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					                      FASHION AND THE DANGEROUSLY THIN
                   YV Introduction
                       Beauty sells. Advertisements of beauti-          Dittmarr did find, however, that one
Focus                  ful people influence us to buy clothes,        influence the ultra-thin have on the rest
This CBC News in       music equipment, make-up, and cars.            of us is that they make us feel bad about
Review story fo-       But what is beauty? And who defines            our own bodies. Even if we know that
cuses on the shrink-
                       it? In Canada and many other nations,          the super-thin are not really “normal”
ing size of models
and celebrities and
                       thinness is a prerequisite to beauty. It       we still feel inferior and wish we could
the increasing size    wasn’t always this way, but for the past       look more like them. This results in
of the general         15 years or so, thinness has been “in.”        dieting and the development of eating
public.                   Over the past few years, a preference       disorders like anorexia nervosa and
                       for thinness has progressed to a prefer-       bulimia. In some cases, people resort to
                       ence for super-thinness within the             plastic surgery to change their original
 YV Sections           fashion industry and the world of              appearance to closer match the “beauty
marked with this       entertainment. Unflattering pictures of        myth” projected all around them.
symbol indicate        super-thin Hollywood stars appear                Ironically, although the image of
content suitable for   regularly. In the world of fashion,            beauty currently in fashion in our
younger viewers.       models have become thinner and thin-           culture is one of super-thinness, as a
                       ner and, in many cases, sicker and sicker.     population we are actually getting
                          But do these super-thin models and          heavier and heavier. Obesity rates are
                       stars have an influence on the rest of         on the increase across the country, and
                       us? You might be surprised to learn that       kids are getting fatter the fastest. In
                       in some ways the answer is “no.” A             Canada, almost 60 per cent of adults
                       recent study by social psychologist            and one in four children are now con-
                       Helga Dittmarr of the University of            sidered to be overweight or obese.
                       Sussex in England determined that                This News in Review story examines
                       average-sized models are just as effec-        our struggles with body image: from the
                       tive as super-thin models for promoting        super-thin to the overweight. We will
                       body-care products, make-up, and diet          explore the pressure that models face to
                       foods (Natural Life, Jan-Feb 2007).            lose weight and the tragic consequences
                       This is a surprise because the sole            this pressure can bring. As well, we will
                       purpose of models is to influence the          explore the many health impacts of
                       public to purchase the products they           obesity, including skyrocketing rates of
                       promote in advertisements.                     diabetes.

                       To Consider
                          1. How realistic is it to attempt to mould your appearance into the ideal
                             image as projected by models in magazines and actors in films?
                          2. In your experience, how are boys and girls who are overweight treated by
                             other kids? Provide some specific examples.
                          3. Have you or your friends ever dieted or restricted your food choices in
                             order to lose weight? If so, what were your reasons for doing this?
                          4. Do you think that men and boys feel the same pressure as women and
                             girls to have a “perfect” body? Provide reasons or examples to support
                             your answer.
                          5. Have you ever felt bad about your body because it seemed less that “per-
                             fect”? Did this affect your confidence or how you felt about yourself in
                             any way? Discuss.
                                                CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 45
                   YV Video Review

                       1. What percentage of the Canadian population between two and 17 is
As you watch the
video, respond to         obese? _______________
the questions in the   2. What are the negative consequences of obesity?
spaces provided.

As this issue of
News in Review
was being pre-
                       3. Describe the physical appearance and age of model Natasha De Ruyter.
pared, a study from
Harvard University
suggested that
obesity might
begin in the womb
of mothers who         4. a) How does the fashion industry view De Ruyter?
gained more
weight than
needed during            b) Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
pregnancy. The
report was pub-
lished in the April
2007 issue of The
American Journal       5. How has the image of beauty changed since Monica Schnarre was a
of Obstetrics and         supermodel in the 1980s?

                       6. In what ways do dangerously thin models have a negative effect on society?

                       7. In what ways has the fashion industry turned a blind eye to dangerously
                          thin models?

                       8. What changes resulted from the death of Brazilian model Anna Carolina

                                           CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 46
 9. Explain why some people say that these changes do not go far enough.

