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I'm a Model and I Eat.

thinspiration image: nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

A common trope about models is that we don't eat. Well, I'm a model and I love food. I eat often and during all parts of the day—the spicier the dish, the better. Most models—at least the ones I work with in Los Angeles—do eat, with fewer exceptions than one might expect.

I wish I'd known this when I was younger.  If I'd known that models and actresses are on healthier diets than the "one grape a day" fads I'd read about in magazines, then maybe I'd have made healthier choices, too. Instead, I remember going on experimental diets in high school, including one where I would eat one slice of wheat bread three times a day.  This particular diet lasted for about a week until I grew tired of it. Anorexia is the deadliest mental illness in the US but, luckily, I got into healthier habits. 

Today I am in much better shape and form than I was in high school, even though I eat a lot more now.  I know now to balance my meals with good exercise, so I go to the gym for a power hour several times a week.  The only times I eat conservatively are when I have to get ready for a special event or to fit into a particularly tight outfit—a situation with which most people, regardless of occupation, are probably familiar.  At the same time, I realize that my body normalizes at a lighter weight than most people. Being what society considers "skinny" is healthy for me, it's not a healthy size for everyone.   

Other models I've met are the same way.  We eat normally—many prefer numerous smaller meals a day versus three big ones to keep the metabolism going—and exercise effectively.  Despite frequent tales of abnormally thin models, starving yourself or throwing up is not as common as one may think.  Even Victoria's Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio eats a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast.

But the idea that models starve themselves persists. Some of the millions of Americans who suffer from eating disorders are definitely in the fashion industry. But the source of eating disorders is much more complicated than just having to squeeze into a dress for a runway show.

recent Texas A&M University study suggests that peer influence may be a bigger factor on body image issues than television. Their study concludes, "Our results suggest that only peer competition, not television or social media use, predicts negative outcomes for body image." But still, clearly the idea that "being pretty" equals "not eating" is pervasive among people who are prone to eating disorders. Just search for the hashtag #thinspiration on Twitter and you'll find that many of the thinspiration pictures (images of extremely skinny people to inspire dieting and weight loss) are shots of normal people, not models or celebrities.  

There is a petition underway to ban the hashtag from Twitter since it promotes unhealthy images that could lead to eating disorders.  In a show of good will, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram have already banned "hashtags that actively promote self-harm," such as "thinspiration" and "proanorexia."

To continue to make sure that people don't fall prey to harmful and distorted body image expectations, however, blocking negative content and promoting healthier meal and exercise plans aren't the entire solution. Eating disorders are wrapped up in mental health treatment (only one out of 10 people suffering from an eating disorder get treatment), as well as peer influence that may originate from media-mandated perceptions of beauty.

Ultimately this means that we are going to have to see a variety of body types in the media—including fuller figures that are openly accepted and not considered tokens—for there to be a lasting, core change in the way we see our bodies and ourselves.   

 

Read the rest of this "Model Media" series on working as a model and actress. 

Image: A popular thinspiration image, altered by Bitch Media.

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

"Despite frequent tales of

"Despite frequent tales of abnormally thin models". I have no idea how you eat or how healthy you are, but these aren't just tales. I think we need to remember that a lot of models still are unhealthily thin. They might not achieve it by starving themselves, but that doesn't mean it's healthy.

thispiration etc.

I think many models have a high metabolism rate and burn off calories easily which results in a "naturally skinny" body frame and can eat whatever the heck they like and not pack on the pounds. And of course we hate you. (lol)

I remember a book from the 1980s by Christy Brinkley and she talked about how she, Kelly Emberg and Kim Alexis were in Mexico on a photo shoot and tried all these diets there like a "coffee only" diet or a "fruit only" diet and she said that "going to bed hungry" was a great way to lose weight.

I grew up reading and looking at Cosmopolitan magazine which always gave lots of diet tips; primarily concerned with ways to distract yourself from caving into the hunger pangs. Ironically enough Cosmo was the first place I ever read about anorexia.

