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An excellent article today in the health section of Newsweek.com: Why skinny models could be making us fat.

In it, the authors Jessica Bennett, Sarah Childress and Susanna Schrobsdorff, suggest the images portrayed on the front of magazines inspire unhealthy lifestyles that encourage weight gain rather than weight loss.

the contrast between the girls on the catwalks and the girls at the mall is creating an atmosphere ripe for binge dieting and the kind of unhealthy eating habits that ultimately result in weight gain, not loss.

The article points out that 2/3 of American adults are overweight while only 1% of our population is Anorexic. When the "mall girls" see stick thin runway models, whose images are heavily photo shopped in print, they could be encouraged to crash diet and then binge, which is actually the fast way to gain weight.

And on that note, models are increasingly encouraged to be thinner. The last year or two we have seen several tragic stories of runway models, often barely 18 year old women, die of starvation. This has led to public campaigns to require minimum weight guidelines, weigh-ins at fashion shows, and size alterations to accommodate "heavier" (aka, normal) models. But with the rise of technology, even the skinniest, tallest, leggiest models aren't "perfect" enough. With the fast progression of photo re-touching technology, even the heavily made up models are re-touched, have body parts replaced and have "fat" skimmed off their abs.

Increasingly, photos for print are enhanced and perfected to an astonishing degree. Not only are moles, acne and subtle facial hair erased from already pretty faces, but retouchers are routinely asked by editors and advertisers to enlarge eyes, trim normal-size ears, fill in hairlines, straighten teeth and lengthen the already-narrow necks, waists and legs of 18-year-old beauties. "We're always stretching the models' legs and slimming their thighs," says a photo retoucher who works for a high-end Manhattan agency. In some cases, hands, feet or even legs are replaced in photos when the subject's parts don't add up to a perfect whole. "Sometimes I feel a little like Frankenstein," says the retoucher, who would only speak anonymously because of the potential for professional backlash. The irony, she adds, is that the models and actresses pictured have usually have already been through hours of hair styling and makeup--including body makeup--to remove the slightest blemish.

Fashion designers often argue that people don't want to buy something draped over a size 16 frame; they want to look beautiful, and that, they say , is skinny.

'Fat doesn't sell fashion,' says Imogen Edwards-Jones, a journalist and author of "Fashion Babylon," an insider's look at the industry. 'People don't fantasize about being a size 16--they fantasize about being a size 8.' So even if the public can't fit into (much less afford) a size 0 designer dress, they'll probably buy a magazine with a size 0 model wearing that dress.

As women, girls, and increasingly younger girls see these images, they internalize them as the "ideal" which could garner them popularity, success, and a man. Although the effects of these increasingly disturbing images upon those suffering from bulimia and anorexia are hard to quantify, it's surely not helping them.

This article the extreme need to re-define for ourselves what a woman is. Although the fashion industry lauds the skinny model as a goddess, perpetuates the myth that "skinny=beautiful", and see's it's employees drop dead from starvation, it IS trying to change. Perhaps we as consumers should help that change along. If you see a magazine with an offensive image on the front, like a female super model that's underweight, don't buy it- even if you do like the dress she's wearing.

-Sophia

(Posted at Women Undefined)

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