10. a) What did Monica Schnarre mean when she said that “real change will
    have to come from women who idealize thinness”?

   b) Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

                    CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 47
                         FASHION AND THE DANGEROUSLY THIN
                      YV The Perils of Obesity

                        In March, a story about an overweight           diabetes. Not surprisingly, since obesity
Did you know . . .      boy in Britain made the headlines in            is on the rise, so is diabetes. In fact,
Type 1 diabetes
                        Canadian newspapers. Not that a story           cases of diabetes in the province of
occurs when the
body makes little or    about an overweight boy is unusual. But         Ontario alone have risen over 113 per
no insulin and          what was unusual was that this boy,             cent in the past 10 years.
usually occurs early    eight-year-old Connor McCreaddie,                  Diabetes is a chronic health condition
in one’s life. Type 2   was so overweight that social workers           where the body is unable to produce or
diabetes occurs         had threatened to remove Connor from            utilize insulin and properly break down
when glucose
builds up in the
                        his home to protect his health. Connor          sugar (glucose) in the blood. Symptoms
blood instead of        weighed 97.5 kg. This is four times the         include hunger, thirst, excessive urina-
being used for          weight of the average eight-year-old.           tion, dehydration, and weight loss. The
energy. It usually      Although specific details about the case        treatment varies depending on the type
occurs later in life    have not been released, Connor’s                of diabetes a person has but can involve
and because a
                        mother was able to come to an agree-            a combination of daily insulin injec-
person has become
overweight.             ment with government officials (and             tions, proper nutrition, and regular
                        likely a plan to help her son lose              exercise.
                        weight). As a result, Connor was not               Diabetes is a treatable disease, but it
                        removed from the family home.                   is also a serious disease.
Further Research
                           The McCreaddie case set off a storm          • It is the leading cause of new cases of
To learn more
about diabetes,         of controversy. Many people started to            adult blindness.
consider a visit to     debate whether obesity in children is a         • It is the leading cause of kidney failure.
the Canadian            form of child abuse. Others argued that         • Other than accidents, it is the leading
Diabetes Associa-       focusing on just one obese child over-
tion official Web                                                         cause of amputations of legs or feet.
                        looks the fact that thousands of children
site at                                                                 • Heart attacks are twice as likely in
                        in Britain are obese and that the entire
                        culture has to change the way it eats             individuals with diabetes.
                        and exercises.                                  • Strokes are five times more common.
                                                                        • It complicates pregnancy (birth de-
                        We are Getting Fatter and Sicker                  fects are twice as prevalent in babies
                        Unfortunately, this is not a situation that       born to mothers with diabetes).
                        applies only to Britain. Canada is now             Perhaps most importantly, most cases
                        facing an obesity epidemic itself. And          of type 2 diabetes are preventable. Few
                        the statistics are startling:                   people who get sufficient exercise, eat a
                        • Health Canada reports that nearly 60          good diet, and maintain a healthy
                          per cent of adult Canadians are over-         weight will get diabetes.
                          weight or obese (about 14 million
                          people).                                      Obesity in the North
                        • More than 25 per cent of Canadian             The obesity epidemic is having a par-
                          children are overweight or obese.             ticularly significant impact on indig-
                           Rising rates of obesity have health-         enous peoples in North America. Indig-
                        care officials and politicians concerned.       enous peoples have seen their way of
                        Obesity is linked to heart attacks and          life change significantly in the past 50
                        strokes, many cancers, and diseases like        years. Many used to live off the land,

                                                  CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 48
eating what they hunted or trapped. But         1. Reduce our intake of processed
fewer and fewer indigenous people               foods.
make their living off the land, and             • We have to eat more whole grains,
lifestyles have become more sedentary             fruits and vegetables.
(less active). And as northern communi-         • Even if we are unable to eat at home,
ties became more accessible to the                we need to make healthier choices
south through air travel and improved             while eating out or buying fast food.
roads, indigenous peoples have become           • Processed foods generally contain too
exposed to processed food—a major                 much fat and not enough nutrition.
change in their traditional diet. As a
result, obesity is on the rise, as are obe-
sity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes.     2. Increase our amount of exercise.
   Before the 1950s, obesity-related            • Ministries of education are looking at
diabetes did not exist among indigenous           making physical education a manda-
North Americans. As late as the 1960s,            tory part of the education system
researchers travelled to the boreal forest        again.
to study the Cree and their apparent            • Currently, students in many provinces
immunity to diabetes. However, in an              do not have to take physical education
article for The Globe and Mail on                 after they complete Grade 9.
October 7, 2006, Dr. Kevin Patterson            • Adults need to drive less and walk
reports that in Norway House, a Cree              more.
reserve near Lake Winnipeg, type 2
diabetes rates now stand at 40 per cent.        3. Improve urban planning.
As well, he reports that complications          • New subdivisions need to include
from diabetes such as amputations and             features to increase levels of exer-
kidney disease are twice those of non-            cise—like parks and walking trails.
aboriginal communities.
                                                • Bike lanes should be mandatory for all
                                                  new roads.
Turning the Tide
If we know that obesity poses a signifi-        • Shopping areas need to be built within
cant health risk, as well as a financial          each subdivision to increase daily
nightmare for the health-care system,             walks to the store rather than car rides
what do we do about it?                           to major grocery stores.

