1. Headline
  1. Headline
Oded Balilty  /  AP
An Israeli walks past an advertising displayed on a main street in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 19. A new Israeli law, passed late Monday, is trying to fight the spread of eating disorders by banning underweight models from local advertising.
updated 3/20/2012 10:52:39 AM ET 2012-03-20T14:52:39

A new Israeli law is trying to fight the spread of eating disorders by banning underweight models from local advertising and requiring publications to disclose when they use altered images to make women and men appear thinner.

The law, passed late Monday, appears to be the first attempt by any government to use legislation to take on a fashion industry accused of abetting eating disorders by idealizing extreme thinness. It could become a model for other countries grappling with the spread of anorexia and bulimia, particularly among young women.

The law's supporters said they hoped it would encourage the use of healthy models in local advertising and heighten awareness of digital tricks that transform already thin women into illusory waifs.

"We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real," said Liad Gil-Har, assistant to law sponsor Dr. Rachel Adato, who compares the battle against eating disorders to the struggle against smoking.

Disclosing details
In Israel, about 2 percent of all girls between 14 and 18 have severe eating disorders, which is a statistic similar to other developed countries, said anthropologist Sigal Gooldin who studies eating disorders.

The new law requires models to produce a medical report, dating back no more than three months, at every shoot that will be used on the Israeli market, stating that they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards.

The U.N. agency uses a standard known as the body mass index — calculated by dividing weight by height — to determine malnutrition. WHO says a body-mass index below 18.5 is indicative of malnutrition, said Adato, a gynecologist.

According to that standard, a woman 5 feet 8 inches (1.72 meters) tall should weigh no less than 119 pounds (54 kilograms).

Any advertisement published for the Israeli market must also have a clearly written notice disclosing if the model used in it was digitally altered to make her, or him, look thinner. The law will not apply to foreign publications sold in Israel.

'Human beings ... not coat hangers': Models form rights group

The law was championed by one of Israel's top model agents, Adi Barkan, who said in 30 years of work, he saw young women become skinnier and sicker while struggling to fit the shrinking mold of what the industry considered attractive.

"They look like dead girls," Barkan said.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. 'Cosby Show' turns 30, here's show's best parenting advice

      Those babies Cliff Huxtable delivered are old enough to be parents themselves. "The Cosby Show" premiered 30 years ago Sat...

    2. Ballsy! Testicular cancer survivor has creative way to raise awareness
    3. USA TODAY columnist: 'There was really nothing of substance' in Goodell's press conference
    4. Debra Messing on new show: 'It's important to show reality'
    5. Domestic violence centers see spike in calls after Ray Rice video

Critics said the legislation should have focused on health, not weight, saying many models were naturally very thin.

"The health of the model ... should be evaluated. Our weight can change hour to hour," said David Herzog, a professor of psychiatry and a leading U.S. expert on eating disorders.

Wrong focus?
Top Israeli model Adi Neumman said she wouldn't pass under the new rules, because her BMI was 18.3. Neumman said she ate well and exercised. She said legislation should have focused on health and well-being, not weight.

"Force actual tests. Make girls go to a doctor. Get a system to follow girls who are found to be puking," she said.

Legislator Adato said only 5 percent of women had BMI that naturally fell under 18.5.

"On the one hand, maybe we'll hurt a few models," Adato said. "On the other hand, we'll save a lot of children."

Pressure on the fashion industry has intensified in recent years, sparked by the deaths of models in Brazil and Uruguay from medical complications linked to eating disorders.

Uruguayan model, Luisel Ramos, 22, collapsed soon after stepping off the runway in August 2006, reportedly of anorexia-linked heart failure.

Other governments have taken steps to prevent "size zero" medical problems, but have shied from legislation.

Jennifer Lopez: I'm a size 6 (unless I overeat, then I'm an 8)

The Madrid fashion show bans women whose BMI is below 18. Milan's fashion week bans models with a BMI below 18.5.

