Quebec charter for a healthy and diversified body image
Quebec charter for a healthy and diversified body image
Today marks the first day of the Montreal Fashion and Design Festival. Over the next three days, more than 40 fashion shows involving some 75 models will be occurring downtown Montreal. Experts from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute are taking this opportunity to promote healthier practices within the Montreal and Canadian fashion industry. Their goal is see the implementation of guidelines proposed initially by the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), which assist the fashion industry with taking appropriate measures to protect the health and well-being of models.

The AED guidelines were initially released following the wake of anorexia-related deaths of runway models in South America earlier this year. Members of the Douglas’ Eating Disorders Programme followed suit by endorsing the guidelines in 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 steps that will save lives,” says Douglas’ chief of the Eating Disorders Program Howard Steiger, PhD, a fellow and board member of the AED.


The 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 www.aedweb.org/public/guidelines_fashion.cfm.

Recently the AED announced a new initiative encouraging the fashion industry to institute yearly medical examinations for their models, including a specialized eating disorders assessment.

“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,” says Steiger. “Recent research findings have demonstrated 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.”

“Although the fashion industry does not directly cause eating disorders, it does contribute greatly to our society’s perception of beauty. One of the most successful ways to treat eating disorders, may be to change society’s expectations and values.”

The Douglas Eating Disorders Program

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.

At any given time 10 percent or more of late adolescent and adult women report symptoms of eating disorders.