Your View
Be prepared to share your responses with the rest of the class.

   1. The case of Connor McCreaddie outraged many people. Some have called
      for the government to include gross obesity as a form of child abuse. Do
      you agree or disagree with this position? Record at least three points to
      support your position.

                          CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 49
2. Experts predict it will be harder to fight the obesity problem facing north-
   ern communities than it will be in southern communities. State whether or
   not you agree or disagree with this statement and then record at least
   three points to support your position.

3. What steps have you and/or your family personally taken to ensure that
   you have a healthy body size?

                     CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 50
                   YV The Perils of “Dangerously Thin”

                       Individuals who are dangerously thin           weight but ended up developing an
Did you know . . .     actually weigh so little they are at risk      eating disorder. The two most common
The accepted
                       of dying. People who are dangerously           eating disorders are anorexia nervosa
calorie requirement
for teenaged           thin are not attractive. In fact, they are     and bulimia.
females who are        quite the opposite. They become skel-
inactive is 1 800      etal-like, and their skin is tightly           Anorexia Nervosa
and for active         stretched across their faces. Because          Anorexia is both an eating disorder and
teenagers 2 400.       their bodies have become so thin, their        a psychological disorder. Someone who
The calorie require-
ment for teenaged
                       heads appear large in proportion to the        develops anorexia often goes through
males who are          rest of the body. Their skin loses colour      the following pattern:
inactive is 2 000      and turns grey. They begin to grow hair        • The person initially begins dieting to
and active 3 200. In   all over their bodies. Females stop              lose weight.
general are you        menstruating. And they become too
getting enough,
                                                                      • The weight loss becomes a sign of
                       weak to stand or walk for any length of          mastery and control, and the drive to
too few, or too
many calories?         time.                                            become thinner is actually secondary
                          Why would anyone want to be that              to concerns about control and/or fears
                       thin? The truth is that no one really            relating to one’s body.
                       plans to become dangerously thin. In an
                                                                      • The individual continues the endless
                       interview for People Weekly magazine,
                                                                        cycle of restrictive eating—often to a
                       Portia de Rossi describes how she
                                                                        point close to starvation in order to
                       became sick.
                                                                        feel a sense of control over the body.
                          “When I got the job on Ally McBeal,
                       it was because I was healthy and attrac-       • This cycle becomes an obsession and
                       tive at my natural weight. But every             is similar to any type of drug or sub-
                       single day, you’re basically in fittings,        stance addiction.
                       constantly being measured. . . .                  Anorexia is further complicated by
                          “I would eat 300 calories a day—a lot       the fact that those who develop the
                       of Jell-O and no-sugar everything, of          disease are in denial about their prob-
                       course. I was also doing Pilates, weight-      lem. This denial is linked to the fact that
                       training, a circuit training . . .             when they look in the mirror they don’t
                          “I realized something was drastically       see a dangerously thin person; they see
                       wrong when I stepped on the scale at           an ugly person and feel they have to
                       the end of 1999 and saw 82 pounds [37          diet even harder to look better.
                       kg]. It became a struggle just to feel
                       good. Then I went back home to Aus-            Bulimia nervosa
                       tralia, and my brother and mother said,        Bulimia is also considered to be both an
                       ‘You’re going to die.’ It really woke me       eating disorder and a psychological
                       up; I had to do something, or I was            disorder. Those who suffer from bu-
                       going to lose everything. I went to a          limia go through a cycle of bingeing
                       counselor and saw it for what it was—          and purging. Bingeing is the consump-
                       an eating disorder.”                           tion of abnormally large amounts of
                          Those who become dangerously thin           food in a short period of time. Purging
                       likely started out wanting to lose some        is the elimination of food by some

                                                CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 51
unusual method, such as vomiting and          unable to change their behavior. Their
taking laxatives.                             bingeing and purging is done in secrecy
   Bulimia has serious health implica-        so that family and friends often do not
tions and can even cause death. Some          know about their disorder. Some
other problems associated with bulimia        bulimics may turn to other ways of
include:                                      solving their problems, such as drugs
• A ruptured stomach                          and alcohol. Many develop other men-
• The loss of nutrients, such as potas-       tal disorders, such as depression and
  sium, as a result of purging can cause      anxiety.
  heart failure.                                Both anorexia and bulimia are much
• The stomach acids from vomiting can         more common in females than in males.
  burn the digestive tract, mouth, lips,      People of all ethnic backgrounds de-
  and teeth.                                  velop these disorders, but the majority
                                              who receive treatment are white. These
• A disrupted menstrual cycle                 disorders are difficult to treat and, in
   Most bulimics know their eating            most cases, a physician and mental
patterns are not normal, but they feel        health professional must be consulted.

