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Size Zero Heroes
By Anisa Topan
India is booming. It’s official. ‘Inorbrit’, the first American-style shopping mall has just opened in Bombay showcasing global brands such as Pizza Hut, Guess and Calvin Klein. India is on the map whilst the world watches on and is being dubbed as one of the world’s next global superpowers and India’s new middle class is already 250 million strong and growing.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that along with India’s Westernisation, with it follows the afflictions that come with the developed world. Consumer culture is hitting India hard and as India’s Health Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss has banned skinny models from the catwalk in an attempt to stop young girls emulating their role models, the problem is closer than we think as there has been an increase in the number of young girls developing both anorexia and osteoporosis in a bid to stay thin. Ironic, that signs of self-imposed starvation are showing in a country where, as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there were an estimated 198 million undernourished people between 2001-2003.

Urban Indian girls or “Suburban Mumbaiites” now have access to different forms of media, which depict a different body ideal to Bollywood’s traditional curvaceous stars. There is more emphasis on broadcasting the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants, which show whitewashed Indian girls who being critiqued about their bodies and weight. Fashion TV is available on cable and depicts super skinny catwalk models 24/7. Susan Ringwood, the Chief Executive Officer of Beat – the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, is aware of the impact Westernisation has on anorexia, “Anorexia doesn't have just one cause, but the globalisation of a western culture is a proven factor. Spread through a media that promotes the universal 'thin' ideal in cultural idols, eating disorders across the globe, track the arrival of Western advertising and TV in people's homes,” she told

The irony with India’s social issues with weight is that the chief attributes Indian women often aspire to possess is to be fair, tall and very thin; traits that are typically “Western” and are almost impossible ideals for young Indian women to attain.

Ramadoss has made the first positive step by banning skinny models from India’s catwalks. What is also needed is an education to empower young women to make positive body choices and learn self-acceptance. Without this, he may have an epidemic of Western illness on his hands.

More information about eating disorders and where to get help can be found on .

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