The U.K. and U.S. have guidelines, but the fashion industry is self-regulated.

    1. Bobbie's Buzz: Best buys for guys
    2. 'Snow White' mania inspires fashion, beauty lines
    3. 'Hipster' eyewear new trend for defendants on trial
    4. Our 12 favorite nourishing oils — for face, hair and body

Unrealistic body images in the media are believed to shape eating habits, especially among young people, though there is debate about how influential they are.

Gooldin, the anthropologist, said young women used in television, movies and advertisements as references for the ideal body, rather than the women around them.

"There's a gap between our own bodies ... and ideal bodies. They keep shrinking and getting smaller," she said.

It's not clear whether the law will have a measurable impact, because Israeli teens take their cues from both international media and local publications, Gooldin said. And the ban isn't likely to affect many — there are only about 300 professional models in Israel, and only a few work abroad, said agent Barkan and model Neumman.

Study: Banning too-thin models could help curb anorexia

But Gooldin said it was a positive step to deal with a problem that has plagued Western societies.

Legislator Adato said she hoped Israel would be an example other countries could study.

"You don't need to be underweight to be beautiful, or successful," she said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Best of bizarre style on the Paris runway

loading photos...
  1. Best of bizarre style on the Paris runway

    Designers at Paris Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2012-2013 sent down an array of unique, odd, and downright bizarre styles. Take a look at the oddest creations:

    Yipes! Stripes!
    Left: A model presents an exaggerated getup by designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim for Kenzo during the Fall/Winter collection show on Mar. 4 in Paris. (Pierre Verdy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Feathers in her cap

    John Galliano gave the royals a run for their money with one festive fascinator during Paris Fashion week on March 4. (Jacques Brinon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Are we there Yeti?

    The stuff of nightmares! The Julien David Fall/Winter show on Feb. 28 was inspired by the legendary Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. (No, really.) (Richard Bord / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Cape odd

    French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier revealed a confusing coat during Paris Fashion week on March 3. (Jacques Brinon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Net surfer

    Mosquitos didn't stand a chance with the Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 2012 show on March 3. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Curtain call

    Drapes were all the rage at the Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 2012 show on March 3. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fur-real?

    A model, sporting alarming dandruff, presents a furry creation by French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier during Paris Fashion Week on Mar. 3. (Ian Langsdon / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Seuss on the loose

    Just in time for "The Lorax," Comme des Garcons presented a colorful ensemble as part of the Fall-Winter fashion collection on March 3. (Remy De La Mauviniere / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Overpowered by flowers

    Too much of a good thing? A model looks ready to battle spring for Comme des Garcons on March 3. (Remy De La Mauviniere / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Pigeonholed?

    Feathers get the surrealist treatment as a model plays peekaboo during the Peachoo Krejberg Fall/Winter show on Feb. 29. (Victor Virgile / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Whitemare

    Welcome to my whitemare: A covered-up model presents an all-white outfit during the Mugler Fall/Winter show on Feb. 29. (Victor Virgile / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Zoo's who

    Aching to let your wild side shine through — your fashion? These animal-themed outfits were spotted at the Yang Du Fall/Winter 2012 show on March 1. (Franck Prevel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Hot under the collar

    Bad breath? A model wears a creation by Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela for her Fall-Winter fashion collection on Mar. 2. (Jacques Brinon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. On edge

    A cut-out creation is modeled during the Zandra Rhodes Fall/Winter show on Feb. 29. (Victor Virgile / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Block and white

    Reminiscent of a grade school play, British designer Hussein Chalayan had a thing for geometric shapes during his Fall/Winter collection show on March 2. (Francois Guillot / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Blue in the face

    A model put on her Paris Fashion Week war paint during the Bernhard Willhelm Fall/ Winter show on March 1. (Ian Langsdon / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Web of intrigue

    A model presents a knitted creation by U.S. designer Rick Owens during the Fall/Winter collection show on Mar. 1. (Francois Guillot / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. They give a hoot

