- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

JERUSALEM (AP) - 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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