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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Government 'summit' over thin models
Jodie Kidd
Jodie Kidd: Putting women under pressure to be thin?
Thin may be in, but the government thinks it may also be damaging the nation's mental health.

Women's minister Tessa Jowell is so concerned at the possible link between skinny models and eating disorders that she is holding a summit meeting at Downing Street with the bosses of a top modelling agency and a teenage magazine.

"Women are over-preoccupied by feeling that they don't look right, that they don't meet the standards of thin models in young women's magazines," Ms Jowell told the BBC.

The summit is being held after research showed that more than half the 12- to 15-year-old girls questioned in a study said their appearance was the biggest concern in their lives.

Ms Jowell said she was holding the summit to "bring together all the people who can make a difference, who can begin to challenge some of the assumptions that the only way to be beautiful is to be thin".

Sophie Dahl
Sophie Dahl bucked the trend for ultra-thin models
One of the country's top model agencies, Storm, will attend the meeting, along with Rebecca Martin, editor of the teen magazine Jump.

Leading feminist writer and therapist Susie Orbach, who wrote the book Fat is a Feminist Issue, will also be there, and representatives of health and campaign groups have also been invited.

" For many, poor body image can lead to low levels of self esteem, for some it is far more dangerous, leading to eating disorders and other forms of self-abuse," Ms Jowell said.

'Larger women'

"I am concerned that girls may not be fulfilling their potential because of their lack of confidence about themselves."

The summit guests may find themselves being encouraged to consider using larger women to promote fashion and health.

Ms Jowell said the government will want to know what further research may be needed on the link between thin models and eating disorders, and may take action.

The Eating Disorders Association, which runs a helpline for victims and their carers, praised the summit, and spokesman Steve Bloomfield told BBC News Online: "Anything that looks at mental health and welfare, particularly where young people concerned, is something that we welcome."

Media images don't cause eating disorders, but if someone goes through an emotional time, their thoughts may be influenced

Eating Disorders Association
But he says the media should not be held fully responsible when people develop anorexia or bulimia.

"Media images don't cause eating disorders, but if someone is going through an emotionally turbulent time, for example the end of a relationship, it is possible that if they are bombarded with particular images, their thought processes might be influenced," he said.

Those most at risk of developing anorexia are 13-18, while the onset of bulimia usually happens slightly later in life, between the ages of 15 and 25.

The number of male victims has grown, now making up 10% of the total known number of victims, which the association says could be linked to the growth in male fashion and health magazines.

Gay men are particularly at risk in the male population. Twenty per cent of men with eating disorders are homosexual, according to the association's figures.

Storm Model Agency declined to comment about the summit.

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Body beautiful
Should models have to be thin?
See also:

08 Jul 98 | Latest News
Media slammed over superthin models
10 Apr 00 | Talking Point
Should models have to be thin?
13 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Eating disorders
25 Sep 98 | Health
Children who fear food
06 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Anorexia factfile
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