    Kindergarten chic was on display in these owl-like dresses shown during the Yang Du Ready-To-Wear Fall/Winter show March 1. (Franck Prevel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Let us spray

    Indian designer Manish Arora extended graffiti from the wall to the fashions during Paris Fashion Week on March 1. (Stephane Reix / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Loose lips

    A whimsical creation is presented by Indian designer Manish Arora during the Fall/Winter collection show on Mar. 1. (Pierre Verdy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The right to bear arms

    A model sporting bear-like sleeves walks the runway during the Gareth Pugh Fall/Winter show on Feb. 29. (Victor Boyko / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The spirit is villain

    Super-villainess style was presented during the Gareth Pugh Fall/Winter show on Feb. 29. (Victor Boyko / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Frown syndrome

    She might be frowning, but her shirt is smiling. A model walks the runway during the Devastee Fall/Winter show on Feb. 29. (Kristy Sparow / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Cartoon cocoon

    A model presents a zipped-up creation by Portuguese designer Fatima Lopes as part of her Fall/Winter fashion show on Feb. 28. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Conehead

    An asymmetrical ensemble by Portuguese designer Fatima Lopes is presented as part of the designer's Fall/Winter fashion show on Feb. 28. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Vested pin-terest

    We wouldn't snuggle with this model, who presented a prickly dress by Dutch designer Steffie Christiaens during Paris Fashion Week on Feb. 28. (Stephane Reix / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Girl 'n the hood

    A cozy creation is presented during the Julien David Fall/Winter show on Feb. 28. (Alexander Klein / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Empty nester

    A model shows off a kooky hat by Steffie Christiaens during the Fall/Winter show on Feb. 28. (Alexander Klein / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Video: Age, weight crackdowns for models

  1. Closed captioning of: Age, weight crackdowns for models

    >>> back now at 7:43. it is fashion week in new york city , a chance for designers to show off their clothing lines. nbc's craig melvin is on new york's upper west side . good morning.

    >> reporter: ann, good morning to you. too young and too skinny. those are the complaints that have led to changes here at fashion week. things are supposed to be different this year. some say the guidelines don't go far enough. fashion fans who crowd the catwalks see glitz and glamour . that's not all sarah saw in the 1990s . at age 14.

    >> the fashion industry is a grown-up business with grown-up pressures and kids shouldn't be subject to that.

    >> preteen models are making headlines. last month cindy crawford 's daughter became the face of versace at ten. another 10-year-old on the cover of french vogue.

    >> think of our standard of beauty. not filled into a womanly form. that's prepew besent girls.

    >> reporter: the group has updated guidelines and recommends an i.d. check to be sure models are at least 16 the day of a show. the council has not changed guidelines addressing skinny models . the industry has been grappling with the issue sins anna karanina's death in 2006 . a year later the council encouraged models who may have an eating disorder to get help. the national eating disorders association wants mandatory screenings for models like drug screenings for athletes.

    >> we know eating disorders , the average onset is in adolescence and young adults . obviously in the modeling industry a disproportionate number of models are in that demographic.

    >> one friend of mine was told by her agency to only eat one rice cake a day to keep her weight down and if that didn't work, half a rice cake . this is insane.

    >> reporter: that's partly why the 29-year-old run as group to improve working conditions for models. she's still a cover girl. new york magazine declared her the norma rae of the runway. there are also new guidelines that ban smoking backstage at shows and also prohibit alcohol backstage as well. one of the complaints is these are guidelines from the council of fashion designers of america and the group doesn't have enforcement power. ann?

    >> all right. sounds like this will continue. craig, thank you so much.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Alan Singer / NBCU Photo Bank

    'Cosby Show' turns 30, here's show's best parenting advice

    9/20/2014 12:23:51 PM +00:00 2014-09-20T12:23:51
  1. Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images

    Sushi or Thai? Life’s too short! 9 things you’re over-thinking

    9/20/2014 1:08:04 PM +00:00 2014-09-20T13:08:04