The Knesset, the parliament of Israel, passed new legislation yesterday that bans the use of photographs of underweight models in advertising on billboards, in TV commercials and newspaper ads, etc. The law also requires that any advertisement where use has been made of a graphic editing program to reduce the size of the models must clearly disclose this fact. These conditions also apply to advertisements using foreign models that have been edited abroad and imported into Israel.
The new law is based on the definition of Body Mass Index (BMI) measured by a calculation of an individual’s body weight divided by the square of his/her height, a definition accepted by health systems throughout the world where underweight is defined as a BMI of less than 18.5.
Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of NEDA, commented, “It is just so impressive that the Israeli Parliament has taken these serious steps in an effort to save lives. We know that eating disorders are so dangerous, and yet in the U.S. we continue to turn a blind eye to the problem and the many contributing factors. We hope that our Congress will begin to address the problems here at home.”
Commented Dr. Rachel Adatto, Chair of the Health Lobby at the Knesset and initiator of the bill, “This law will erase the anorexic image of beauty transmitted by the media, the fashion industry and advertising and will help protect the health of Israeli youth. The law will change the current situation where underweight male and female fashion models represent the ideal for children and youth and so, in effect, push them towards the terrible curse of eating disorders that attack not only the mind but the body. With this law, we are bringing the ideals of beauty back within the limits of logic, of health, within reasonable limits that will prevent our children sliding down the slippery slope into eating disorders. This law sends a message to our young people that thinness may be popular but that there is a limit and it is possible to be too thin.”
The incidence of eating disorders, including anorexia, has been on the increase in recent years in Israeli society just as in the rest of the western world, particularly among young girls. In the U.S., as many as 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. battle anorexia or bulimia. And as many as 13 million more struggle with binge eating disorder. Millions practice disordered eating due to an obsession with dieting.
According to more than 100 published studies, body dissatisfaction is a significant risk for physical and mental health disorders. Idealized media images and “body perfect” ideals directly increase body dissatisfaction and negatively impact well-being among women and men—but have a particularly negative effect on adolescent girls.
Eating disorders are preventable and treatable, yet hundreds of people die from them every year. In its advanced stages, anorexia attacks almost every organ in the body and has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The Israeli parliament therefore decided to take steps to reduce the spread of this disease among young people.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in New York City, is the leading U.S. non-profit organization supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Each year, NEDA helps millions of people across the country find information and appropriate treatment resources through its toll-free, live helpline, its many outreach programs and website. NEDA advocates for advancements in the field and envisions a world without eating disorders. For more information, visit NationalEatingDisorders.org