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As London Fashion Week kicked off this week, so did the row over size 00 stick-thin models. And as the shows draw to a close, it showed no sign of cooling down.
Madrid set the trend by banning girls with a body mass index of less than 18.5 from the catwalk – but London fashionistas refused to follow suit and at many shows, size 00 was the order of the day.
Health experts condemned the decision and ordinary women agree – a Closerdiets.com poll this week showed a resounding 96% of visitors to the site would prefer to see real women on the catwalk to bony walking coathanger women.
TV star Gail Porter weighed in to the argument: “Having struggled with the disease (an eating disorder) myself, the image that we're portraying to our children scares me.”
The 35-year-old mother of one continues: “I'm worried about the young girls that get into it. They might be naturally skinny then, but once they start to develop, they're told to lose it and there's an unnatural amount of pressure.”
The dangers of worshipping the uber-skinny look are clear: Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and compulsive over-eating disorder affect a staggering 12% of the population.
Supermarket chains have cottoned on to what real women want – Asda has chosen curvy Coleen McLoughlin (BMI 22.3) to front its George range while clothing giants Matalan picked smiley, healthy Mel Sykes, (BMI 19).
But some critics say simply using a model's Body Mass Index as a guide may not be the answer. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple calculation which shows how healthy your weight is in relation to your size. According to diet experts, a healthy BMI starts at 18.5 – anything less, and you could be dangerously thin. Closerdiets.com for example, will not produce a weight-loss diet for anyone with a BMI below 20, and even when you have joined you can't go below a BMI of 19.
So far so simple – but some women claim they naturally have a low BMI and the fact that healthy-looking stars like curvy Kelly Brook has a BMI of just 17.8 and healthy model mum Melinda Messenger just 17.4 adds weight to their argument.
Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (BMI 16.1) pointed out: “As a naturally thin person I understand that some of these girls can have a BMI of less than 18 and still be healthy.”
And Stuart Rose, chairman of the British Fashion Council, said that a ban was unreasonable: “Outright bans and legislation are definitely not a route we want to go down.”
It may well be that banning models on the grounds of BMI alone is not the answer, but it's certainly time for the fashion industry to take some action to change this unhealthy, ugly and downright dangerous trend.
Surely, even if the industry refuses to accept that it plays a part in encouraging young girls to idolise the super-skinny, the horrific death of 22 year-old model Luisel Ramos last month – of a heart attack after surviving on a diet of salad leaves and diet coke for 3 months – should spur them on.
Closerdiets.com's Nicky Harley has been interviewing the stars to find out what they think on the subject. For Michael Caine's, and others comments, please visit Closerdiets.com
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