Fashion-model talent scouts approach extremely thin girls as they come out of the Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders, Dr. Anna-Maria af Sandeberg claims.

The sick girls, who go into the clinic for treatment for a range of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are of interest to at least one Swedish modeling agency, which seems to find their emaciated bodies ideal for their recruitment campaigns.

In an interview with the Swedish newspaper, Metro, Dr. Sandeberg, Director and Chief Physician at the clinic, said:

“We think this is reprehensible. People have stood outside our clinic and tried to pick up our girls because they know they are very thin.”

Apparently, a scout preyed on a patient in a wheelchair as she left the clinic.

Staff say modeling talent scouts have been preying on the sick girls outside the eating disorder clinic for over twelve months.

People working at the clinic say that several of the girls who have been approached by fashion-model scouts are adolescents with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of just 14. Females with a BMI below 18.5 are underweight, fourteen is extremely underweight.

The last thing a girl who is being treated for an eating disorder needs to see are people offering them careers because they are extremely underweight. “It sends the wrong signals,” Dr. Sandeberg added.

Christina Lillman-Ring Borg, a care coordinator, says her daughter, who is being treated for an eating disorder, was targeted by talent scouts as she left the clinic.

Borg told Metro “It is awful. Part of the disease is that you have a distorted body image, and you get a sudden flattery and a job offer. It does not facilitate the treatment of the disease.”

There was no mention in the Metro article about which modeling agency (agencies) the scouts were working for.

The Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders (Stockholms Centrum för Ätstörningar) is the country’s largest specialist service for people with eating disorders. It caters for out-patients, day-patients and in-patients, has a mobile unit, a school and two apartments for family treatment.

The clinic treats people of all ages, including doctor and self referrals. Initially, it puts a lot of effort into bringing starvation and binge-eating/vomiting under control. This is typically followed up with psychotherapy treatment to address the factors that maintain the eating disorder. According to the clinic “Co-operation with the family and the social network is an important part of the treatment.”

Some countries are taking steps to stop extremely thin women from appearing in promotional campaigns, catwalks and other marketing initiatives.

In March 2012, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed a new law which makes it illegal to display clinically underweight models in catwalks and advertisements.

Israeli politicians believe that allowing super-skinny models in fashion parades and the media encourages eating disorders and promotes unhealthy and unrealistic body image goals.

In Israel today, a female or male model must have a BMI of 18.5 or more if they want to work legally. They will need medical proof (from a doctor) that they are not underweight.

Knesset member, Dr Rachel Adato-Levy, a gynecologist and lawyer, said “Beautiful is not underweight, beautiful should not be anorexic.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist