Aspire Fitness

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France looking to ban “super-skinny models”

Food for thought

In response to the article on cbc.ca;

Earlier this week France’s government proposed implementing a bill that could lead to fines as high as $79,000 US and/or 6 months of jail time to models who are excessively skinny, or agencies that hire them. An interesting move, one which has already been adopted by Italy, Spain and Israel. A move that I think is in the right direction.

This bill if passed is a very positive step in debunking the myth that being skinny is a sign of healthy and vitality. It is a common connection people incorrectly make. It is common to see people at Aspire Fitness or at any gym to step on the scale, and either feel a great sense of accomplishment or a sense of failure. As if body weight will give you a magical insight into your health. On a daily basis our staff at Aspire Fitness hear “I just want to lose weight” our staff of Kinesiologists then spring into action. Diving in a bit deeper you find out some clients are just looking to lose body fat. It is here I will make the distinction between body weight and body composition. When you step on the scale it is measuring the total weight of your whole body, everything… organs, muscles, fat, blood, urine, etc. Doesn’t give you much insight to what you’re made of, enter body composition. This is where we can see what you’re made of so to speak. There are many ways to test body composition, the most common and most available to the public are BIA scales. These measure your body fat by sending a small current of electricity through your body and measuring how much returns, through some algebraic trickery it determines a body fat. These are the numbers people should be more concerned with. Not necessarily getting that number as low as possible but keeping it in a healthy range.

The fashion industry more often than not has very skinny, gaunt looking models walking down runways or posing in magazine ads. With the help of make-up, clever lighting, talented photographers and Photoshop these models look beautiful, full of life and colour. This is most likely not the case, the article references Isabelle Caro, a model who in 2007 died after a photo shoot. Looking at the pictures below you see the same person, one photo of her in a professional setting and one in a more casual photo. There is a very sharp contrast. There are few people in the world who looking at the casual photo would see Isabelle as a display of health yet the professional photo she looks spunky and vibrant (if only by contrast). In the case of Isabelle Caro there is obviously a skewed body composition, she simply doesn’t have enough fat on her body. Fat is very important part of living a healthy life, there are hormones that rely on fat (especially where female fertility is concerned), and fat helps protect organs and provides fuel.

When I read this CBC post I couldn’t help but think of two client’s we have here, both have done our Push-Ups to Pinups program, both have different goals. For the sake of this article and to keep their identities their own, I shall name them Burt and Ernie. Burt is a former gymnast who has an athletic build, who desperately wants to be “skinny”. It is worth noting that Burt is 20% body fat, within the healthy range, infact on the lower side for a women of her age. Now Ernie, a young lady who wants to gain weight, has recently struggled with being “too skinny”. Now the funny thing about Burt and Ernie is that they used each other as an example of what they want to look like. Burt wants Ernie’s body, and Ernie wants Burt’s. Now Burt and Ernie are both beautiful in their respective ways, but both see the grass as being greener on the other side. This happens more than you can imagine, people don’t see themselves as the rest of the world does. This disconnect, in professional circles called body dysmorphia, leads to extreme behaviours. Such as starving yourself to be as small as possible or turning to performance enhancing drugs to alter your look. Neither of these are good for one’s health. Body composition shouldn’t be measured on a curve, the desire to be in the top 5% shouldn’t be a goal. The goal should be to stay in the curve and not on the extremes.

With legislation coming into place to deter these practices being on public display the world as a whole is taking a very big forward step towards having a healthier population. Without a doubt these behaviours will always be around, but to make the glamification of this punishable by law will hopefully deter a couple of people from going down this route themselves. This can be seen in the same light as the tobacco industry, who have advertising guidelines and are extremely limited to what can be shown (in North America at least). Smoking still exists and always will, but no longer do we see these beautiful people on magazines, buses, billboards puffing away. It looks like the fashion industry is heading in that direction and I can see this as nothing but a positive.