For Discussion
  1. Do you know anyone personally who may have an eating disorder?

  2. Name any celebrities who appear to suffer from eating disorders.

  3. Why do you think those suffering from eating disorders often try to keep
     their conditions a secret?

  4. Why is it important for family and friends to speak out if they suspect
     someone they love has an eating disorder?

  5. Is there anyone whom you feel that you need to counsel about their diet?
     Will you?

                        CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 52
                   YV Body Image

                       When we talk about body image we are           bones in the feet to break and prevented
Further Research       talking about the mental picture a             growth of the feet. Foot binding re-
As you may know,
                       person has of his or her own body. This        sulted in highly deformed feet, measur-
(         picture is the result of a person’s own        ing 10 to 15 cm in length and forced the
has started a series   self-observation and by noting the             girls and women to take very small
of ads that pro-       reactions of others. For example, you          steps and shuffle their feet while they
mote real beauty.      may believe that your build is quite           walked. Small feet and this style of
Go to their Cam-       “normal” until you mention to a friend         walking were thought to bring feminin-
paign for Real
Beauty Web site at
                       that you just got a new piece of clothing      ity and beauty to a woman. It also
www.campaign           that is a size 8. Upon hearing this, your      resulted in frequent foot infections and      friend acts surprised and says: “Oh, I         paralysis. Foot binding as a child is a
and explore the site   always thought you were at least a size        significant cause of disability among
before assessing its   12.” Your body image would likely be           elderly Chinese women today.
sincerity and value.
                       negatively affected by your friend’s
Share your thoughts
with your peers.       comment because it would make you              Victorian Corsets
                       think that you appear heavier than you         Corsets were worn by women in the
                       really are.                                    Victorian Era to give women an ex-
                          Today, the image of ideal beauty            tremely small waist. Fabric corsets,
                       presented by the fashion and entertain-        often containing whalebone inserts,
                       ment industries is of the super thin. As a     were tightly laced around a woman’s
                       result of constantly being bombarded by        torso to squeeze her internal organs into
                       images of the super thin, even those           a much smaller area. Corsets often
                       people who have perfectly healthy and          resulted in deformed rib cages, and
                       normal bodies might start to feel inse-        breathing was seriously impaired,
                       cure. This can lead to unhealthy dieting       which is why women of this era were
                       practices and eating disorders like            famous for fainting. In some cases,
                       bulimia and anorexia nervosa.                  women would have the bottom two ribs
                          It is interesting to note that the cur-     surgically removed so they could be
                       rent super-thin beauty ideal is a new          corseted more effectively. Because of
                       phenomenon. Images of beauty vary              damage to internal organs women who
                       from culture to culture and change over        were corseted suffered from pain and a
                       time. As you review the information            lack of energy. It was not unusual for
                       below, consider whether or not our             women to aim for a 40 cm waist when
                       current super-thin beauty ideal is an          they were corseted.
                       improvement over the images of beauty
                       that have existed in the past.                 Flappers of the 1920s
                                                                      As women became more emancipated,
                       Chinese Foot Binding                           they also rejected the restrictive cloth-
                       This practice existed for about 1 000          ing worn by their mothers. “Flappers,”
                       years, beginning in the 10th century and       as these women were known, wore
                       ending in the early 20th century. Foot         loose clothing that dropped straight
                       binding involved wrapping young girls’         down the torso and was gathered low
                       feet in tight bandages, which caused           across the hips. The flapper look was

                                                CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 53
almost boyish in that it emphasized           voluptuous and curvy. She played on
straight lines and did not focus on           her femininity and was seen as very
enhancing the bosom.                          sexy. Her look directly contrasted with
                                              the flappers of the 1920s.
The Hourglass Figure of the
Marilyn Monroe was the most famous
sex symbol of the 1950s. She was

  1. How does this information demonstrate that images of beauty fluctuate
     across cultures and time periods?

  2. Describe the current image of beauty in your culture and then explain the
     impact it has on your own body image.

  3. What steps can be taken to help young men and women feel better about
     their natural body shape?

  4. Describe the role that school and peers may have to play in developing
     positive body image.

                        CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 54
                   YV New Restrictions

