• Thu, Sep 6 2012

The #NYFW Diet Spreads Disordered Eating On Twitter — Surprises No One

OK everyone. I have some shocking, shocking news for you. The fashion industry is obsessed with thinness! Call in the eating disorder police, because THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION. CNN is reporting from the dangerous, rice-cake laden sidelines of New York Fashion Week and they want you to know that the twice-yearly event is “the culmination of months of planning, organizing, schmoozing … and dieting?” Yes, dieting. Disordered eating in fashion isn’t news, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, one that’s spread from models to others in the fashion industry and now, to Twitter.

Search #NYFW and the word “diet” right now on the social media site and you’ll find lots of tweets linking back to the CNN article mentioned above. But if you go back a bit further, you’ll find women tweeting about their actual diets. Just yesterday, fashion stylist Elizabeth Tran tweeted “So my one-cube-of-cheese-every-hour diet starts tomorrow. Well, I think it will…#lesigh #NYFW“ Let’s not forget this shockingly sad picture tweeted out almost a month ago by PR rep Keisha McCotry. Yep, you read that right: a bowl of broccoli and a glass of water is her dinner.  She told CNN she began her fashion week diet in July, and that, “Perception is reality in this industry, and unfortunately, you have to look the look to get the clients.”

And while it’s certainly sad that the pressure to look thin has spread to others in the fashion industry, can anyone truly say they’re surprised? The only even somewhat new information here is the way that social media makes it easy to spread this aspirational, fashion-centric lifestyle. Twitter moves at lightning speed: if a dieter wants to tweet about her eating plan and receive instant validation for it, other Twitter users are ready and willing.

Some of the tweets using #nyfw and diet are actually making fun of the idea of a strict diet, like this one from Lucky magazine. That’s great to see, but sadly I don’t think it’s reflective of the overall attitudes in the industry. Even with all the pressure on the fashion world to use “real women” in their advertisements and in their runway shows (whatever real women means, anyway; skinny models are just as real as anyone else, last time I checked), restrictive diets are still the norm, especially during Fashion Week.

Fox News recently ran another “OMG fashion people have eating disorders!” article. In it, Russian model Kira Dikhtyar dishes all about the scary disordered dieting practices that go on during fashion week:

“Packs of cigarettes, daily colonics, laxatives, Phentermine diet pills, Adderal, prescription drugs that suppress the appetite.I’ve heard stories that some modeling agents encourage girls to do speed and cocaine in order to speed up metabolism and eat less. And all kinds of injections are becoming more and more popular, from HCG injections that go with a 500-calorie diet plan to T3 thyroid injections that healthy models inject in an attempt to speed up their thyroid function, which results in a faster metabolism.”

She also mentioned models eating cotton balls to try and curb their hunger. While this is truly disturbing information, it doesn’t seem like it’s meant to do anything other than stir up publicity and controversy for Fashion Week. The article briefly mentions that the issue “seems” to be getting better, but phrases like “some designers who are at least professing concern” and “only so much that can be done to make sure the model’s aren’t starving themselves” aren’t doing much to show disdain for the continuously dangerous practices in the industry.

Inflammatory fluff pieces like those on CNN and FoxNews do nothing to actually address this scary epidemic in the fashion world. Sure, it may be interesting to read about how skinny models are twice a year when Fashion Week rolls around, and wow, it’s crazy that girls are tweeting about dieting! But, as I said before, this is a known problem that’s been written about hundreds and hundreds of times. These articles aren’t groundbreaking, they’re not new, and they do nothing to help the scores of models, PR reps, stylists and other fashion types who are struggling to earn a living in a industry that forces them into an unattainable body ideal.

Photo: via Flickr user Christopher Macsurak

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