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Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK

Health: Latest News

Media slammed over superthin models

Doctors say thin models like Kate Moss encourage anorexia

Doctors have hit out at the media and advertisers for encouraging anorexia by portraying skinny supermodels as the beauty ideal instead of 'more buxom wenches'.

The British Medical Association's annual conference in Cardiff voted overwhelmingly for a motion condemning the media obsession with ultra thin supermodels.

Dr Muriel Broome, a former director of public health, said "the constant image of very thin models" encouraged girls to develop eating disorders. "We urge the media to be more responsible and show more buxom wenches," she said.

The conference heard an impassioned speech from Dr Ian Bogle, a Liverpool GP, about his daughter's struggle with the eating disorder.

He said that around 10 years ago, when she was in her early 20s, his daughter's weight plummeted from around nine stone to five stone.

He admitted that he had felt powerless to help her, even though he was a GP.


"The devastating effects on the sufferer as their weight plummets, the depression associated with loss of self esteem and the black despair will be well understood by you, a medical audience," he told the conference.

"What hopefully most of you won't have experienced is the consequences on the family - hopelessness, disbelief and guilt. These are not transient effects. In our house it lasted some five years."

[ image: Anorexics suffer long-term health problems and some die]
Anorexics suffer long-term health problems and some die
Dr Bogle, who is standing for the top job of chair of the BMA's council, said his family had been lucky. "The family has even been strengthened; the sufferer is now happy and apparently cured," he said.

"Others have not been so lucky. Suicide, a lifetime's recrimination and divorces are not rare.

"I can tell you it is a stark fact that the pursuit of the waif-like figure and the perception that only slimness is attractive and desirable as portrayed in many forms in the media is a major contributory factor in young people developing this disease."


Speaking at a press conference after the speech, Dr Bogle said he had spoken publicly about his experiences to show that even he, an experienced and high profile GP, had been powerless to prevent his daughter and his whole family from suffering.

Dr Bogle said that, although the problem developed 10 years ago, he would not have been able to speak about his anguish in public until the last three years.

"In severe cases, the idea of suicide is never far away and the low point is seeing somebody so depressed that this is on the agenda," he said.

He added that people sometimes found it hard to understand how a family could watch a child lose so much weight and appear to accept it.

"If you have girls of that age and try to challege them about things in their life it is a very hazardous thing to do," he said.

He added that his family only pulled through after seeking specialist help and after realising that no one member was personally to blame.

Media obsession

The BMA overwhelmingly backed a motion condemning the media for its obsession with portraying young, thin girls as role models.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of research at the BMA, said the association would explore the use of different body types in the media and planned to talk to television companies about a more responsible attitude.

"There are a variety of human forms and we should not be going just for one type of body shape as that propagates the idea that only one type is successful and desirable."

She added that being too thin was probably more dangerous than being overweight and that anorexics, once they had fallen foul of the disease, needed life-long support.

Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority has warned of unsubstantiated adverts for slimming and beauty products.

It said that, although the number of acceptable adverts had improved over the last year, there had only been a marginal improvement in adverts for slimming and beauty products.

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