‘You become body dysmorphic’

‘Get over it and just eat something’

This, and similarly themed demands, are often heard by suffers of eating disorders, and unfortunately it is unhelpful and fueled by plain ignorance. Anyone with a basic understanding of these mental disorders and body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) can vouch that there is no easy fix such as ‘getting over it’ to overcome the deeply rooted inner turmoil and self depriving need to control, that reigns boss.

I have witnessed close friends succumb and go to alarming lengths to lead their bodies toward a near skeletal physic while dealing with the internal fistfight taking place of reason vs compulsion. One even said to me that she was completely aware that everything she was doing, and not doing, was stupid, ‘I learnt all about it in high school health class, for Godsake‘, but sadly could not stop. When she did try, nothing but a heavy mouthful of self-loathing filled her.

Body dysmorphia is sadly something that is deeply entrenched within modern day western society. There is no way to sugar coat the fact that as a mass generalisation we are all overly consumed with the aesthetics and shapes of ourselves and our fellow individuals.

Now here comes the part where I start bashing the media and it’s perverted obsession with malnourished beings.

I have worked in and around the fashion industry for years now. Since the tender naive age of 17 I have been surrounded by the most gorgeous creatures as they work incredibly hard, only to have their entire physical being judged multiple times in one day. I am friends with a lot of full time professional models and am aware that, while of course there are always exceptions, models tend to have a high level of self conscience tendencies, primarily because they are having their ‘imperfections’ pointed out constantly.

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Model for Jeremy Scott SS15

Having been surrounded by the mindset of physical appearance held in junction with the fashion industry, I would love to say that I am confident enough in myself to not let it get to me. That would be a big lie. Some of the thoughts that have filtered through my mind make me stop cold in my tracks. But more on that another time.

Let me drop some statistics followed by some speculation on you.

Only one out of ten men and women with eating disorders receive treatment (American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152). Could this be because of the stigma surrounding the illness? The denial most people go through, before it is pointed out to them that maybe their hip bones should not be brandishing bruises on people they sleep with?

In America, 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991). Maybe because media is subtly filling their minds with subliminal images Clockwork Orange style?

In the UK, 1.6 million people are affected by an eating disorder, however 11% are male. Could this be because women are more objectified in media spoon feed the notion that the gorgeous thin elite come out on top?

Again, all speculation.

Models are not to blame for perpetuating this out of whack ideals. They need to make a living. However it is nice to see outcries like the one from Swedish model Agnes Hedengård who posted a video in her underwear, showcasing a toned and taught body to die for, yet goes on to explain that she was dubbed ‘too fat’ by many fashion industry insiders.

I asked a friend, aka a gorgeous goddess, to give her two cents on the subject as she works as a full time model in New York and has clashed with a few roadblocks because despite the fact she is genetically a noodle human (freakishly thin), happens to have a glorious ass. I was going to edit this down but she worded everything so perfectly in its entirety.

‘The main problem is that working inside the industry this becomes normalised. You’re surrounded by girls who subscribe to a very specific set of measurements and if you don’t fit between them you’re considered ‘too big’. I’m 6ft tall so having a hip measurement which is the same as a girl of 5’9 has always been a big struggle as I have to be very prudent with not putting any weight on my hips- yet then when my hips were the ideal model size I would have complaints from clients and was more than once a figure of skinny shaming online because my arms were super skinny.

My agency in New York told me recently that I looked really great but after measuring me asked me to lose an inch off my hips but that the rest of my was perfect. You can’t just choose where the fat goes from!! The idea of being sample size is too simplistic and although there is a supposed shift with more shapes and sizes being accepted, models who don’t have a big name for themselves won’t get the work.

There are clearly long term ramifications for the mental health of models when at this size they are told they’re too big and I don’t think that these are taken seriously enough. Most girls within the industry travel from overseas, live in model houses, go to castings interacting in majority with models and work so their main human interactions are with girls who have a very specific body type. This completely shifts the way models come to view what is ‘skinny’. I see girls every day who look terrifyingly skinny but you also see them booking a lot of jobs.

I started modeling quite late and consider myself to have a good head on my shoulders, yet still it can affect me. I can ask if I should be dieting harder or wondering what kind of exercise they do. And I’m not a 16 year old impressionable girl! It scares me what will happen to them after the industry is done with them. When they become women and they’re hips grow and they become too big to work. What then for their career and they’re self worth?

Most people who watched this video (refers to video posted by model Agnes Hedengård)  probably saw a beautiful slender girl. I did too. But I work in the industry and have a similar body type to her- so after I saw booty I was like ‘oh shit yep, been there, I’d be trying to lose weight’.

You become body dysmorphic. Thin isn’t thin anymore. Right now in New York fashion week castings have started and it’s like the median BMI of a the city had moved down a point or two. Suddenly I’m much more aware of my weight. As a model you’re so replaceable so you end up going to whatever measures you can to remain competitive, and a lot of that time unfortunately that’s means being as skinny as you can.’

So. What are we to do? How can people simply ‘get over it’ when it’s everywhere?

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