the age of 18, adoption of a minimum bodymass index threshold of 18.5 kg/m2, (e.g., a female model who is 5' 9" [1.75m] must weigh more than 126 pounds [56.6 kg]) which recognizes that weightbelow this is considered underweight by the World Health Organization.

* For female and male models between the ages of 16 and 18, adoptionof a minimum body mass index for age and sex equivalent to the 10th BMIpercentile for age and sex (weight below this is considered underweight bythe Centers for Disease Control). For example, applying this criterion to a16 year old female model, the minimum required body mass index would be 17.4kg/m2, for a male model 17.7 kg/m2. A 16 year old female model who is 5' 9"[1.75 m] must weigh more than 118 pounds [53.3 kg].

* Adoption of an independent medical certification affirming thatstudents who are aspiring models do not suffer from an eating disorderand/or related medical complications (see below).

* Development of action steps to identify models in need of intervention and appropriate and sensitive procedures for detection andreferral.

* Discouragement of all non-healthy weight control behaviorsthroughout the industry (e.g., self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives,diuretics and diet pills). Increased educational initiatives aimed atstudent models and professional models, their agents and employers to reducethe multiple health risks of various unhealthy weight control behaviors.

* Provision of educational initiatives aimed at aspiring and workingstudent models, professional models, their agents and employers to raiseawareness of the multiple health risks of low weight and restrictednutritional intake. These health risks include irregularity or cessation ofmenses, bradycardia (low heart rate)/irregular heart beat, electrolyteimbalances, dizziness/fainting spells, sudden cardiac death and long termhealth complications including osteoporosis, depression, and reproductivecomplications.

* Increased communication with advertising agencies to encourage theuse of age-appropriate, realistic models in ad campaigns and reduction ofunrealistic computer enhancement in pre-teen and adolescent advertisingcampaigns.

* An overall ban of the use of photographic manipulation techniquesthat artificially slim images of fashion models throughout the entirefashion industry.

* Inclusion of models of varying weights and body types on both the catwalk and in fashion magazines so that these images - and the message that women and men of differing body types can look good in a variety of fashions- become part of our collective view of what constitutes beauty.

* Promotion of awareness in students, models, and the general publicabout advertising industry tactics, such as computer enhancement, used tofalsify the appearance and actual size of models used in advertising.

* Collaboration with politicians, stakeholders, and eating disorderorganizations to develop ethical self-regulatory codes for the fashionindustry.

* Collaboration with politicians, stakeholders, and eating disorderorganizations in widening the availability and affordability of effectiveeating disorders treatment, which must be made readily available to peoplein the fashion industry.

(reprinted with permission of Eric F. van Furth, Ph.D., Fellow of Academy of Eating Disorders)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hope from a Young Woman Recovering from Anorexia

My story

To anyone who wants to listen to my story from the abyss of hell to my joyful rebirth as a true human being:

Various reasons cause someone to become anorexic. For me, it was a combination of my genetics and environment, both of which had detrimental effects on my mental and physical health. First, I have a Type-A personality, meaning, I am very outgoing, ambitious, and motivated to the max. Everything in which I was involved- school, sports, activities, sorority- I gave 110%. Too bad my body and my soul suffered, leaving these two most important things with nearly nothing. I no longer had an identity because I defined myself by what I did, not who I am. And now I understand that that kind of neglect of your own self can kill you, literally and spiritually. I was so busy I thought I didn’t have time to eat. So I barely did. I was doing so many external activities that my inner world, that of being aware of your innermost thoughts and feelings, was nonexistent. I had no downtime to rest and nurture God’s wonderful being I am. This world promotes that the more you do, the better you are. And, please believe me when I say that the former statement is the biggest lie. Humans are not machines, but rather living, breathing creatures who have needs, with the most simple of those needs being food and shelter, love and support. My extremely-low body weight is symbolic of me giving myself away to the “do-attitude” of our society. Another huge factor that caused me to become anorexic was my environment. Yes, I am sure the media played a role in my starvation by brainwashing my mind into thinking that tall and thin is the only way to be attractive, but that was the least of it. The biggest factor of my environment which caused me to starve was a very destructive relationship with a friend. I will not go into too many details; however, I will say that she wanted more from me than I could give her. She is emotionally dysfunctional herself, and bearing her problems as well as trying to fulfill her needs left me completely exhausted. She was like a leech, sucking the life out of me, and honestly, she almost did. I will make it clear, though, that it was my fault that this happened. I did not put up proper boundaries to deal with people like her. Therefore, this almost-deadly combination of my genes and environment caused so much damage to my mind and body. I knew I needed to get help. The last week of school before I went home for help was horrible. I knew I needed to eat more, but for some reason I couldn’t do it. I prayed about it so hard, and God told me to get help. I needed to turn this around to save my life- it was that simple.

