Pervasive Bulimia Problem in the Modeling Industry

Underneath all the fashion and the glamor on the catwalk, supermodels are getting bulimia just to remain employable.  


Go thin or go home

Famous Model Zuzanna Buchwald was in tears when she admitted in this video about her trials in the modeling industry. She battled bulimia and anorexia for four years. Although she overcame the illnesses, she would never look at food the same way again.  

Most in the eating disorder professional community agree that to some extent, nature, and indeed nurture and environment are significant contributors and all together they provide a more well rounded opportunity to figuring out causation. — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS

It all began when her agents asked her to stop eating and start exercising. She had lost weight to the point of lethargy, loss of menstrual period, dry, grey skin, and teeth problems. She knew full well that starving herself was wrong, but it was the only way to keep her employed.


Instead of helping her, the fashion industry seems to applaud her unhealthy condition. “Ironically, I was most admired by my agents and designers when I was at my unhealthiest and unhappiest,” Buchwald says. “You develop an unhealthy thought pattern: The skinnier you are, the more desirable and valuable the industry sees you.”


But, it’s not just Zuzanna who experiences this immense pressure in the modeling industry.


The reality show ‘Make Me a Model’ shows that starvation and psychiatric problems are okay in the name of fashion. Johann Hari of Independent wrote:

 …people who restrict will obviously begin to lose weight, wear baggier clothing to hide it, move their food around on the plate but not eat it, chew food and spit it out. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

“Let’s have a look at this show’s contenders. One admits she was slashing at her flesh with razors until three weeks ago. Another brittle, bony girl bursts into tears whenever food is mentioned and reacted to one of her friends saying that she fancied a Big Mac by descending into a stammering, weeping rage.”


No wonder bulimia is such a common mental health issue among models. But, what do top fashion gurus of the fashion industry say?


“I don’t care,” Perou, a fashion photographer, says. “People get knocked back all the time.”  


Unhealthy fashion trend

The pervasive problem of bulimia in the modeling industry may play a role in the prevalence of bulimia in teens. According to psychologist Susan Albers, ultrathin models may become a trigger for a person to become dissatisfied with their body. If they have a predisposition for psychiatric problems, they may develop eating disorders like bulimia.


One way to contradict this unhealthy fashion trend is having plus size models on the runway. But, plus size model Leona Palmer shares that models like her rarely walk on the runway. And that might continue in the future. Even more so, she shares that eating habits of plus size models are not necessarily healthier than the ultrathin models.


When we shift our focus away from the numbers on the scales and towards a more global sense of health, we can achieve genuine wellbeing by nurturing—not fighting against—our body.  Alexis Conason Psy.D.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t stop models like Zuzanna Buchwald to speak out against this unhealthy trend. In her essay for The Daily Dot, she wrote:


“I won’t stay silent anymore. I’m no longer afraid to say that the fashion industry has an exploitative and dangerous side to the often desperate young girls churning through it… I am calling to the media and fashion industry to stop imposing this unhealthy, dangerous body-rigid ideal of a size zero and replace it with the image of health, happiness, and personality.”