In Israel, lawmakers are fighting the fashion industry. They just passed a new law banning male and female models from having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5.
BMI is the measure of weight relative to height. Given this standard, a 5' 7" woman must weigh between 122 and 149 pounds.
This new regulation is due, in part, to images of rail thin models that have become the norm on magazine covers, movies and TV. The Israeli law also bans advertisements from having models who look underweight and requires advertisers to say if they used Photoshop to manipulate the image or slim down the model for the photo.
Lawmakers hope the measure will encourage a healthier body image among teens and young girls, and start addressing the spread of eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. An AP News study found that 2 percent of girls aged 14 to 18 in Israel have eating disorders.
Nicole Weider, a former Victoria's Secret model who now runs a Christian website for young girls, told The Christian Post that she is in favor of the new law and that it will be "a constant warning sign to girls; that they can't get the job if they are under the certain weight for their height."
She said that a law like this in the U.S. would create more jobs for the models who aren't as skinny or underweight.
Weider talked about the obsession with weight in the fashion industry and recalled the day she met her agent when she started modeling in Hollywood, the woman told her she had to quit volleyball because it was building up her thighs.
"I remember thinking that was a bit odd that my new agent who I met that day told me that. But I was eager to please her, so I quit the sport which I grew up playing. I remember shooting with a few different photographers and they would blatantly tell me things like; my nose was too wide, I should get rid of the scar on my forehead, among other things," she recalled.
"It's truly devastating the negative effect the modeling industry has on a girl and to society as a whole. There is so much competition for one job that the models are literally willing to wear whatever and do whatever it takes to get paid."
Weider started her website "Project Inspired" so she could educate young girls about the "lie the modeling industry is selling." She has a "Before and After Series" that shows the airbrushing that goes into many of the photos.
In a survey of girls ages 9 and 10 years old, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, found that 40 percent have tried to lose weight. Another study from the National Institute on Media and The Family found that by age 13, 53 percent of American girls are "unhappy with their bodies," and this only increases to 78 percent by the time they hit 17.
Weider explained to CP that the danger in this kind of false advertising lies in the fact that "when a girl looks at an advertisement and sees a pretty, smiling girl that's emaciated – she looks at the glamorous picture and thinks: 'I want to have that product so I can look as happy and skinny as her.'"
Models don't wake up out of bed looking the way they do in the photos, Weider noted. She explained that a lot more goes into it that we realize – there are professional makeup artists and hair stylists, a fan blowing on her hair extensions, sometimes models have had surgery, spray tan, and often there is airbrushing on top of the final photo.
The modeling industry, she warned, uses "false perceptions of beauty so they can lure the girls in to buying their products."