Magazine February 23, 2009, Issue

Not Our Stars but Ourselves

A Missoni store is seen on Madison Avenue in New York, January 7, 2013. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Skinny actresses and models do not make girls anorexic

What causes anorexia nervosa, the terrible mental illness whose victims (mostly young women) starve themselves, sometimes to death? To many observers, the answer is clear: Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Seventh Avenue. Film and television actresses are impossibly thin; advertisers hawk an endless profusion of diet products and banish average-looking people from their commercials; the fashion industry recruits tall, scrawny teenagers as its models and tosses them aside if they become too womanly. When girls and young women are constantly bombarded with thin-is-beautiful messages, is it any wonder that some of them overreact?

Christy Greenleaf, assistant professor of kinesiology, health promotion, and

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