Many articles written about eating disorders criticize celebrities for being unhealthy role models due to their slim figures. Some of these articles have included pictures of Britney Spears, Kate Moss, or other celebrities, blaming the current epidemic on these sort of role models. This is extremely puzzling to me, since most of these models and celebrities do not look malnourished. Most are very fit, yes, but malnourished, no. It must be disconcerting for these celebrities to be blamed for an epidemic that is destroying the lives of thousands, if not millions of young women. Admittedly, some models are very skinny, and do look somewhat malnourished, but this may just be their genetic heritage. One cannot assume someone is malnourished just by looking at a photograph.
When an author blames a perfectly healthy, fit celebrity for providing a poor role model for young people, it is indicative of a problem more with the author than with the celebrity. Many current authorities on anorexia nervosa believe so strongly that celebrity role models are to blame for this epidemic, that they begin to see almost all slim, fit, perfectly healthy models or actresses as anorexic. This phenomenon is a classic example of how belief skews perception, and shows that the author has lost objectivity, desperately seeking confirmation of his beliefs in almost anything he observes. For a more in-depth explanation of this fascinating phenomenon, click here.
Fashion Models statistically do have a greater prevalence of disordered eating. Some of this may be due to performance pressures and expectations put on them by their managers and agents. If you were told you were going to lose your six-figure income if you didn't lose a few pounds, you may be tempted to purge that big meal you just ate. These pressures are certainly a factor, but also at play is the fact that people gravitate to pursuits they have an aptitude for. People who have a digestive disorder may tend to be thin rather than heavy, and fashion modelling usually dictates thinness. This may be a significant factor in the higher prevalence of disordered eating among models.
It is possible to confuse the purging done by models strictly for professional and economic reasons with that done by a person who may be trying to lose weight while suffering from a digestive problem. There may several concurrent motivations for this type of behavior.
Also at play with many celebrities is the higher prevalence of breast implants. The visual effect of artificially enlarging the breasts also provides an optical illusion, making the stomach appear smaller by comparison. This does provide an unrealistic role model, as this sort of body shape is unattainable for most women without plastic surgery. Most people also don't realize that many models (especially those that model for weight-loss programs or exercise equipment) use anabolic steroids and thyroid hormones, combined with dehydration and self-starvation before a photo shoot to give enhanced muscle definition. It would be impossible for most people to attain these body shapes simply by exercising.
One must not assume that models and celebrities are partially to blame for this epidemic. They have an economic interest in staying fit since their bodies are normally an inclusive part of their entertainment package. I've noticed few, if any obese pop singers who've done well gyrating their scantily-clad bodies around on a music video. Disordered eating among models and celebrities may result from completely different causes than those affecting the severely malnourished anorexic patient. One must not assume that because the supermodel occasionally purges to keep her weight down that all bulimic patients do that for the same reason. The model may be protecting her career, while the bulimic patient may really be experiencing nausea.
If you have been a professional model, what sort of pressures and expectations did you experience? Did these pressures motivate you to induce vomiting if you overate? Did the vomiting start to be habitual or did you just do it occasionally? Please contact us and share your experiences.