                       The fashion industry has been under           kg. She died in November of multiple
Further Research       pressure to stop using super-thin models      organ failure caused by anorexia.
Use the Internet to
                       for the past few years. But this pressure
find body mass
calculators that you   increased after two extremely thin            The Fashion Industry Response
can use such as this   models died in 2006. In August, 22-           In December 2006, the Italian govern-
one at                 year-old Luisel Ramos collapsed and           ment teamed up with the country’s      died of heart failure while participating     fashion industry to demand that the
bmi.html.              in a fashion show during Fashion Week         fashion industry stop using ultra-thin
                       in Montevideo (Uruguay.) Ramos’s              models. As well, they imposed a ban on
                       father said that she had starved herself      the use of models under the age of 16
                       for several days before the show.             for Milan Fashion Week.
                          In November, Brazilian model Ana             Another step forward occurred when
                       Carolina Reston died from complica-           the organizers of Madrid Fashion Week
                       tions linked to anorexia nervosa. The         said they would ban models with body
                       21-year-old Reston started modelling in       mass indexes below 18. The body mass
                       her early teens, but faced huge pressure      index (BMI) is calculated by dividing a
                       to help support her impoverished family       weight in kilograms by the square of
                       after robbers stole everything from their     height in metres. Generally speaking,
                       rural home when she was 16. Although          this means dividing weight by height.
                       she had been signed to the Ford Model-        By setting a BMI of 18, a 175 cm
                       ing Agency when she was in her early          model would have to weigh at least 57
                       teens, she never grew tall enough to          kg.
                       command high fees. So she tried to              Some critics believe that the Milan/
                       compensate by losing weight.                  Madrid restrictions will not do enough
                          Friends said that Reston was so            to shift the industry away from the
                       beautiful she looked like an angel. But       super thin. But the industry also has its
                       by the middle of 2006, she was so thin        supporters who argue that it is not the
                       she was too weak to carry her own             only factor in our culture’s obsession
                       luggage. She had literally become a           with the super thin. These people argue
                       skeleton. As well, her skin was grey and      that the industry has taken important
                       her eyes were sunken and “without             steps to reduce the use of super-thin
                       light” (People Weekly, December 4,            models, but that parents, teachers, and
                       2006). By the time she entered hospital,      the media also have a role to play to
                       the 170-cm-tall Reston weighed only 40        improve this situation.

                                               CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 55
                     1. Rank order the influence that you feel the following have on our culture’s
                        obsession with the super thin:

Influence Factor   My Ranking        Three Steps to Encourage Healthy Body Weight



Fashion industry

Education system

Music industry

An individual’s
own personality

                     2. Discuss your rankings with a partner and then work together to record
                        three steps that each of the above could implement to encourage healthy
                        body weight among males and females.

                     3. Although the fashion industry claims that it wants to help reverse the
                        trend toward a super-thin body image, designer Nicole Miller has just
                        introduced a line of “subzero” clothing for Banana Republic. Miller said
                        that since her size zero clothing was selling so well, she wanted to intro-
                        duce the subzero line. Size zero clothes are targeted to females with 60
                        cm waists—which is about the circumference of a junior soccer ball.

                       Discuss this new initiative with your partner and record your thoughts in
                       your notebooks. Be prepared to share your thoughts with the larger class.

                                          CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 56
YV Activity: Choosing a Model

  According to social psychologist Helga Dittmarr, of the University of Sussex in
  England, average-sized models are just as effective as super-thin models for
  promoting body-care products, makeup, and diet foods. Dittmarr also found
  that ultra-thin models make the rest of us feel uncomfortable about our own
  bodies. Over the past decade, models have become younger and skinnier.

  The Activity
  Your teacher will divide you into groups of three. Your roles within the group
  are as follows:
  • One student will role-play an advertising executive who wants to choose an
    ultra-thin model for an ad campaign.
  • One student will role-play an advertising executive who wants to choose a
    model with a more average build.
  • One student will role-play the president of the company who has to make the
    final decision.

  Before the Role-play
  • Decide on the product you are to promote.
  • The two advertising executives should prepare a list of points to support their
  • The president of the company should become familiar with both sides of the
    issue so that he or she will be able to make an informed decision.

  After the Role-play
  • Your teacher will ask each group to share the decision made by the president
    of the company.
  • The president will have to provide reasons for the choice.

  Research sources to help you prepare:
  • This CBC News in Review guide
  • CBC news at
  • BBC news at
  • The National Eating Disorder Information Centre at
  • The Canadian Health Network at; search
    within the site for “eating disorders”

                         CBC News in Review • April 2007 • Page 57

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