Too-Skinny Model Ban Takes Effect in Israel, Sparks Controversy

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A controversial Israeli law banning too-skinny models is in effect as of January 1, 2013, prompting praise, controversy and debate over how much weight it will hold.

So to speak.

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The law requires models to prove they have maintained a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 18.5 for three months prior to a fashion shoot or show.

That means a 5'8'' woman can weigh 119 pounds minimum. The law also requires advertisers to disclose if they have retouched or doctored photos.

"This law is another step in the war against eating disorders," said physician and law co-sponsor Rachel Adatto (with Danny Danon) of the act.

Underweight models, she explained, "can no longer serve as role models for innocent young people who adopt and copy the illusion of thinness."

But critics of the law in this country say it is misguided, focusing on weight instead of health, and doomed to fail due to the muscle of the fashion industry.

"I think it's an approach that isn't going to work," eating disorder expert Susan Ice, V.P. of clinical services at Renfrew Center, told Yahoo! Shine.

"I've learned that designers are really artists, and we have free speech here."

"We can't tell anyone how to do art. If designers want women to look like boys or designers want women to look like 8-year-olds, you're not going to change that."

But a champion of the new law, Adi Barkan, a former fashion-model agent in Israel, says the threat of eating disorders and body image issues is too great.

"I became immersed in this world very quickly. I gave up the agency and photography and delved into the dark world of anorexics and bulimics," he said.

"I realized that only legislation can change the situation. There was no time to educate so many people, and the change had be forced on the industry."

"There was no time to waste, so many girls were dieting to death."

Even critics, including Ice, say there's no denying that images from Hollywood and the fashion industry can be difficult for young women to deal with.

"Certainly I don't believe the modeling industry has caused the rise in eating disorders, but it makes it harder," she says of the struggle faced by many.

"It's a difficult recovery environment, worshiping thinness as the beauty ideal."

One amazing upside? These Kate Upton bikini photos. No scary-low BMI worries on that page. Just a whole lot of distractions at work and school.

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