In A Bold Fashion Statement, Israel Bans Underweight Models


Israel certainly kicked off 2015 with a bang! And we’re not talking about a fireworks display, we’re talking about one of the most bold fashion statements ever to be made across the industry. They have banned underweight models industry wide.

For any country to enact a ban of this kind (and Israel is not the first) it sends a loud and clear message to the industry that there needs to be a change; the standards need to be re-evaulated.

Starting January 1st, the new law stated that any model appearing on the catwalk or in advertising must have a body mass index of 18.5 or higher. Any lower than that and they are considered underweight and malnourished according to WHO standards.

The law also requires advertisers to print disclaimers if any of their images have been digitally altered in any way. Bravo! Here’s hoping this will give the ‘Truth In Advertising’ proposed bill a much-needed boost here in the US.

Israeli gynecologist, lawyer, and politician Rachel Adatto is the woman who spearheaded this new law after she realized the link between the epidemic of eating disorders and the fashion industry.

“So many girls are idolizing these models and wanting to look like them,” she told The Daily Beast.

More and more countries are waking up to the dangerous trends that are seeping their way through our youth and creating a generation of girls who don’t have the developed capacity to distinguish between a silly fad and something that disastrously takes over their well-being.


“In 2006, after two models collapsed and died when they stepped off the runway, Brazil, India, Israel, and Uganda banned underweight models from the catwalk. Madrid Fashion Week strictly bans models who have a BMI below 18 and Milan’s Fashion Week does not allow models to walk if they have a BMI below 18.5. The UK and US also have guidelines, but they are mostly subject to the designer’s tastes. Models are required to turn in a medical report 3 months prior to the show,” writes Hayli Goode over at Bustle.

These countries realize that eating disorders are not something to be taken lightly. Italy, being one of the biggest bastions of fashion on the planet, are doing a good job of cracking down on dangerous trends. In August 2014 they announced a new law that would regulate and shut down sites that glorify anorexia and bulimia.

In 2012 Vogue magazine announced that 19 of its global publications were banning the use of models under the age of 16 after a spread in French Vogue with a 10 year old model caused massive outrage. Why should adult women reading this fashion tome be sold an image of an under-developed girl with the subliminal message “this is how you need to look to achieve perfection”? It was a damn good move on the magazine’s part if we do say so!

Of course, the new Israeli law, like many other similar laws, have its fair share of critics. Some say the BMI is no longer an accurate measure of good health, some say the law demonizes women who are naturally very thin and makes them feel ashamed of their own genetics.

These are valid points to be considered for sure, but we also have to look at the bigger picture. Shai Avital, owner and CEO of Elite Israel, one of the most successful fashion model agencies in Israel, says the law is unnecessary.


“The law disregards the fact that some models are thin due to genetics and nothing they would do would increase their BMI to the legally accepted level,” he said. “This law ends now their careers. Israel is today the only country where a body weight legal control is in effect and this is not necessarily something to be proud of. ”

Ok fair point, but the fact that a girl may have to cross off modeling off her careers list because of her genetics isn’t exactly the worst thing to happen in the history of the world. Modeling isn’t an altogether bad profession, but it has a long, storied history of creating problematic ideals and wreaking havoc on generations of women in regards to their self-esteem.

If a naturally thin girl in Israel with a BMI below 18.5 now has to instead go to college and pursue a career in, say, engineering or science, or teaching, or management, should we be sad about that?

While some may say this law and others like it is a clamp on the freedom to be creative, we say bravo to the men and women around the world who recognize that if their law could’ve saved the lives of those two Brazilian models, then everything they are doing, criticism and all, is definitely worth it.

Dr. Adi Enoch-Levy, a psychiatrist who treats people with eating disorders at the Safra children’s hospital in Tel Aviv, says there is an undeniable link between eating disorders and the media, therefore he supports a move like this.

“I think the importance of this law is that young women, who until now had only one very narrow definition of what the body model to aspire to was, will from now on have a wider definition of physical beauty.”

Now THAT deserves a round of applause.




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