I have spent a lot of time researching Pro-ana and thinspiration websites and when they have photo galleries for role models, mostly it is actresses, fashion models and beauty contestants.

Kylie the Victoria's Secret model wrote a book of her experiences and indicates that she observed vomiting and starvation diets continuing to be common-- and the bosses still telling slender models that they are "too fat." Of course VS responded with a statement making Kylie out to be a "wanna be Angel/loser."

"eating conservatively"

I think it is problematic to assume that "eating conservatively" for an event or in order to fit into a dress is normal and healthy. Underlying this assumption that one should diet before special events or bikini season is the idea that to be thin is to be more beautiful. This is harmful to women's self-image and does not promote acceptance of bodies that do not fit conventional beauty norms. Hence, I do not think we should be normalizing this kind of behaviour.

That stuck out to me as being

That stuck out to me as being strange as well. The suggestion that eating so little that you actually lose weight is "conservative" is weird, and to me reinforces the image I have of a modeling industry culture that promotes a distorted relationship with food and body health/image.

Also, what the heck does "body 'normalizing' at a lighter weight" mean? The word choice here, the association of 'normal' and 'abnormal' with a certain level of skinniness is curious, and suggests to me the author, at best, is not in a great position to judge what culture is healthy or not when it comes to body image and food.

I find it troublesome that Bitch allowed this post. WTF??

Normalizing

In the context the author used the word, "normalizing" does not imply a set, universal norm or standard for body weight or size. Every body has a weight range that is normal. The range is particular to each, individual body. The normal weight range for a given body is where that body tends to rest when that body is not experiencing restriction/famine/disordered eating of any stripe. That said, there is plenty in this post that is problematic. It does make me sad that Bitch, a publication that I've found to be generally safe to read while recovering from my own eating disorder, is endorsing a post that normalizes restriction as a means for fitting an article of clothing. For me at least, part of feminist discourse on body image/appearance needs to include rigorous questioning of our sick society's beauty paradigms. I am not going to conjecture about the author's health as I don't know her, but her dismissal of some types of restriction as unproblematic certainly makes me unwilling to take what she says in her (largely anecdotal piece) as truth.

Thanks for clarifying... I

Thanks for clarifying... I get what you mean, but there's something I dislike about attaching the word "normal" to a specific body weight, whether the standards are personal or external. Individuals with eating disorders internalize unhealthy messages about what is normal, anyway. In my thirty years what I've considered normal for myself has greatly fluctuated. To offer an anecdote I didn't realize it wasn't normal for me to not eat until early afternoon until I passed out one day.

The issue is complex, and I agree - this is not cool for Bitch to print.

I think this trope persists

I think this trope persists because it reinforces the idea that us unwashed masses need to do whatever it takes to be thin. 'Look! /Models/ do it!'our society says, 'and Models are the epitome of beauty and everything women should aspire to.' We're already expected to exercise as much as trained athletes in order to transfer our bodies, especially if they don't respond to the "sensible" diet and exercise plans that those who are lucky enough to benefit espouse.

The diet industry is a billion dollar enterprise. They can only exist by perpetuating these stereotypes. So while I totally get that you might be sick of being body policed or stereotyped as a starving model, I'm not entire sure what is revolutionary about this article. You seem to have a similar history to all women (et. al), and you just so happen to be lucky enough to eat what you want and still stay thin. Good for you I guess?

The idea that "models don't

The idea that "models don't eat" is much less damaging than the idea that "models are the epitome of beauty". this article is nothing new-- congratulations on being naturally thin i guess, but what about confronting the underlying issue, that what is considered beauty is unnatural for most woman and that beauty is far, far too highly valued.
seriously, this article is so below par compared to everything else that Bitch posts.

Thin privilege is being able

Thin privilege is being able to proudly proclaim, "I love to eat! I love food!" without people assuming that you're unhealthy. What's the point of this post?