The first step toward help was getting out of that environment, and into one of support and acceptance for someone with an eating disorder. Therefore, I went home from college and first saw a dietitian, a woman of much experience with eating disorders. After she put me on the scale, I couldn’t believe how tiny I was. My weight, needless to say, was dramatic. It happened so fast as well. She immediately sent me to a cardiologist, where they checked my heart to see what kind of damage had been done. And, of course, there was damage. Also, the next day I had a DEXA scan, and it turns out I had significant bone loss as well. The good news was, though, and for anyone who has anorexia and bulimia, those heart problems and bone loss can be fixed, if you start feeding yourself the way God intended you to. Once you stop the negative behaviors, your body will adjust and get better. I truly believe that if you are still alive, there is a tremendous amount of hope. But the whole key to getting better is that you have to WANT to get better. You have to want to live for yourself and not for anyone else- not for your mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, or friends. Eating disorders are not about food- it is about finding why this happened with the help of a therapist, as well as loving and accepting who you are and your body- the natural, womanly body that God gave you. After I saw what physical damage this horrible sickness did to me, I decided to not return to school for the rest of the semester. I knew I had to turn my life around quickly.

For the past three months I have been in recovery from anorexia. My life consisted of continual meetings with my dietitian, therapist, and cardiologist. I am so grateful for their tremendous support. Every pound I gained they were so encouraging; you could see it in their eyes that they were so proud of me. Having a strong supporting cast like this, as well as my family, was crucial for me in my healing. Since that fateful day of realizing I needed to save my life, I have gained 26 pounds, just 5 pounds shy of my goal weight. This significant weight gain has helped me physically and mentally. My heart and bones continue to heal, and now I feel good about my body. I was so terrified that I was going to lose my life that I completely snapped out of the horrible fog which surrounded my mind. I came back down to earth and, thus, attained tremendous perspective on what was going on. The truth is I was slowly dying. But now, just three months later, I have new life. I feel like I have been reborn and that God has given me a second chance at life. And this time, I’m not going to screw it up. I don’t care if tall and thin is in, because sometimes, as in my case, tall and thin is sick. Also, like both my dietitian and therapist said, Jesus did not care what society thought. As Christians, we are not of this world. Sometimes we forget that important detail. Also, perfection is unattainable. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, for He just wants us to be happy. God designed our bodies to have food so that they can function, and I was seriously tampering with God’s work.

But I am no longer destroying my life. I take complete responsibility for what happened, and I also take full responsibility for my recovery. I was the one that got myself better, and I thank God every day for giving me the strength to overcome my sickness.

The one great thing about eating disorders is that they are completely recoverable. No matter how long you have had it or how much damage is done, there is always hope. Also know that it is okay to seek help. It takes a very strong person to admit they have a problem. I knew in my heart that I needed help, and I got it, and look where I am today. I am 100% healthier than I was three months ago, and I am never looking back. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I eat the way God wanted me to eat- plentiful and whatever makes me feel good. If I can do it, you can do it. Just trust in God and keep the faith because one day you will overcome it. I pray every day for my own continued recovery, as well as all of the women and men out there struggling with any type of eating disorder.

God Bless,