Douglas joins guideline campaign for fashion industry


Beauty has a cost, especially for fashion models who starve themselves to fit into their designer gowns. The recent worldwide deaths of several of these individuals has spurred the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) to convene a task force to develop guidelines to assist the fashion industry with taking appropriate measures to protect the health and well-being of models. Recently, Douglas clinicians have joined this campaign by circulating the proposed guidelines to fashion magazines and designers across Canada.

“Our intention is to open a dialogue with leaders in the fashion field and to move forward with the development and implementation of practical guidelines that will save lives,” says Mimi Israël, MD, who is Psychiatrist at the Douglas’ Eating Disorders Program and Secretary of the AED.

These guidelines include adopting a minimum age and body mass index threshold; independent medical certification affirming that aspiring models do not suffer from an eating disorder; and increased communication with advertising agencies to encourage the use of age-appropriate, realistic models in ad campaigns. For complete guidelines, please go to

“We hope to get the fashion industry on board with this initiative,” says Douglas’ Eating Disorders Program Director, Howard Steiger, Ph.D. “Recently, the Spanish government imposed weight limits on its runway models, in line with World Health Organization guidelines. This is a very positive sign.”

“Although social pressures to be thin are an important factor in risk for developing an eating disorder, we also know that social pressures hit hardest in people who are vulnerable for reasons that are psychological and biological. Research has recently been showing us how eating disorders depend upon genetic vulnerabilities that get “switched on” by too much dieting. In other words, eating disorders are complex things; biological, social, developmental, and psychological factors all contribute to the process.”

The Douglas offers an Eating Disorders Program, which is the only large-scale specialized clinical, teaching, and research program involved in the treatment of eating disorders in the province. Steiger’s team has found that eating disorders involve a variety of explanatory factors, including genetics in combination with too much dieting.

Next week (February 5 to 11, 2007) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. At any given time 10 percent or more of late adolescent and adult women report symptoms of eating disorders.