New bill fights anorexia

MKs seek to alter ideal body image and minimize youth eating disorders.

A bill to discourage anorexia and other eating disorders by preventing the appearance of female or male models with a very low Body Mass Index (BMI under 18.5, when normal is between 18.5 and 24.9) has been prepared by MK Danny Danon, chairman of the Children’s Rights Committee, and MK and physician Dr. Rachel Adatto.
In a committee discussion of the bill in the Knesset on Tuesday, it was revealed that Maccabi Health Services has almost 1,000 teen members who suffer from an eating disorder, while Kupat Holim Meuhedet has about 500. Danon said that the Western media have turned the “starving look” into the “ideal,” encouraging young girls, and even boys, into having very thin bodies. Those who are not satisfied with the normal look want to become anorexic, the speakers said.
Representatives of the health funds; the Health, Welfare and Social Affairs and Education Ministries; eating disorder clinics; youth and modelling magazines; and thin models attended the meeting. Aya Bruni, a 26-year-old model who has suffered from anorexia for 12 years, said she starved herself to look like those in magazines after she was not popular in school “and many children didn’t want to talk to me.”
At 16, she was hospitalized by force by her parents after many arguments with them. Today, she said, she is emotionally and physically in bad shape, and her parents have to pay for her treatment. When she missed months of school, she said, her teachers didn’t bother to call her parents for an explanation. When she reached 17, she weighed only 26 kilos.
Model and photographer Adi Barkan said that about 15 years ago, wearing clothing size 38 was considered reasonable for models, but now they are regarded as “large sizes.” Many models who suffered from anorexia sent their photos for processing to make them look even skinnier, said Barkan, who has been active in the fight against too-skinny models.
Adatto said that although the bill has been criticized, the two MKs have heard much praise from parents and medical professionals.
“We are trying to do all we can to stop the disease,” she said.
Fifteen-year-old Lial, who studies in a Jerusalem high school, said that she and her peers learn about femininity and gender, and talk about how women are presented as “mere objects” in advertisements.
“But all the girls have an ideal of being thin, blonde and blue eyed,” she said. They spend much time talking about diets.
Thirty percent of high school girls go on diets without supervision and advice, while 15% of them have vomited intentionally. An Education Ministry representative said that it takes time for a young person to be diagnosed as anorexic due to social norms, and many parents deny there is a problem.
The bill will also prohibit the use of models’ photos if they have been made slimmer with Photoshop or other graphic computer technologies.
According to Israeli studies, 1.2 percent of all women and 0.2% of all men suffer from anorexia, in which they starve themselves, and 4% of women and 1% of men have bulimia, in which they gorge on food and intentionally vomit it out. These diseases can cause serious complications and even death.