I gathered statistics from three different studies to gauge the prevalence of eating disorders in general and eating disorders in the fashion industry.
An initial set of information published on CNN.com revealed that 80% of all 10 year olds are afraid of being fat, and 42% of all 1st through 3rd graders want to be thinner. 13 million American women binge eat, while 10 million suffer from anorexia or bulimia, the two most severe forms of eating disorders.
CNN also stated that the average American woman stands at 5’4″ and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American fashion model is 5’11” and 110 pounds.
This information comparing fashion models with their average American counterparts was reinforced in a study conducted by eatingdisorderhope.com. ED Hope stated that, according to the NY Better Business Bureau, high fashion models must be between 5’9″ and 6′ and weigh between 110 and 130 pounds. A woman who is 5’9″ and 110 pounds, the two lower ends of the spectrum, has a BMI of 16.2%, which is considered underweight.
A second study I consulted, conducted by the Model Alliance, confirmed a horrifying speculation: modeling agents and fashion executives were telling these already-underweight models that they need to be thinner. The study was carried out at New York Fashion Week A/W 2017. Models backstage at the various high-profile shows were asked different questions about there experience with body image, and the results were shocking. Over 62% of these models reported being asked to lose weight or change their shape or size by their agents or someone in the industry. 54% of models were told that they would be unable to book jobs unless they lost weight. 21% were told by their agency that they would cease representation unless they shed weight. Over 9% reported that they had been told to take it one step further and receive plastic surgery.
The CNN report also reported something else worth noting: time spent on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter directly correlates with eating disorder risk. While social networks do not directly cause eating disorders, they certainly perpetuate the thin ideal. The most dangerous form of these media are “thinspiration” sites and accounts, which post photos, tips, and forums to encourage harmful behaviors. Common themes among these sites include ways to stay full while eating the absolute minimum (if at all), ways to trick a dietician, doctor, or parent that you have gained weight, and extreme weight-loss “goals” like thigh gaps and hip bones that stick out.